Eastview junior Ryan McNamara celebrates after scoring one of his fourth-quarter goals against Eagan. Photo by Helen Nelson
McNamara, a junior attackman, did as he was told. He trotted down the field and scooped the ball. The whistle blew, and he was off. One move launched him past an Eagan attackman, a downshift into high gear at midfield sent him past a defender.
From there, it was a race to the net. McNamara, easily one of the state’s fastest players, doesn’t lose many races.
“I didn’t think he would score,” Roche said after the Lightning beat the Wildcats 8-7 for the Section 3 championship. “That wasn’t the plan but … you have to love it.
“That was ginormous.”
That’s McNamara. His low shot scooted past Eagan goaltender Lucas Petersen for the game-winning goal.
McNamara, one of seven Minnesota first-team All-American selections, also scored the tying goal. He set up yet another goal in the fourth quarter, when the Lightning outscored the Wildcats 4-0 as they rallied for the victory.
Eastview senior Jake Heppner, himself one of seven Mr. Lacrosse finalists, has played alongside his good buddy McNamara in countless games, dating back to when they were both barely taller than their lacrosse sticks. Heppner has seen McNamara score all manner of goals. But none like this.
“I liked the coast-to-coast goal,” Heppner said with a laugh. “I didn’t think he was going to go down all the way and score either.
“The kid is clutch.”
Drama-packed victories have been commonplace this season for the Lightning, who have grown accustomed to the pressure that accompanies tight finishes against state-ranked opponents.
Eastview beat Minnetonka 16-15 to open the season, topped Mahtomedi 9-8 in late April and rallied to beat Rosemount 8-7 in early May. The Lightning, who missed the net repeatedly in the first half, appeared much more comfortable in the late going, when they took the time to take dead aim.
“It seems like we played too many close games, but it helped us in the end today,” McNamara said. “We thought about all the work we put in during the offseason. Weight training, all the balls we shot before and after practice.”
The Lightning, Heppner said, are a second-half team.
“I think it comes down to what we did in the offseason to prepare, to condition,” he said. “We’re just in better shape than other teams. That helps us in the fourth quarter, so we can make those runs like we did.”