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Girls' top games: Lakeville South travels to Prior Lake in showdown of state's top teams

By Brendan O'Brien, SportsEngine, 05/22/23, 10:15AM CDT


May 23: The Cougars and Lakers are undefeated heading into the final week of the regular season.

We task our reporters with identifying several intriguing games throughout the state to assemble our Top Games of the Week. The matchups are presented in no particular order, and when there are additional games we want to highlight, we’ll include them with brief notes.

Lakeville South vs. Prior Lake

7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 23

Undefeated throughout the regular season, Lakeville South (11-0) and Prior Lake (11-0) meet for what will determine the South Suburban Conference champion but could also preview what is to come in the Class A state tournament.

Lakeville South, ranked No. 1 in the May 16 Minnesota Girls' Lacrosse Coaches Association poll, has defended its 2022 state title well thus far, not only winning 11 straight games but doing so by scoring almost 20 goals per game, the highest average in the state. The Cougars have also limited opponents to four goals or less in 10 games, giving up nine once. And the team has been tested, facing ranked foes in Chanhassen, Benilde-St. Margaret's and Stillwater before the matchup with Prior Lake.

Senior attack Emily Moes (49 goals, 32 assists) has fueled the Lakeville South offense, while junior midfielder Tori Tschida has been a significant factor on both offense (40 points) and defense (31 forced turnovers). The Cougars have not lost a conference game since 2021, and a win Tuesday would not only extend that streak but likely solidify them as the top team in the state. 

After missing last season’s state tournament, No. 2-ranked Prior Lake has quickly climbed back to being one of the top two teams. Like Lakeville South, Prior Lake has a strong offense and has also been tested by other ranked teams during the season. The Lakers average 16.6 goals per game, second only to the Cougars, and have a 4-0 record against top 10 teams Stillwater, Edina, Chanhassen and Eden Prairie.

Senior attack Nina Winter (30 goals, 20 assists) leads a trio of Lakers with more than 40 points accumulated this season, and Winter will likely need to make an impact if Prior Lake is to come away victorious. The program has the pedigree of a top team, winning state titles in 2019 and 2021, and a win over Lakeville South could be a preview of Prior Lake returning to that position.

Maple Grove vs. Champlin Park

7 p.m., Wednesday, May 24

The Northwest Suburban Conference championship comes down to the final game of the regular season for Maple Grove (11-0) and Champlin Park (11-1), two conference unbeatens.

After two consecutive conference titles in 2019 and 2021, Maple Grove fell short of that goal last year but has the chance to bounce back to the top. The No. 7-ranked Crimson have not only won every game, but have done so in dominant fashion. Maple Grove is scoring 14.55 goals per game and surrendering just three goals on the defensive side of the ball.

A team that features six players with 20 or more points this season, senior attacker Ella Olson (31 goals and 16 assists) leads a balanced offensive attack for the Crimson. The only top 10 foe Maple Grove faced was No. 8 Blake on May 12, so a win over a team like Champlin Park would not only clinch the conference crown but solidify the Crimson as a top team in the state.

Champlin Park, on the other hand, has not won a Northwest Suburban Conference championship since 2016, coming up just shy in 2019 with its only loss coming to Maple Grove. Despite not playing a ranked opponent, the Rebels have been impressive on the field with eight straight wins, 15.33 goals per game and 342 ground balls.

When faced with other top conference foes like Andover, Centennial, Robbinsdale Armstrong and Elk River/Zimmerman, Champlin Park has been up to the task and will need to be again to outpace Maple Grove. Look for junior midfielder Annabelle Johnson (55 points, 83 ground balls and 36 forced turnovers) to leave her mark on the game for the Rebels.

Maple Grove has controlled this series lately, winning the last four meetings against Champlin Park. Prior to this, the Rebels, however, had a four-game win streak of their own against the Crimson in the regular season.

Edina vs. Stillwater

6 p.m., Thursday, May 25

With conference play wrapped up for both teams, Edina (10-1) and Stillwater (9-3) square off hoping to beat a ranked opponent and gain momentum heading into the postseason.

Edina, the No. 4 ranked team in the state, won the Lake Conference for a third straight season, but the Hornets have more in mind after falling short of last season’s Section 6 championship game. Nevertheless, the team has bounced back as a top 10 team in the state and has done so with offense.

The Hornets have scored more than 10 goals in every game they have won, and senior midfielder Nicola Santoni (48 goals) is one of the top offensive players in the state. With two games left including its game at Stillwater, Edina is looking to add to its six-game winning streak and not look back after a loss on April 27. A matchup with the Ponies will help prepare Edina for what is to come in a challenging section featuring Prior Lake and Rosemount.

Stillwater has stumbled twice against ranked opponents but is looking to flip the script when the team hosts Edina. Prior to losing 10-4 to Lakeville South on May 19, the No. 9-ranked Ponies had won four consecutive games and averaged 14 goals per contest in that stretch. Not only has the team tried to win with offense (13.91 goals per game), but Stillwater has also controlled possession throughout the season with 228 ground balls.

Junior midfielder Maycie Neubauer (26 goals, five assists) leads the Ponies’ offense that touts three players with at least 30 points. Neubauer and the rest of the offense will be relied on for Stillwater to come away with the win over the Hornets, as the Ponies have a save percentage of just .475 and allow almost seven goals per game.

Other games to keep an eye on

White Bear Lake vs. Mahtomedi, 7 p.m., Thursday, May 25. The last game of the regular season for both teams will play a significant role in the Section 4 playoff picture. White Bear Lake (8-3) is currently ahead of Mahtomedi (8-4) in the standings, but a win by the Zephyrs could swing the standings in their favor. The Bears are 4-1 against other section foes, and junior midfielder Beverly Peterson (36 points, 70 ground balls) has led the way for the team. Slowing down Mahtomedi senior midfielder McKenna Cunnington (51 goals, 21 assists) will be a challenge, as the Zephyrs score 13.45 goals per game. Both teams are looking for redemption after losing in the Section 4 semifinals last season.

Chisago Lakes vs. Big Lake, 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 25. Following two consecutive winning seasons, Chisago Lakes (11-0) has taken its success up to another level as one of five unbeaten teams in the state. The Wildcats offense has been key, as they have scored at least 10 goals in every game. The team’s defense, however, has also led Chisago Lakes to an unbeaten streak, as sophomore goalie Laura Carlson touts a .654 save percentage. Big Lake (5-6) comes in not only looking to get back to the .500 mark but also to spoil Chisago Lakes’ perfect season. The Hornets’ started the season losing their first three games but then went on to win four straight averaging 10.5 goals in that stretch. In order to slow down the Wildcats, Big Lake might need a top performance from its own goalie in junior Eleora Dixon (.529 save percentage).

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