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Abbie Ness, Lakeville South

After two years of rebuilding, Lakeville South girls’ lacrosse has reached its tipping point.

Abbie Ness was a freshman when Lakeville — then still one school — went to the state tournament in 2010. The next year, the school split into Lakeville North and South and each had its separate athletic programs. Ness was one of two varsity players that comprised the Lakeville South squad.

It was quite a turn of events.

“We had to start from the bottom, really,” said Ness, now a senior and the state’s leading scorer. “It was a really big transition. It was hard.”

On Tuesday, the Cougars edged their rivals from Lakeville North in a thrilling 10-9 game. The victory completed a perfect 11-0 regular season for the South Suburban Conference champions, something Ness thought would be nearly impossible a couple of years ago.

“In sophomore year, if you were to tell me this was going to happen, I would have said, ‘Wow, that would take a lot of work,’ ” Ness said. “Everyone just put in their work and here we are. It’s awesome.”

Lakeville South basically had to start from scratch. The last couple of seasons were about development, maturation and skill refinement.

Now the Cougars are one of the top teams in the state. Last week Lakeville South was ranked the No. 3 team in the state.

“I always knew it was there,” coach Patrick Crandall said. “We just needed some maturity and to put the pieces in place. This is that tipping point, not only for this year, but for our program, we can really be in there now and be a part of that whole conversation.”

One of the state’s most high-octane offenses, averaging 15.36 goals per game, powers the Cougars’ success. Powerful, lefthanded Abby Quinnell has scored a team-high 42 goals.

“She’s that pure scorer,” Crandall said. “She doesn’t see people around her. She sees the net.”

Ness finished with 75 points, including a state-best 37 assists.

“[Ness] has been our quarterback,” Crandall said. “The offense that we run, it runs through her. That’s why she’s top in the state for assists. She is incredible with her stick.”

But creating that much offense and putting together an undefeated season also has taken a full team effort.

Sophomore Logan Halvorson scored 22 goals and added five assists. More importantly, she tallied a state-high 97 ground balls. Junior Brooke Galle registered 75 of her own. That alone has created 172 extra possessions for the Cougars this season.

Stout defense and goaltending have further solidified Lakeville South. Lexi Halvorson has been a dominant defensive force as a senior. Sophomore Kelsey Olsen, in just her second year of lacrosse, has excelled in net.

“She was a great athlete — a hockey player,” Crandall said. “We needed a goalie. I just saw it in her and put her in there and she has just blossomed. Just incredible hands, great kid — she’ll soak up anything. When we need a big stop, she makes it.”

That state tournament feeling that Ness experienced as a freshman is something she wants to go through again.

“That’s one of our top goals right now,” Ness said. “Everything is kind of fitting together like puzzle pieces this year.”

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