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Blake applied defensive pressure to Stillwater's Katherine sheely (7) as she attempted to make a shot on goal. Marlin Levison, Star Tribune (mlevison@startribune.com)

 

Right off the opening faceoff, the Blake girls’ lacrosse team reminded everyone why it has won three consecutive state titles and played in all seven championship games in state tournament history.

Just 22 seconds into Thursday night’s state semifinal, Lydia Sutton received a pass from Anne Slusser and zipped the ball into the Stillwater goal. It was the beginning of a 13-8 victory at Chaska High School.

The goal also reminded everyone that Blake has had one of the most explosive and smartest players in the state, Sutton, to fuel its unprecedented run of success. The longtime Bear, who now has 55 goals on the year, has matured.

“After five years it’s kind of all come to me,” said Sutton, who finished with three goals and one assist. “Obviously I have room to learn and time to grow, but looking at my past and my seventh-grade self, I’m a whole different player.”

Sutton not only has the physical tools to be a force on the field, but she also has the instincts. The junior put those on display several times, anticipating the play, intercepting passes — and scoring big-time goals.

“She’s incredibly fast — that’s a given,” head coach Laura Mark said. “I think the thing that goes unnoticed is how smart she is on the field. She has incredible game sense and poise. Those are almost in some ways bigger assets than her speed.”

But Sutton was not the only Blake weapon on display Thursday night. Jordan Chancellor and Annie Lyman made it 3-0 before Stillwater’s Carter Sanderson sped around the net for a goal with 17:36 remaining in the first half.

The Bears (15-3) responded with four unanswered goals from Nicole Kozlak, Slusser and two from Olivia Nolan to put Stillwater in a 7-1 hole. Slusser notched one goal and three assists in the first half.

The Bears defense and goalkeeper Hannah Magarian held a potent Ponies offense at bay in the 8-2 first half.

No. 3-seeded Stillwater (15-3) would not go quietly. This is a familiar matchup for the two teams, which played once last month and have faced each three times in state semifinal action. Their defense stayed aggressive, and the Ponies rallied in the second half for six goals, including four unanswered in the last six minutes from Emma Wiessner, Remi Larson, Carter Sanderson and Katherine Sheely.

Sutton believes the Bears need to work on ground balls and transitions to bring home what she hopes to be a fourth consecutive state championship on Saturday.

“I have confidence in our team that we can do it,” Sutton said. “We just have to bring our full selves to the game.”

Lakeville North 13, Eden Prairie 12 (2OT): Lakeville North scored the game-winner with 33 seconds to play in the second overtime.

Lakeville North earned its first-ever state championship game appearance.

The victory marked the end of Eden Prairie’s streak of six consecutive appearances in the championship game.

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