Apple Valley's Reagan Roelofs (13) in a game against Apple Valley, April 2015. Photo by Loren Nelson
When Alex Ross took over the Apple Valley girls’ lacrosse program in 2009 — the first season it existed — she came up with a team slogan: “Dawn of a Dynasty.”
“The idea was just to show that we’re looking to build something,” Ross said, noting it was more of a mentality-builder than a proclamation at the time. “The funny thing is, I feel like that’s here right now.”
Another funny thing: Those within the Eagles program might be alone in that thought, and they don’t mind one bit.
Last season Apple Valley, in its sixth season of play under the auspices of the Minnesota State High School League, started with a 16-0 record. The Eagles won their first conference championship, second section title and reached the state semifinals. They lost their final two games of the year — 13-6 to Eden Prairie in the semifinals and 9-7 to Stillwater in the third-place game. They finished with five players receiving all-state honors and one — senior midfielder Katie Larson — being named an All-America.
As Apple Valley opened its 2015 season Saturday against Rochester Mayo, gone are the seniors from last year who carried the team to its success. The team’s leading scorer, starting goaltender, core leadership — those players all graduated.
What’s left, Ross said, is a young, talented team ready to prove its doubters wrong. And ready to kick off that dynasty.
“It takes a lot of work to be successful, and I think that’s what carries over [from last season],” Ross said. “We have a lot of young players, but they played big roles last year. They’re the experienced ones now, and they need to fill that type of role. They don’t have that safety [net] of experienced players to help them along. They have to be the ones to get it done.”
That starts with the team’s seven freshmen, which account for about half of the Eagles’ rotation. Most of them played extensive minutes as eighth-graders. Ross said they will be leaned on heavily for their talent and, as strange as it may sound, experience.
That includes attacker Reagan Roelofs, who had 56 goals and 91 points in 19 games last year. Those numbers ranked her among the leading scorers in the state.
Now a freshman, Roelofs is entering her third varsity season. She will no longer evade detection in scouting reports, as she might have last season.
“I’m excited to see how I react to that,” Roelofs said of being the focus of other teams’ defenses. “It’ll be different, for sure, but I’m hoping to have just as good of a year if not better. It only gets harder, so you just have to keep working harder.”
Junior co-captain Katie Moynihan said that’s all her team is focused on right now — getting its bearings and putting in the work. The Eagles have had some “eye-opening” scrimmages against other metro teams, Moynihan said, and they know, if they are to prove doubters wrong this year, they simply have to outwork everyone else.
Co-captain Jess Cashman, one of just three seniors in the starting lineup, agrees, although she doesn’t quite understand the underdog designation for her team.
“Everyone sees that we lost our goalie, our top scorer, and they’re thinking, ‘We’ll beat them,’ ” she said. “We want to show them that we’re still the same team. Once the season starts, we won’t be underdogs anymore.”