About 15 summers ago, the Minnesota Twins boasted a lineup known for tenacity rather than towering home runs. The collection of small and mighty hitters became known as the Piranhas, courtesy of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.
This spring, the Blake girls' lacrosse program relies on a trio of diminutive goalies. They were dubbed the Minions after those adorable little henchmen from the Despicable Me movie franchise resembling Twinkies dressed in overalls and protective eyewear.
Junior Abby Ziehl, standing just 5-foot-2, is the lead minion.
"She is a competitor through and through," Bears' coach Sarah Roth said. "Always striving to better herself for the team. She's extremely coachable and a great listener. Her strengths are definitely her work ethic and her mental toughness as a goalie, which is not an easy position in any sport."
Ziehl (pronounced zeal) knows this better than most. She is the last line of defense in all three of her sports: soccer, hockey and lacrosse. She spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about becoming a goalie for all seasons, her will to compete and leading her fellow minions.
Q: How did you end up playing goalie in all of your sports?
A: I played soccer my whole life and I always liked goalie. When the net was smaller, it was easier. I started playing hockey through floor hockey, and I loved it, so then I had to learn how to skate. And when I was in seventh grade, Blake didn't have a lacrosse goalie.
Q: It's never easy playing multiple sports in high school. How are you managing the load while also balancing Blake's pretty rigorous academic curriculum?
A: My mom calls me her three-ring circus child. If I'm not busy, I get bored. Since birth I've been stubborn. I was breech. I've always been independent and have taken an interest in many different things.
Q: Are you always having to prove yourself as a shorter goalie?
A: Most definitely. It happens a lot. My coaches in soccer over the years would say, 'Maybe you'd like being a field player better.' In hockey, I know I go in having to prove something because teams generally don't take short goalies. I have to do something to stand out. My mom has always told me to bring a good attitude and effort. She said if I work hard and have fun, I will get better.
Q: Hockey goalies are known to be eccentric. Do you fit the profile?
A: I'm crazy in general to play goalie in three sports. In lacrosse, I get hit a lot. But I've always felt that in all three of my sports, it's more exciting to make a save than score a goal.
Q: Any transferable skills across your three sports?
A: I had to develop mental toughness. I always hated getting scored on so much that I didn't stay composed. One of my coaches taught me to practice the mindset that goals are going to go in sometimes and when it happens, I have to just focus on the next shot.
Q: The lacrosse goalies, you and sophomores Piper Crow and Siena Pradhan, are known as the minions. Do you embrace the nickname?
A: For sure. We all have minion nicknames. Piper is Bob because she has the most energy. Siena is Kevin because she's the tallest. And I'm Stuart, because I'm the shortest. We have our own little club and it's a fun atmosphere. I'm the oldest, so I lead the shenanigans.