Senior midfielder Alex Gross scored with 1 minute, 12 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime and got the sudden-death winner to power Orono past Wayzata 11-10 on Wednesday, June 5, in the Section 8 Championship game at Park Center High School.
It was a positional change that allowed Gross to be at his best when it mattered most.
“We took him from midfield and put him at attack; we thought he could match up a little better there which obviously proved true,” Orono coach Josh Scott said.
The change paid off as Gross was the game’s leading scorer with four goals and an assist. Gross scored the overtime winner on a beautiful individual effort in which he weaved through traffic and evaded his defender. He then left no doubt on the shot as he put it top shelf past the goaltender.
“I happened to have a step on the guy and beat him to the net," Gross said of the play.
Wayzata came into the game as the favorites. They were the No. 1 seed in the section and many considered the Trojans one of the best teams in the state. They were led by Brian Machut and Grant Long, who each scored three goals in the losing effort.
No. 2-seeded Orono was well aware of what it was up against but was hardly intimidated. The Spartans were out to avenge a 7-5 loss from earlier in the season. They embraced the underdog role and will continue to do so as they begin play in the state tournament next week.
“We’ve been an underdog all year, we’re probably going to be the underdog going into our games at state,” Scott said. “We’re just going to take it like we always do and we’re going to prove that we can play lacrosse.”
-- John Kelsey
1. Alex Gross, Orono
Who else? The senior scored what he called one of the biggest goals of his career to send the Spartans to state. He had a game-best four goals and added an assist, but it was the timeliness of his goals that really mattered. Great teams typically rely on their seniors to step up in clutch situations, and Gross was more than happy to be the Spartans' go-to guy.
2. Brian Machut, Wayzata
Wayzata’s regular season scoring leader did not disappoint in his team’s final game of the season. Machut did everything he could to give his team a chance to win, finishing with three goals and an assist. He scored back-to-back goals in the fourth quarter to give his team a 10-9 lead but it was not enough.
3. Chandler Sampson, Orono
Lost in all the Alex Gross hype was the play of teammate Chandler Sampson. Sampson recorded a hat trick and looked every bit as dangerous as Gross on the attack. His third goal came on what was probably the prettiest play of the game as he received a behind the back pass from Blake Leischow and buried it without hesitation.
-- John Kelsey