Eastview produced the 15-and-under boys’ lacrosse state champions two years ago. It’s now looking to repeat history at the high school level.
The Lightning opened the season with 11 consecutive victories and is ranked No. 1 by the coaches association. It has defeated No. 5 Prior Lake 10-5, No. 8 Rosemount 7-6 and No. 9 Lakeville North 11-4, all in South Suburban Conference play.
“Our sophomore year showed us what we could do,” said Lightning senior attacker Noah Lindner, a three-year starter who is the squad’s leading scorer with 31 goals and 13 assists.
The Lightning is coming off a 10-4 season in 2016, when it lost to Edina 8-6 in the semifinals of the Section 6 tournament. Eastview hasn’t been to the state tournament since 2013 when it lost 9-8 to Eden Prairie in the championship.
“I was in the stands and saw that 2013 team lose the state championship,” Lindner said. “It’s state championship or bust.”
The Lightning has nine of its 10 starters back from last year’s squad, and 20 of its top 24 overall.
“We grew as a team last year,” Lightning senior defender Tyler MacDowell said. “It was a good season to develop. We learned to play off each other’s strengths.”
Eastview can strike quickly with its outstanding attackers, but is even better defensively. The team is allowing only 5.1 goals per game while scoring 11.3p.
“We’re a lot better than last year,” MacDowell said. “We’re more experienced and have crazy depth, but we have to keep getting better.”
Lindner and MacDowell are two of eight players on the roster who will continue to play lacrosse at the collegiate level. Lindner is headed to Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C., and MacDowell will play for the Gophers’ club team.
“We have a tremendous core of players,” Lindner said.
The most heralded of that group is a pair of juniors, offensive-minded midfielder Joe Stillings and defender Porter Awad. Stillings, who is closing in on 20 goals for the season, already has committed to Army. Awad is headed for Vermont.
“Those two are tremendous athletes,” said Eastview coach Tim Roche, the Lightning mentor since the sport was sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League in 2007. “They are big, strong kids who play year-round.”
The Lightning has made five state tournament appearances under Roche, winning it in 2012 with a 13-4 triumph over Eden Prairie. Eastview also was the runner-up in 2009.
“We have a pretty strong team now,” Roche said. “It’s a very talented group.”
Eastview’s offensive unit can be even more explosive. Senior attacker Noah Joseph also is a 20-goal scorer, while freshman Jason Hill is closing in on the same mark.
“A lot of teams have been playing zone against us,” Roche said. “We’ll be patient, and take what the defense gives us. We’ll wait for a great shot instead of taking a good one.”
The Lightning is just as strong defensively. Junior Jaden Welborn also starts on defense with Awad and MacDowell. Senior Jackson Beran tends net. Three of the four who graduated from last year’s squad were defenders, including All-America selection Connor Bateman.
“We have the talent in-house to set the bar as high as we want,” Roche said. “They go against each other in practice, and push each other to be better.”
The Lightning has six other seniors on its roster in attacker Tyler Hanson and midfielders Maxwell Herzog, Andy Moran, Ryan Oliveros, Reese Orman and Jack Peeters. Orman, a long stick defensive middie, has been sidelined because of a pulled hamstring but is expected to return in the near future.
Eleven of the Lightning players were on the 15-and-under title team. Now, if Eastview can only accomplish the same feat at the high school level.
“Winning state would be unbelievable,” Lindner said. “It would be a great way to finish.”