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Lightning offense is electric

By Loren Nelson, MN Lax Hub editor, 05/04/13, 9:15AM CDT


Tanner Hamill, Michael Stillings spark No. 2-ranked Eastview past No. 9 Minnetonka

Eastview's Ryan McNamara, left, is defended by Minnetonka's Gabe Anderson. Photo by Katherine Matthews

Ryan McNamara attracts opposing defenders as predictably as a chum line lures sharks.

Even worse, the Eastview senior attackman gets the sort of treatment only reserved for the brightest of stars, which is to say he is a magnet for hacks, slashes, cross checks and most any other manner of abuse. 

This isn’t a secret. Any coach worthy of carrying a clipboard is going to boil his game plan against Eastview down to two words: Stop McNamara.

“When you have a guy like McNamara who can quarterback the entire team and basically throw it on his shoulders and take a game over like that, it is a blessing to be able to have one of those players,” Minnetonka coach Aaron Olivier said after his No. 9-ranked Skippers lost to No. 2 Eastview 13-6 on Saturday, May 4, at Minnetonka High School.

Lacrosse, of course, is not a one-man game. No one knows that more than McNamara, who might be a better passer than he is a goal scorer. He finds open teammates with passes that most players wouldn’t attempt, much less execute.

“If (McNamara) is coming down the slot, or if he is cutting to get open, they for sure are going to send at least one or two guys on him,” said Eastview junior midfielder Michael Stillings, who scored three goals against the Skippers. “It just opens everything up for everyone else. So it definitely makes things easier playing with him.”

Minnetonka's Jack McMillan, left, tries to elude Eastview's Ethan Murray. Photo by Katherine Matthews - Click image to view full size

The problem with focusing so much attention on McNamara, who has committed to play at Marquette, is that Eastview, the defending state champion, has an abundance of players who can put the ball away.

Stillings, who scored 11 goals as a sophomore last season, is one of those finishers. An even more established scorer is Tanner Hamill, a senior attackman who scored four goals against Minnetonka. He had 34 goals in 16 games last season, including 12 in five playoff games.

“That’s the beauty of lacrosse, it’s not a one man game,” Olivier said. “You can be a hero, and have all the skillset in the world, but there are nine other guys on the field that need to be relied on. They are a tough team to game plan against.”

Eastview started its season in shaky fashion, slipping past Bloomington Jefferson 8-7 in double overtime. Since then the Lighting have rattled off wins over Bloomington Kennedy, Burnsville and Minnetonka, all by seven or more goals.

Saturday’s victory places Eastview squarely in the company of Eden Prairie and Eagan in what is shaping up as the state’s Big Three this season.

“Yeah, we won state, and we’ve got a big target on our back,” Hamill said. “But we don’t think about that. We just think about the next game, and then the next game.

“This was a good statement game.”

While Eastview returns many of its top players from last year’s championship team -– McNamara scored a team-best 51 goals in 17 games – the Lightning have had to do some retooling. Newcomers are sprinkled all along the roster – in goal, on defense, at the midfield and on the attack. Jake Heppner, last season’s Mr. Lacrosse award winner, is among those lost to graduation.
“Heppner was just a man on the field, and that always helps,” Eastview coach Tim Roche said. “It’s the same offense, but now we just need guys to step up and become men and take that position. 

“I think we are starting to get there. We came into that first game against Jefferson, and we had a lot of guys that had never had varsity experience before. So we just needed to get through that."

Eastview's Ryan McNamara, right, battles for a loose ball with Minnetonka defenseman Gabe Anderson. Photo by Brian Nelson

Statistics, Summary

Game Recap

Tanner Hamill

Senior attackman Tanner Hamill scored four goals and junior midfielder Michael Stillings had three as No. 2-ranked Eastview, the defending state champion, rolled past No. 9 Minnetonka 13-6 on Saturday, May 3, at Minnetonka High School.

Paul Ruelle scored to pull the Skippers (2-3) to within 4-2 with 3:44 remaining in the opening half, but Eastview responded with five unanswered goals spanning the second and third quarters.

Five players scored goals for Eastview (4-0) during their game-breaking run, and the extra attention Minnetonka paid to Lightning Mr. Lacrosse candidate Ryan McNamara opened shooting and passing lanes for teammates such as Hammill, Stillings and senior midfielder Mitch Beattie (two goals, two assists).

McNamara also scored two goals for the Lightning, and he was masterful quarterbacking their man-up offense.

Ruelle scored three goals for the Skippers, who were outshot 18-10.

Eastview's Tanner Hamill, left, celebrates one of his four goals against Minnetonka with teammate Ryan McNamara. Photo by Brian Nelson

1. Tanner Hamill, Eastview
A senior attackman who scored 34 goals last season, including 12  in five playoff games, has resumed his torrid scoring pace this year. He registered four goals against the Skippers while playing the role of finisher in an offense that moved the ball with Rolex precision.

2. Ryan McNamara, Eastview
The senior attackman scored twice, but his contributions come well beyond the act of depositing the ball in the net. He flawlessly quarterbacked the Lightning’s man-up offense, routinely threaded perfect passes to teammates and created openings for his teammates by drawing extra attention from the Skippers’ defense.

3. Paul Ruelle, Minnetonka
The junior attackman gave the Skippers some energy in the second half with his scoring, as he popped in two of his three goals in the third quarter, allowing Minnetonka to get as close as 10-4.

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