Eastview's Jake Heppner, left, celebrates after he scored a first-quarter goal. Photo by Marlin Levison, Star Tribune
Long before hoisting the state championship trophy, Eastview was preparing for this moment.
The boys' lacrosse program was tired of watching the state championship game from the stands and had long forgotten a second-place finish in 2009.
Willing to learn more about the game and each other, the Lightning committed to a summer full of lacrosse and a four-week preseason boot camp that were the first steps in a journey that ended Thursday night with a state championship -- the first in any boys' sport at the school.
Eastview won in fashion, walloping Eden Prairie 10-4 in front of a crowd of 2,113 at Chanhassen High School.
"We were ready to go from the beginning [of the season]," said senior attack Jacob Heppner.
The champions celebrated by running across the field to their goalkeeper Andrew Koenen, who deserved the pile of celebration. He stopped 16 Eden Prairie shot attempts, giving up only four goals to a team that scored 15 in the semifinals.
"I felt ready once [Ryan McNamara] messed up my thumb in warmups," Koenen said holding up his swollen and bruised digit. "As I got more pain, I got more focused. But it was not only me, but our defense, too."
Eastview's 10 goals were scored by eight players, with two apiece from Heppner and Tanner Hamill.
The teams didn't face off during the regular season but were familiar with each other. A preseason scrimmage provided a glimpse, and many of the players compete against one another in club lacrosse.
Eden Prairie goalkeeper Anthony Perkins was convinced it would be tight game. He had heard stories of McNamara and Erik Gage, but now Perkins and his defense would have to stop them.
The little offense Totino-Grace showed against Eden Prairie in the semifinals was a detriment to the Eagles' preparation. The Lightning's speed and strength overwhelmed last year's runner-up.
As the Eastview fans sang to their team during a timeout with less than three minutes left in the game, the players wiggled with excitement, sensing a state title was just moments away.
In its sixth season as a sanctioned varsity sport, boys' lacrosse continues to show growth and more parity in the sport. All four teams that advanced to the state tournament had never won a championship, with Edina new to the tournament altogether.
Totino-Grace 8, Edina 7: Scrambling for a goal, both teams struggled to execute in the final minutes. But it was Totino-Grace's Franklin Nesser who tapped in a goal with 37 seconds remaining to win it.