Coach Lance Kuehn calls it “validation.”
In 2014 the Rosemount boys’ lacrosse team won its first Section 3 title and rode a senior-heavy team to a 16-2 record and second-place finish at state.
Through 10 games of the 2015 season, the Irish are proving that Kuehn’s program goes deeper than one strong class. Rosemount is 9-1 — its only loss coming to No. 1 Prior Lake — and is ranked No. 4 in the state.
That’s not the type of validation Kuehn meant, though.
“When I first got here nine years ago, we had a lot of kids in their first year playing lacrosse,” he said. “We’ve really had to build, and work for everything. We’re a blue-collar program with that blue-collar mindset in putting in the work.”
Last season’s run and this season’s torrid start, Kuehn said, show that putting in the work pays off and that the process works.
“We have young kids in seventh, eighth, ninth grade that can look at last year’s success, or this year’s team, and say, ‘If I put in the work, this is where we can be,’ ” Kuehn said. “That’s validation for what these kids have done here.”
One of the main reasons Kuehn feels his program has turned a corner in recent years is that it doesn’t “rely on a superstar player to carry the load,” he said.
A year ago, Rosemount had plenty of stars, including twins Conner and Carter Yespen, both of whom now play at NCAA Division I program Robert Morris.
Conner was last year’s Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year; both were finalists for Mr. Lacrosse.
But with the Yespens gone this season, Rosemount hasn’t slown down.
Juniors Luke VanOverbeke (27 goals, 51 points through 10 games) and Simon Hatlen (24 goals, 33 points) have helped lead the way offensively. Josh Dennis, Peyton Norder and Ethan Neubauer also have stepped into big roles on defense.
It’s a “next man up” mentality that Kuehn said has helped the Irish simply reload this season rather than rebuild.
They won their first four games convincingly, before losing by two to Prior Lake on April 28. They haven’t lost since, winning close games against South Suburban rivals Lakeville South, Eagan and Eastview.
Rosemount was seen as a run-and-gun team last year, using its impressive speed and athleticism. This year the Irish have settled into a more efficient style of play, Kuehn said.
“We try to get the most out of each possession,” he said.
“In the games that we play well in, you’ll see our offensive efficiency around 70 or 80 percent. Games like Prior Lake, we weren’t able to do that.”
That will be the focus moving forward, the coach said. Rosemount is aiming for another playoff run, but pulling it off means getting through arguably the state’s toughest section. In addition to No. 1 Prior Lake and No. 4 Rosemount, Section 3 also has No. 2 Bloomington Jefferson. Eagan and Eastview add even more depth.
“We call it the section of death,” Kuen said. “It won’t be easy.”
So the Irish will trust in their process, one they carry off the field into their offseason workouts and in-season lifting, as well as off-field initiatives such as leading tutoring programs and heading a local food drive.
“We want that culture of leadership and mentoring in this program,” Kuehn said. “We want them to see that if they do things the right way and put in the work and support each other, they’re going to succeed. I think they’re really starting to see that.”