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Apple Valley's Katie Larson (4) and Eden Prairie's Christine Easton (23) fought for a loose ball in the first half.

 

 

It was an unfamiliar feeling for a team that has played in every championship game in state history.

The first 17 minutes of Wednesday's girls' lacrosse state semifinal at Chanhassen High School was a struggle for Eden Prairie. The top-ranked and unbeaten Eagles looked out of sorts, uncharacteristically rushing shots and turning the ball over.

They were nervous.

"We were just rushing everything," senior Christine Easton said. "We were nervous and just not playing our game."

Apple Valley, playing in its first state tournament, controlled play early, and tied the score at 2-2 midway through the first half.

Then, well, Eden Prairie showed exactly why it hasn't lost a game since last year's state title contest.

Eden Prairie scored four goals in a four-and-a-half minute stretch late in the first half, creating the separation it needed to cruise to an 11-2 victory and advance to the state championship game for the sixth season in a row.

"There were some nerves to start, but we eventually settled down and played our game," Eden Prairie co-head coach Beth Patterson said. "Our defense has been strong all season, and they kept that up today. They controlled the play, and they controlled the tempo of the game."

Eden Prairie will now face two-time defending state champion Blake in the title game. The two teams have played each other for the championship every year it's been held, with Blake winning three times and Eden Prairie twice.

"If we play our game, it won't matter who we play," Easton said. "... Every year, it's always the same motivation. We want to win it every year."

Easton, who was named Ms. Lacrosse on Sunday and will play next season at Ohio State, led Eden Prairie with five goals, and junior midfielder Emma Claire Fontenot had six assists.

Seniors Hannah Segar and Katrina Vogelgesang scored for Apple Valley.

Blake 17, Stillwater 10: As Blake coach Laura Mark put it, lacrosse is a momentum game.

"Sometimes, it goes back and forth, but you have to grab control of it," Mark said.

And that's exactly what the Bears did in their semifinal matchup with Stillwater.

Senior Meghan Bauer scored six goals, and Blake overcame an early 4-3 deficit to top Stillwater 17-10 in the highest-scoring game in state tournament history.

"There was never a doubt in my mind that we'd work it out," Bauer said of her team's rough patch early in the game. "It kind of happens like that sometimes at the beginning of games."

The Bears now have a shot at their third consecutive title against their familiar rival.

"For us, the goal is always just to play the best game that we can," Mark said. "... I still think there's something out there for this group."

Junior Dana Almquist scored seven goals for Stillwater, which will play Apple Valley in today's third place game at 4 p.m.

The championship game is at 2 p.m.

 

 

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