1. Second decade dawns
The Minnesota State High School League first sponsored the boys’ and girls’ lacrosse state tournaments in 2007, making this spring a checkpoint for the sport. Club lacrosse in the state had existed since 1997, but the sport’s profile has jumped way up in the past decade. “I think we’re right on pace,” said Ryan Ward, coach of the Eden Prairie boys’ team since 2007. “I think back to how everything we were running back then was so basic vs. how complex we are now. A lot of teams are at that level.” College recruiting also reached new heights. Stillwater girls’ coach Rick Reidt has two former players on the roster at Lindenwood University in Missouri, currently the second-ranked team in Division II. “Their coach asked me, ‘Who do you have next for me?’ ” Reidt said. “As a sport, I think we’re ahead of the curve a little bit.”
2. Checking in with the champs
Two-time defending girls’ champion Eden Prairie is loaded again. Three players — defender Hannah Brink, forward Sammie Morton and midfielder Naomi Rogge — were coaches association first team all-state selections last spring. They provide star power at every level on the field. “It’s a very athletic group,” Eagles co-head coach Judy Baxter said. “Among our seniors we’ve got three Division I hockey players and two Division I lacrosse players.” A steeper hill to another title awaits Prior Lake, which graduated two top players. Opposing coaches respect the program’s depth, however. Expect the Lakers, who capped their first state tournament appearance with a title, to make more regular deep tournament runs.
3. Blake makes it official
Blake dropped the interim tag from coach Sarah Fellows. The lacrosse power — the Bears won six of the first 10 state tournaments — originally expected Linda Hokr to return after taking maternity leave last spring. When Hokr decided otherwise, Fellows got the job. Blake lost 11-9 to Eden Prairie in the teams’ eighth title game meeting.
4. Destination Eagan?
Minnesota Vikings executives unveiled plans to bring football, soccer and lacrosse to the forthcoming Twin Cities Orthopedic Stadium in Eagan. Dave Stead, executive director of the high school league, said starting in 2019, Eagan could become an annual destination for the lacrosse state tournament. Games are currently played at high school stadiums. “It’s a 6,000-seat stadium, so I think that’s the right balance of having a big-time stadium but keeping a great atmosphere,” Ward said. “It would be a fun place to aspire to get to every year.”
5. Stillwater’s SEC streak
Eight consecutive Suburban East Conference titles put the Stillwater girls’ program in solid company as one of the state’s top programs. Reaching a ninth title will require the Ponies to draw upon their young talent. They lost three All-Americas to graduation. And 31 players are trying out for the high school team for the first time. “This is the youngest team I’ve ever had,” Reidt said.
David La Vaque