Lakeville North's Hannah Koloski. Photo by Jodi Dobratz
The extended winter has grown tiresome for most Minnesotans, but Hannah Koloski and the Lakeville North girls’ lacrosse team are done with the delays and itching to get back onto the field, especially after the way last season ended.
The Panthers finished a perfect 9-0 in conference play, but fell to South Suburban foe Apple Valley — a team they beat handily in the regular season — with a state tournament bid on the line.
“It’s a bummer,” said Koloski, a senior scoring machine committed to Division-I Louisville. “A lot of us want to redeem ourselves. It stinks.”
The Panthers made it to the state tournament in 2010, when Koloski and the rest of the seniors were freshmen. They will have one more shot at it this year.
The good news — aside from a warmer forecast — is that Lakeville North is returning a massive amount of firepower. Koloski, a midfielder, led the team with 59 goals. She was fourth in the state in goals scored, which included an eight-goal game against Burnsville late in the season.
There is no doubt opponents will key on Koloski even more than usual this year. The defensive attention might force her to change up her game.
“I’m going to have to adjust and concentrate on winning the draw or getting a ground ball or finding other ways to getting the ball,” said Koloski, who also ranked seventh in the state in ground balls with 55 last year.
It’s not going to discourage her from finding the back of the net, however.
“That’s the way it’s going to be,” she said. “I’m just going to have to set up some plays and try to find a different role maybe this year, but I’m still going to try to score as much as I can. I’m not going to let it stop me.”
The Panthers will be well-equipped to handle any added attention aimed at their leading goal scorer.
Kacie Waagbo finished with the fifth-most points in the state a season ago. Her 47 goals and 48 assists combined for 95 points. Waagbo, a junior, is reliable down low and a top playmaker.
Lauren Storhoff, a senior, scored 50 goals last season. Storhoff possesses a lethal shot. She’s been known to go top shelf on opposing goalies and make it look easy.
As a freshman last spring, Logan Dobratz racked up 55 points. She complements Koloski at the midfield position and is a rising star.
“She’s a stud,” Panthers coach Mo Gaitan said. “She’s a 10th-grader and it’s unbelievable.”
Together, the returning top four scorers combined for 290 total points last season. Their defensive cornerstone, senior Megan Skelly, is also returning.
“She’s the quarterback of our defense,” Gaitan said. “She’s a great athlete and works so hard. She’s one of the main reasons we have as many caused turnovers.”
Gaitan, a Lakeville alum, is in her first year as head coach of the varsity program, but she’s worked with several players in the youth program, where she previously coached.
“As a quote-unquote new coach, I’m not starting from scratch with these girls,” Gaitan said. “I already know them. We’ve built and developed and maintained our relationships, so that’s pretty great.”
Gaitan and company hope to lead the Panthers back to the state tournament, which is expanding to eight teams this season. The Minnesota State High School League added four new sections, creating opportunities for more teams to compete at state.
Koloski believes they can be one of them. “Everyone has faith in each other that we can get there,” she said.