When the lacrosse programs at Benilde-St. Margaret's (boys) and Lakeville South (girls) ascended to state tournament championships last spring, both appeared built for more glory.

The Red Knights and Cougars relied on their seniors, sure. But a wealth of talented juniors and underclassmen meant they weren't going anywhere for a while. Not even a change in head coaches would slow their roll.

Then again, Giuseppe Palermo and Joel Tornell are not new faces. Both were assistant coaches before taking the top job. And both are undefeated this spring.

Tornell's No. 1 South team (4-0) plays at 7 p.m. Friday at No. 3 Benilde-St. Margaret's (6-0), the first of South's four opponents ranked in the top 10.

"There's a different person talking more in the huddle this year," Tornell said. "But the message and the expectations are the same."

A decade spent as a South assistant coach helped smooth Tornell's transition into the head coaching job. Talented holdovers from the 2022 state championship team include attackers Gabby Bouman and Emily Moes and defender Addie Hammes. But the nucleus can be found in the midfield with the trio of Katie Grubbs, Sivanna O'Brien and Tori Tschida.

Tornell is content to let his horses run. A 16-3 drubbing of the same Chanhassen team the Cougars beat for the 2022 state title confirmed Tornell's approach.

"Chanhassen is a good team, but we played lights-out," he said. "With our leaders at the top, we let them push themselves to their goals and dreams. My role is to keep them from getting too high or low along the way."

Palermo can appreciate the luxury and challenges of returning talent. The top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Red Knights, 8-0 after a 9-6 victory Thursday at St. Thomas Academy, once again rely on the efforts of attacker Carsen Brandt and long-stick midfielder Caio Stephens.

Players in expanded roles include midfielder Gus Bell, defender Will Conner and goalie Axel Esco.

"Gus is a special kid," Palermo said. "He's tough; he's never tired and he can shoot the heck out of the ball."

Conner has brought steady play to the defensive corps while Esco is emerging as a leader.

"There's a lot of, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it,' with this group," said Palermo, a former Totino-Grace standout. "We have a ton of skill and athleticism, so what it's really about for me is coaching players to be steady, to check their ego at the door and to do it together."

Earlier this season, B-SM took a 15-9 victory at Prior Lake — the Red Knights' title game opponent the past four seasons (not counting the cancelled 2021 season).

"It was great to get the 'W,' but Prior Lake is a program that always plays its best lacrosse at the end of the year," Palermo said. "We still have a lot to work on if we're going to play them again."

Still to come are Chanhassen and Centennial, both state tournament qualifiers last season.