Reagan Roelofs of the Apple Valley lacrosse team. ] JOELKOYAMA‚Ä¢jkoyama@startribune Apple Valley, MN on may 5, 2014.
First, the numbers: The Apple Valley girls’ lacrosse team has scored at least 15 goals in five of its first six games to start the season. The Eagles have allowed fewer than 10 in four of those contests. They have four players with 17 or more goals. They have three girls with 30-plus points.
This balanced, high-flying attack has helped Apple Valley to an unbeaten record and No. 3 ranking in the state as of Thursday.
But what has many metro area coaches scratching their heads is how the Eagles are doing it.
To explain, here’s another number: Six eighth-graders are playing regular — and crucial — minutes for the team.
Coach Alex Ross said many outsiders felt this would be a rebuilding year for the Eagles, who are two years removed from a third-place state finish. They are a year removed from an up-and-down 2013 in which Apple Valley’s success rode on the stick of 70-goal scorer Katie Larson.
The coach seems to relish that underdog mentality, because she had a pretty good idea of just how quickly her team would prove everyone wrong.
“These aren’t your typical middle-schoolers,” Ross understated. “We are a really balanced team between veteran players and experienced youth who are just bringing a new dimension to this team.”
Larson, a senior and one of three co-captains, hasn’t slowed her scoring pace. She had 26 goals through six games despite seeing constant double- and triple-team defenses.
“The difference,” Ross said, “is that now, when someone is marking up Katie, we have four or five other girls who can step up and score just as many goals. We’re a threat across the field.”
Senior midfielder Blayr Thompson already has 23 goals — three more than in all of last year — and eighth-grader Reagan Roelofs has 31 points, second on the team behind Larson.
Fellow eighth-graders Molly Moynihan, Sophia Leong, Josie Segar and Emma Vogelgesang also have contributed in their respective roles, something that surprises few of the team’s more experience players.
“None of them are really scared at all,” senior goalie Marissa Guillou said. “And they’re good. If they can play, they can play. It doesn’t really make a difference what grade they’re in.”
The team’s seniors have made the transition to the varsity level a whole lot easier for the younger players, Roelofs said. The Eagles created what they call their “big sis-little sis” program, in which each of the eight seniors works directly with one or two younger girls, on and off the field.
“They really treat us like we’re sisters,” Roelofs said.
And it’s helped to allow the team to focus on their ultimate goal: a state title.
Because, of all the numbers the Eagles have put up this season, Larson said the only one that matters is the team’s ranking at the end of the season.
“We want to win,” the senior said. “It doesn’t matter how old or young we are, we all want to win.”