Photo courtesy of Lola Wallace

 

Make enough small plays and you can achieve big dreams.

For the Stillwater boys’ lacrosse team, this lesson found its mark during an early April trip to Durham, N.C.

Watching host Duke defeat Notre Dame in a battle of top-10 college lacrosse programs, coupled with an instructional session with Blue Devil players the next day, “helped us see how much heart they put into the game,” senior attack Blake Evensen said. “The little plays, the effort plays that maybe go unseen but that add up to a good end result. We’ve tried to instill that, and it’s paying off so far.”

Stillwater, which fell 11-10 to Mahtomedi in the Section 4 championship game a year ago, enter this week on target to achieve its ultimate goal – reaching its first state tournament.

The second-ranked Ponies (9-0) defeated Mahtomedi 13-6 to open the season and stayed hot. Last Saturday, Stillwater cruised to a 16-7 victory against previously unbeaten and ninth-ranked St. Thomas Academy.

Evensen, who committed to Division I program Mercer, tallied four goals in the first half. Other smaller plays made big differences.

St. Thomas Academy created the game’s initial scoring chance, but sophomore goalie Gunner Arens made the save. The Ponies’ defense permits just 4.9 goals per game, due in large part to Arens. Undefeated so far this season, Arens has stopped 73 of 104 shots on goal for a strong 70.1 saves percentage.

Later in the first half, junior long-stick midfielder Jack Ostrander got off a pass just as he fell, igniting a transition attack that ended with an Evensen goal.

“Guys get fired up when they see that, the hustle plays, the extra effort,” Stillwater coach Tom Howe said.

The Ponies’ commitment to doing the small things well, combined with a diversified offensive attack, make them hard to stop. They average 14.5 goals per game. Six players have scored 12 or more goals.

Ty Thureson, a senior midfielder who committed to Providence, leads the way with 27 goals, followed by Evensen (23), Nelson Summary (20), Joseph Stengl (19), Quinton White (13) and Cody Burger (12).

All six scored at least once as Stillwater built a 11-2 first half lead against St. Thomas Academy.

“That was probably the best first half we had all year,” Evensen said. “I think we surprised ourselves a little bit. They are a heck of a team but we came out and got going early, which was important. Momentum is big.”

Stillwater plays at home twice this week -- Tuesday against Roseville and Thursday against Chanhassen. Both teams won their most recent game after falling just short in previous outings.

Currently, the Ponies don’t face a fellow top-10 team again until the postseason. But they don’t expect to overlook any opponents, or steps, on the climb.

“We have one goal in mind and that’s to make it to the state tournament,” Evensen said. “If we keep playing like we did [Saturday] I think there’s a lot we can do.”

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