Minnetonka senior forward Savannah Bhojwani moves the ball from behind the Lakeville South net during play April 15 at Minnetonka. Bhojwani netted three in a 13-12 victory. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine
Minnetonka girls’ lacrosse, a program plagued by six consecutive second place finishes behind perennial power Eden Prairie in Section 2, has built itself off what co-head coaches Erin Scearcy-Larson and Becky Jacobson call a holistic approach -- developing the health and wellness of their players.
Last week, the girls diverted away from their coaches’ philosophy by practicing through a hailstorm, regardless of the welts and bruises.
Senior captain Savannah Bhojwani justified the decision simply.
“We don’t want to be second anymore,” she said. “Our faces hurt so much in the hail, but we want it so bad.”
The Skippers’ tenacity paid off in their season-opener, as they pulled off a gritty 13-12 comeback victory over Lakeville South (0-1) Saturday afternoon at Minnetonka High School.
“It took us awhile to shake the rust off, but once we hit our vibe I really feel like the girls started to gel as a unit,” Scearcy-Larson said.
Ranked fifth in the preseason coaches’ poll, Minnetonka (1-0) trailed 8-5 at halftime after the No. 10 Cougars’ Abby Schaefer scored five goals in the first frame.
Schaefer, one of two returning players from last year’s state consolation championship team, was ill Saturday and lost her breakfast behind the bleachers during the first half. She returned and managed to score two more goals before the end of the half, but her illness remained a major factor.
“It affects us a lot,” coach Patrick Crandall said. “She’s one of the better players in the state and when she got sick it put a big hole [in the lineup].”
Ellie Lauderdale scored two quick goals in the second half to push the Cougars’ lead to five, but after the first five minutes the Skippers rebounded, in part because of the leadership of five senior captains.
“We’ve never had this many captains before, but it’s working out,” Jacobson said. “They share leadership and create energy, and were able to pull the team out of the funk they were in, and that’s due to their spirit, energy and spark.”
Sophomore Minnie Bittell was also instrumental in the comeback, catching fire in the face-off circle to help Minnetonka maintain possession and piece together a five-goal run to close the gap and tie the game at 10.
"[Bittel] has amazing stick skills and has worked hard to get where she is today, and that’s what makes a difference on our team,” Bhojwani said. “This is her first season on [starting] varsity and you could not tell that at all.”
Bittell’s stick skills won the draw that ended with Anna DiFrancesco’s eventual game-winner, assisted by fellow senior captain Ellie Dulac with just over four minutes to play.
Minnetonka’s defensive core closed the game cohesively, setting up three-player blocks and denying Lakeville South of a goal for the final five minutes of the game. Goalie Chloe Lewis notched seven saves in the second half.
Bhojwani, DiFrancesco, Dulac, Anna Mott and Brigitta Olsen were all members of the Skippers in 2014 when they took Eden Prairie to triple overtime in the section finals. The five senior captains have all played together since fourth-grade and have had their close and disparaging scrapes with their Lake Conference counterpart they expect to see in the finals.
“The story of our team is hard work. When we hunker down and we commit to it, we put in so much hard work,” Bhojwani said. “I really want Minnetonka girls lacrosse to see state this year -- I wanna make it.”
Minnetonka goalie Chloe Lewis makes a game saving stop with just over one minute remaining, preserving Minnetonka's single-goal lead. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine
Anna DiFrancesco netted the game-winning goal with just less than four minutes left in regulation, lifting Minnetonka to a season-opening 13-12 victory over Lakeville South Saturday afternoon at Minnetonka High School.
Ranked fifth in the preseason coaches’ poll, the Skippers (1-0) overcame a three-goal deficit at halftime and held the No. 10 Cougars scoreless for the final five minutes of action.
Abby Schaefer scored five first-half goals for Lakeville South (0-1) but was held scoreless in the second half by Minnetonka’s defense.
Savannah Bhojwani led the Skippers with three goals and three assists, while Ellie Dulac had two goals and two assists for Minnetonka.
Goalie Chloe Lewis had seven second half saves, including a vital stop with just over a minute left to keep out Schaefer and maintain the Skippers' lead.
Lakeville South's Abby Schaefer looks for a teammate to pass to. Schaefer had five goals in the Cougars' loss. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine.
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Minnetonka senior Sydney Garski shows her game face. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine