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Delano, in just its third season as a varsity program, won its first MBSLA championship. Photo by Helen Nelson

Building a championship lacrosse program isn’t so hard.
 
Just follow the Delano model: Recruit the school’s top athletes. Teach them the fundamentals. Work them to the bone.
 
The formula seems so simple, so foolproof, if you listen to Rage coach Dan Willette.
 
“We practice a lot,” Willette said after Delano beat St. Louis Park 11-4 on Saturday, June 9, to win the Minnesota Boys Scholastic Lacrosse Association championship. “None of our coaches have ever played before. The easiest thing for us to teach is fundamentals.”
 
Willette isn’t telling the whole story. There’s more to Delano could rise to the top of the MBSLA in just its third year as a varsity program.
 
St. Louis Park coach and MBSLA president Kevin Reed remembers watching Willette and his assistant coaches arriving early, staying late and furiously scribbling notes at a coaches’ clinic, absorbing every detail.
 
“We had all these speakers,” Reed said about the clinic. “But once the mandatory meeting was done all these high school coaches left. But there was Dan and his assistants taking notes about everything that was said.”
 
Reed said Willette’s lack of a playing pedigree has zero impact on his effectiveness as a coach.

Delano's Chase Willette looks for an opening past a St. Louis Park defender in the MBSLA championship game. Photo by Helen Nelson

“Dan is modest,” Reed said. “He’s done a hell of a job with that team. I am happy to see him win it, because he is a great standup guy. But you know what, when he tells you that he doesn’t know that much about lacrosse, he’s full of it.”
 
Willette’s thirst to improve has been infused in his players. Shooting sessions are part of the Rage’s afterschool routine long before the season starts.
 
“We practice shooting a lot,” said Chase Willette, Dan’s son and the Rage’s leading scorer. “Our whole team is shooters. Everyone is a threat. It’s nice.”
 
Willette, one of five MBSLA All-American selections, was held to a goal and an assist in Saturday’s win over the Orioles. 
 
No worries. Luke Anderson and Jack Nelson each had three goals and Aaron Wagner added two.
 
Anderson scored two of his goals in the third quarter as the Rage grabbed a 7-3 lead. Normally a setup man who initiates many of Delano’s scoring plays, Anderson reversed roles and became a closer.
 
“I had my opportunities to shoot today, so I just took them,” Anderson said. “I got lucky a few times.” 
 
Nelson scored twice in a back-and-forth first quarter and delivered a thundering midfield hit early in the second half.
 
“It helps when we have enough weapons,” Coach Willette said. “They can’t just faceguard one guy and get away with it. We’ll just move the ball around, and then they don’t know where we are coming from. Keep them guessing.”

Delano coach Dan Willette guided the Rage to the MBSLA championship in just their third season as a varsity program. Photo by Helen Nelson

Last season Delano was undefeated when it reached the MBSLA state semifinals, only to be unceremoniously ousted by St. Louis Park. The Rage were more than ready for the rematch, as they were unflustered by the Orioles’ zone defense, unrelenting when the ball was in their defensive zone and, for their seniors, unwilling to complete their careers without a state title. 
 
“It’s kind of relief a guess,” Chase Willette said. “We probably should have had it last year, but it’s good to finally win.”
 
The Rage hope to make the move up to the Minnesota State High School League level next season, pending approval by the Delano school board. 
 
They have come this far, this fast. Who knows what the future holds?
 
“Even though I’m won’t be playing, I’d like to see them play the bigger schools, like Eden Prairie and Minnetonka,” Anderson said about the potential move to the MSHSL.
 
“It would be good for the program,” said Chase Willette, also a senior. “It’s a good way to get better quick.”
 
-- Loren Nelson, MN Lax Hub editor

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

A close game through the first quarter ended in a rout, as Delano defeated St. Louis Park 11-4 in the MBSLA championship on Saturday, June 9, at Orono High School.

The Rage (16-1) scored first with 4:29 left in the first period on a goal by midfielder Jack Nelson. Orioles midfielder Matt Harkema would answer just 19 seconds later on a pass from teammate Carlos Siguenza.

St. Louis Park (11-5) answered after each of the next two goals by Delano, but that is as close as the Orioles would get.
 
After the Orioles tied it at 3-3 just 1:10 into the second quarter, Delano would rattle off six unanswered goals before St. Louis Park would get their its goal with 4:51 left in the fourth.
 
Delano, in just its third year as a varsity program, won its first MBLSA championship.

St. Louis Park has lost in the championship the past two years after last winning it all in 2010. The Orioles were making their fifth straight title game appearance.

The Orioles knocked off the previously unbeaten Rage last year in the MBSLA semifinals
 
-- Jake Lunemann, MN Lax Hub staff

1. Luke Anderson, Delano
With the Rage holding a 4-3 lead in the second quarter, Anderson, a senior midfielder, scored three unanswered goals. Anderson, who scored 12 goals in 11 regular season games, repeatedly found seams to unleash his wicked shot from long range, and his outburst (he scored one of his goals in the second quarter and two more in the third) put the rage in control.

2. Jack Nelson, Delano
A sophomore midfielder, Nelson scored three goals and delivered a massive hit on St. Louis Park midfielder Sean Berens early in the second half. Nelson drew a penalty after throwing his shoulder into Berens, but the play near both benches gave Delano a spark, and the Rage soon after took control of what had been a tight game.

3. Will Harkema, St. Louis Park
The junior goaltender was a rock in the early going, and his stellar play singlehandedly kept Delano from quickly turning the game into a blowout. Harkema made 10 saves in the first half and finished with 15.

-- Loren Nelson, MN Lax Hub editor

Photo Gallery

Previous Meeting

MBSLA Champions

2012 -- Delano
2011 -- MontiQuois
2010 -- St. Louis Park
2009 -- Orono
2008 -- St. Louis Park
2007 -- White Bear Lake
2006 -- Blake
2005 -- Blake
2004 -- Eden Prairie
2003 -- Bloomington Jefferson
2002 -- Roseville
2001 -- Roseville
2000 -- Bloomington Jefferson
1999 -- Robbinsdale Cooper
1998 -- Hopkins
1997 -- Hopkins

Statistical Leaders

How They've Fared

St. Louis Park | MBSLA Playoffs

Delano | MBSLA Playoffs

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Tag(s): MBSLA  Featured News  Spotlight Games  News Archive  Varsity  South  West  Delano  Tournaments  St. Louis Park   MBSLA News