The days after the end of a season can be a whirlwind, Lakeville North boys’ lacrosse coach Jeff Wright said.
“The season just goes so quickly — a lot of games in a short time — and then all of a sudden it’s playoffs and it’s over,” Wright says. “It takes a while to let it all sink in.”
But, just 48 hours or so after the Panthers’ season ended with a 10-8 loss to Eden Prairie in the third-place game of the state tournament June 13, Wright began to tally everything up.
The Panthers had nine players, including seven seniors, named to the all-Section 1 team by the state’s coaches association. Four players — three of them seniors — were named to one of the three all-state teams. And senior Roman Rohrbach was named an all-American, not to mention the Star Tribune’s Metro Player of the Year.
Notice a pattern there?
“We had 11 seniors on this team — seniors that played big roles and were great leaders for this program,” Wright said. “We said at our banquet that we had a lot of individual accolades, but those don’t get you wins. It was the effort of all these individuals in this program that helped us have success this year.
“It’s tough to say goodbye to those [seniors]. We had a great season, a great run, and they’ll be tough to replace.”
It’s been five full seasons since Wright took over Lakeville North’s program after a 2-12 season in 2010. After back-to-back state tournament appearances — both ending in fourth-place finishes the past two seasons — Wright said the true growth of Panthers lacrosse will show going forward.
“We’re losing a good chunk of our team, but we have really good players coming up,” he said. “This program’s come a long way, and I think people will see that.”
In 2014, the Panthers surprised many by making their first appearance in the state tournament ever. That team’s feat was made more impressive because it had lost 16 seniors from the previous season.
Coming into 2015, though, there were lofty expectations placed on Lakeville North. The Panthers had a handful of the best players in the south metro, and Wright said his team aimed for a state title.
Lakeville North finished the regular season ranked seventh in the state. It breezed through the Section 1 playoffs, outscoring opponents 35-5 along the way. The Panthers then defeated Blake in the first round at state, before dropping their final two games.
“We’d been there last year, same type of situation, and this was what we were playing for,” Wright said. “But it can be over just as quickly.”
The Panthers will lose all three starting attackmen, and all-state players on defense and in goal. Midfielder Luke Anderson, who was second on the team with 38 goals and 53 points, was just a junior, though, as was Max Johnson, who scored 20 times this spring.
Wright said a successful junior varsity season has given him many options to look at this summer and into next school year.
Panthers players already have started practices for summer ball. The coach and his players already are working to move on toward new goals.
“It really is just a whirlwind sometimes,” he said. “You blink and it’s over. … But it’s pretty amazing to think of where we are [as a program]. It just shows the work the kids have all put in — and the work they’ll keep putting in.”