Graduation claimed three of the top four scorers from the Coon Rapids girls’ lacrosse team and a sense of optimism.
Sammi DeJoy, a senior standout and daughter of coach Jeff DeJoy, admitted her preseason concerns. But a 6-1 start to the season answered questions and sharpened the Cardinals’ focus on postseason success.
DeJoy, an attack wing, has maintained her scoring touch, ranking among the leaders in the metro area with 35 goals.
She spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about the Cardinals’ surprising fast start, attracting more attention from defenses and hopes for a state tournament appearance.
Q: When you look at the 12-11 loss to Maple Grove, have you thought about how close this team is to being undefeated?
A: Yeah, we’re starting to get nervous before games now because we think we can do well. Coming into the season, we lost about 11 players who had started at some point so we weren’t really sure how good we would be. But the younger girls have stepped up and now we have a better outlook.
Q: You’ve gone 3-1 in four games decided by two goals or less. How were you able to pull out most of your close games?
A: Our first halves haven’t been very good this season. We’ve let in almost double the amount of goals in the first half compared to the second half. But I think our team really knows when to turn it on. We really start to play smarter. We hold the ball, make good passes and get it to people who can score.
Q: You have shown an ability to score a lot of goals. Have you been attracting more attention from defenses?
A: Yeah, I was kind of open a lot in our first game against Centennial. But starting with Andover, teams have started to double- or triple-team me. They yell “Mark No. 3,” which gets in my head a little bit. I get a little stressed out if I don’t get as many opportunities as I’d like. But my teammates have stepped up and scored goals. If you focus on me, we have some girls that will surprise you.
Q: Did you grow up playing soccer and lacrosse? Or did lacrosse, because it is a newer sport, get on your radar more recently?
A: I’ve played soccer since I was maybe 3 years old. That’s been my dad’s favorite thing in life so I grew up with the sport. I was in track and field in sixth and seventh grade and then lacrosse became a high school sport when I was in eighth grade. I guess I just wanted to try something new.
Q: Is soccer still No. 1 for you or has lacrosse taken the top spot?
A: I think lacrosse has become more my favorite. It’s an exciting game to play. It’s fast-paced and there are more goals scored.
Q: Looking ahead to the playoffs, you have a 3-0 record against teams in your section. Do you feel like you have a good chance at reaching state?
A: I think once we started playing well against the teams in our section, it gave us confidence. Plus, we lost to Stillwater the past two or three years and they got moved out of our section. So there is some excitement that we can do it.
DAVID LA VAQUE