Blake's Anne Slusser, right, slips between Stillwater defenders Ashlyn Jelinek, left, and Katie Casto. Photo by Loren Nelson
The gameplan was simple.
Do not let Dana Almquist score.
Executing that plan is much easier said than done.
Three-time defending state champion and No. 2-ranked Blake had that task in front of it on Saturday, May 18.
Playing in its third game in as many days would only make achieving that feat even more difficult.
The Bears nearly did the unimaginable in their 13-8 victory over No. 3 Stillwater, but Almquist was able to squeak a into the goal with 26 seconds left in the second half, which gives her an astonishing 71 on the season.
Holding the state's most prolific scorer to only one goal is something Bears' coach Laura Mark is content with resting her hat on.
"That was our gameplan," Mark said. "She a great player, she has had a great season. We haven't played a team that has had such a dominant goal scorer. We had to work really hard on our face guarding and Lauren Kelly did an exceptional job."
The Bears did not throw out their defensive scheme completely with Almquist by double or tripe covering her.
Instead it was junior defenseman Kelly, who had the opportunity to play Deion Sanders by blanketing Almquist, matching her step for step.
"For the most part it was important to block everything out and just focus on her," Kelly said. "If she doesn't get the ball, she doesn't score.
Kelly was Almquist's shadow the whole afternoon.
While Blake controlled a majority of possession throughout, one could even see Almquist and Kelly engaging in conversation.
They had enough time to catch up.
"In the beginning she was getting kind of (frustrated) guys, come on, do something for me," Kelly said. "It was kind of cool that I kept her to one (goal)."
The Bears biggest defense against Almquist and the Ponies was possession.
Blake won most of the draws and from there was able to dictate play.
On loose balls it was aggressive and more often than not came away with it and raced to the offensive zone.
"The name of the game in lacrosse is to win the draw and win the 50-50 balls and I thought we did a really good job of that," Mark said.
Ponies' coach Rick Reidt echoed Mark's evaluation.
"It's a game of possession and they really beat us on the center draws," he said. "When you get beat on possession it's really hard."
The fast start was not bad either for the Bears.
Blake scored the first four goals, all within the first seven minutes.
It closed out the first half with the last four goals as well and had an 8-3 lead.
Down 13-4 late in the second half the Ponies were able to score four goals in the final two minutes to make the score respectable, but the Bears were dominant and needed to be.
Playing in their seventh game in 12 days and arguably its toughest test in Minnesota yet this season the Bears came away with one of its biggest wins of the season.
"I was really proud of our girls. It has been a tough season for everybody," Mark said. "This weather has just been wrecking havoc and we've really played more than half of our season in the last two weeks and that is a lot to ask of these kids."
"You think we would be (tired)," Kelly said. "All the adrenaline from winning keeps you going. I don't noticed it until right about bed."
Blake will have some time to rest, but there is a clash with No. 1 Eden Prairie on the horizon.
-- Justin Magill
Freshman Annie Lyman scored three goals and added two assists to lead the No. 2-ranked Blake girls to a 13-8 triumph over previously unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Stillwater on Saturday, May 18, at The Blake School in Hopkins.
Lyman scored all three of her goals in the first half as three-time defending state champion Blake (9-2) surged to an 8-3 lead.
The Bears, whose only losses this season have come against Illinois schools, led by as much as 13-4 in the second half.
Stillwater (10-1) scored the final four goals, all of them coming in the final 1 minute, 45 seconds. Ponies senior Dana Almquist, who had a state-best 70 goals entering the game, scored her lone goal against the Bears with 26 seconds remaining.
Nicole Kozlak, Jordan Chancellor and Olivia Nolan each scored twice for Blake. Emma Wiessner scored four goals for the Ponies, and teammate Carter Sanderson added two.
Blake was playing its third game in as many days and fourth in five days.
Blake star Lydia Sutton scored a goal and added an assist before being ejected from the game for receiving two yellow cards. At one point late the second half she stood on the sideline and read a lacrosse rulebook.
-- Loren Nelson
1. Annie Lyman, Blake
The freshman had the hot hand for the Bears, scoring three goals and helping set up two more. Lyman scored two of Blake's first three goals ignite a fast start against the No. 3-ranked Ponies.
2. Lauren Kelly, Blake
Playing strictly defense is not the most glamorous thing to do in sports, but if done well, it can lead a team to a key victory. Kelly's only job was to stop Stillwater's Dana Almquist, who had a state-best 70 goals. Kelly held Almquist to a single goal, and that came with 26 seconds left and the game well in hand.
3. Emma Wiessner, Stillwater
With Almquist shut down the Ponies got a nice contribution from Wiessner, who found the net four times. She got the Ponies going early in the first half when they were down 4-0 and helped kickstart a second half surge when Blake had a healthy lead.
-- Justin Magill