Andover's Jake Harmon scores with an assist from Nick Tollinger (not pictured) during the first half of a recent game against Blaine. Photo by Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune
Contrasting styles make Andover lacrosse attackers Jake Harmon and Nick Tollinger hard for opponents to handle.
Harmon, a senior who plays football and hockey, goes toward the goal like a bull. Tollinger, a junior who plays and studies lacrosse year-round, sets up defenders like a stick-wielding matador.
"They are polar opposites," Huskies coach Ken Weikel said. "They go about things differently but they have a good chemistry."
It shows in the numbers. Tollinger entered this week ranked fourth in the state with 26 goals. Harmon's 24 goals is good for sixth place. They help make Andover the second-highest scoring team (89 goals) in the Northwest Suburban Conference. In addition, the Huskies are 5-3 after going 7-7 last season.
The duo also had a hand in designing the Huskies' shooter shirts and shorts worn during pregame warmups. Tollinger and Jake Klockers reached out to a coach of their summer team who dabbled in apparel design. Harmon and the other captains weighed in to help freshen the Huskies' look.
"I guess it's an intimidation thing," Harmon joked. "Look good, feel good, right?"
The duo first became lacrosse teammates when Harmon was in fourth grade and Tollinger was in third grade. Years of experience produced a unique chemistry. Their ability to freelance makes some of their scoring plays harder to replicate than they are to stop.
"We have our own plays that we run," Harmon said. "Sometimes we don't even plan it out, it just works. The reason we're so successful is because we always know where the other one is on the field. We just really click out there."
Added Tollinger: "We like to write up a lot of plays to set each other up. We know how to get open for each other and how to work the ball."
Tollinger estimated "upward of 90 percent of our goals come from each other." Their play in a 13-9 loss to Blaine last week showed their offensive abilities. Trailing 5-1 in the first half, Andover surged back to tie the score 6-6 by halftime. Harmon scored three goals while Tollinger added a goal and two assists.
Tollinger struck first, using shifty footwork to draw a Blaine penalty. He later scored to make it 5-2. Blaine scored next but Harmon's first goal made it 6-3. Then Tollinger whipped a pass inside for Christian Hartje to catch, turn and deposit into the net. Harmon scored Andover's next goal on an assist from Tollinger. Harmon later tied the score 7-7 before the Bengals pulled away.
For all their scoring prowess, Harmon and Tollinger insist they have not put their statistics above wins and losses.
"It's never really even been a question between me and him," Harmon said. "We both know points will come, especially when we're on the field together. We're more focused on how the team is doing than ourselves. It's great to be the guys up near the top of the goals and points, but it feels a lot better to see your team has a good record."
Tollinger said he told Harmon that "it was my goal to beat him in points just because he's always been such a dominant player.
"But it's not really a competition. We're just focused on getting the ball in the net," he said.
Both admire what the other brings to the field. Tollinger said the outspoken Harmon "is one of the louder people so he doesn't have a problem telling people what to do. It works well with the newer players on our team."
Harmon credited the reserved Tollinger for being "the kind of kid on the field who speaks without words. He's just naturally good. He knows the game and he's taught me a lot."