1 Don’t sleep on Blake
Veteran Blake assistant coach Linda Hokr replaces Laura Mark as head coach this season and the expectations could not be higher. The Bears have won six state titles, including the past five in a row. Considerable graduation losses hurt but Hokr believes in her program’s continuity. “There’s an assumption that we’re going to be terrible this year,” she said. “But we’ve never really relied heavily on one or two key players. I don’t think anyone should underestimate this team.”
2 Eagles primed to soar
Confidence is no issue for two-time defending boys’ state champion Eden Prairie, either. Coach Ryan Ward believes this group will be better than the 2014 title team. And why not? The Eagles return their entire close defense. They can also score. Midfielder J.D. Spielman tallied 50 goals last spring while Sean Patterson scored six goals in the championship game.
3 Weather adjustment
Game-ending procedures were modified to allow state tournament games interrupted by weather to be completed at a later date rather than be declared completed games. Last spring Blake won the girls’ title game against Eden Prairie 11-7 in a game shortened because of lightning strikes. The game was suspended with 3 minutes, 41 seconds to play. Weather forced the boys’ championship game to move twice last year, from Saturday to Monday to Tuesday.
4 Varsity newcomers
Two former boys’ club teams produced three new varsity teams this spring. St. Louis Park, which was the winner of the Minnesota Boys’ Scholastic Lacrosse Association title last season, gets to test itself against the varsity field. Schools from the massive St. Paul Celts co-op program split off to form varsity programs called the Blackhawks and the Bobcats. Making up the Blackhawks are metro-area private schools Concordia Academy, DeLaSalle, Minnehaha Academy, St. Agnes, St. Croix Lutheran and St. Paul Academy. The Bobcats, meanwhile, represent all seven St. Paul public schools.
5 Impressive streaks
The Eden Prairie girls’ lacrosse team is a perfect 32-0 against Lake Conference foes since 2011, the first year of the current conference alignment. On the east side of town, the White Bear Lake boys have enjoyed similar success. The Bears have won 30 consecutive Suburban East Conference games since a loss in late April of 2011.
David La Vaque