Eastview's Ryan McNamara (4) scores against Eagan during the Section 3 final.
Expanding both the boys’ and girls’ state tournament fields from four to eight teams this spring owes to a greater quantity of teams.
But players believe this week’s state tournament, taking place Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at Chanhassen and Chaska High Schools, also will showcase the growing quality of teams.
“It’s night and day,” said Jake Woodring, senior captain of undefeated Eden Prairie. “Freshman year when I played lacrosse, you’d see teams that could not even get the ball around the field. For such a short period of time, it’s been a huge improvement in the quality of play. You’re seeing new teams from different areas progress, and it’s really cool to see.”
Blake junior Lydia Sutton, who led the Bears’ past three state championship teams and made the Team Canada roster, said the floor has risen considerably. Two years ago, the Bears crushed Benilde-St. Margaret’s 17-5 in the playoffs. Last week Blake edged the Red Knights 9-8 in the Section 5 championship game.
“Even from last year to this year, there are so many teams that are so much better,” Sutton said.
While more players, better athletes and strong offseason opportunities helped grow and strengthen lacrosse, the teams toward the top have not changed much.
On the girls’ side, No. 1-ranked Eden Prairie and No. 2 Blake are favored to meet in the championship game for the seventh time in as many seasons of Minnesota State High School League-sponsored state tournaments. Eden Prairie, which defeated Blake 10-7 on May 23, has not won a title since 2009.
Winning three consecutive titles, Sutton said, has not changed Blake’s mindset.
“Every year it seems like we end up being the second seed, the underdogs, because we lose to Eden Prairie in the regular season,” Sutton said. “It’s sort of nice because it reminds us that we’re not assured of winning. We have to really work for it.”
The 15-0 Eden Prairie boys’ team also is the top seed. It is searching for the program’s first state title after finishing second in four of the past seven tournaments. No. 2 seed and defending champion Eastview, led by Ryan McNamara, will challenge.
“We still have three games left to prove that we are the Eden Prairie class that can win a state championship,” Woodring said.