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Eden Prairie holds back charging Ponies

By Loren Nelson, Editor, 06/08/11, 10:00PM CDT


Eagles fend off second-half Stillwater rally, advance to fifth straight state title game

Stillwater's Sammi Reiter gets full extension as she pressures Eden Prairie goaltender McKenzie Johnson. Photo by Helen Nelson

Eden Prairie versus Blake for the state girls lacrosse championship.

That’s the way it is. That’s the way it has always been.

That’s the way it will be at 2 p.m. on Friday, June 10, at Chanhassen High School.

Eden Prairie's Christine Easton, left, fires a shot ahead of Stillwater's Emily Norkol. Easton scored six goals against the Ponies. Photo by Helen Nelson

This is the fifth year the Minnesota State High School League has sanctioned a state girls lacrosse tournament. This is the fifth year it will be Eagles against Bears for the title.

Will it still be this way in another 10 years, in 20? Is there hope for anyone else?

Eden Prairie co-head coach Judy Baxter says change is inevitable. Why fight it?

“I do think the face of lacrosse is changing in Minnesota,” Baxter said on Tuesday, June 8, after her Eagles survived second-half scare from Stillwater before beating the Ponies 14-10 at Chanhassen high. “And that is a good thing.

“It is going to mean that Blake and Eden Prairie aren’t going to be the teams that get to the state championship every year.”

One of these years, it might just be Stillwater in the title game. If Eden Prairie, with two state titles, is the pace-setter, then the Ponies are gaining ground. And fast.

After trailing by as many as eight, Stillwater, making its first state tournament appearance, scored six unanswered goals early in the second half. Just like that, blowout becomes nailbiter.

Nervous? Oh, yes, Eden Prairie was nervous. More than nervous.

“We got a little freaked out,” said Eden Prairie’s Christine Easton, who scored a game-high six goals, “but we just tried to stay calm and play our game.”

Eden Prairie’s game is all about pushing hard to the net, taking shots, scoring goals and winning. When it comes time to slow the pace and work the clock, the Eagles are out of their element.

Eden Prairie freshman Anna Johnson scored three goals in the in the Eagles' state semifinal victory over Stillwater. Photo by Helen Nelson

“I really felt like we needed to slow it down, be smart, make smart passes,” Baxter said. “Eat up the clock a little bit. And that’s what we were trying to do a lot in the second half. And we’re not very good at that, you know?”

Confidence boosted with every goal during Stillwater’s big second-half run. The Ponies, perhaps not students of state girls' lacrosse history, believed a championship berth was in their grasp. And they were right.

“I think in our hearts we knew we had the skill to do it,” said Stillwater's Sammi Reiter, a senior who scored five goals and had two more disallowed. “We just had to put it all out there.”

Eden Prairie regained control by scoring three straight goals -- including two from freshman Anna Johnson -- during a 4-minute span that ended with the Eagles leading 13-8.

It would have been a bizarre coincidence if Stillwater had been the team to KO the Eagles.

“For goodness sakes, for the last three years I’ve done a Stillwater winter clinic, one day a week, January through March,” Baxter said. “I’ve coached a lot of those girls.”

-- Loren Nelson, MN Lax Hub editor


Statistics, Summary

1. Christine Easton, Eden Prairie
Continuing an excellent season, the junior midfielder scored six goals and registered one assist. Easton -- who has 95 points (77 goals, 18 assists) on the year -- was a constant threat in the offensive zone.

2. Emma Claire Fontenot, Eden Prairie
Fontenot was Christine Easton's partner in crime. The sophomore midfielder notched three goals and contributed four assists with several of them having Easton on the receiving end. Fontenot also scooped up six ground balls.

3. Sammi Reiter, Stillwater
Reiter's effort was the definition of hard work. The senior midfielder scored five goals, collected seven ground balls and forced two turnovers. Reiter played a large role in the Ponies' second-half scoring streak, notching three of Stillwater's six straight goals.

-- Michael Murakami, MN Lax Hub staff

Stillwater's Sammie Reiter, left, and Eden Prairie's Emma Claire Fontenot battle for control of the ball. Photo by Helen Nelson

Game Recap

Christine Easton and Emma Claire Fontenot had seven points each -- six goals, one assist and three goals, four assists respectively -- as Eden Prairie outlasted Stillwater to escape with a 14-10 victory in the state tournament semifinal game on Wednesday, June 8, at Chanhassan High School.

No. 2-seed Eden Prairie led 9-2 at halftime and scored the first tally of the second half but the Ponies came charging back with six-straight goals.

Stillwater's offensive explosion put enough pressure on Eden Prairie to take a timeout following the sixth goal by the Ponies -- a decision that proved to be crucial.

The Eagles would bounce back with a three-goal streak of their own to solidify the victory.

Stillwater senior midfielder Sammi Reiter scored five goals and sophomore goaltender Marie Bonine made 11 saves for the Ponies who will play No. 4-seed Bloomington Jefferson in the third-place game at Chanhassan High School on Friday, June 10, at 4 p.m.

Eden Prairie advances to its fifth-straight state championship game where the Eagles will face No. 1-seed Blake for the title at Chanhassan High School on Friday, June 10, at 2 p.m.

This year's championship match-up will be the fifth time Blake and Eden Prairie have met in the title game -- no other girl's varsity team has played in the championship game since the tournament's inception in 2007.

Both teams have won two titles each setting up a 'rubber-match' for the 2011 championship.

-- Michael Murakami, MN Lax Hub Staff

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