Minnetonka made its first state tournament appearance in nine years this spring and is poised to make a run for the state title next year. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
The 2018 boys' lacrosse season ended just two weeks ago, but we're already looking ahead to 2019 and what teams may emerge as contenders.
Ranking next season's top 10 teams before the school year even begins is difficult, especially not knowing how players will fill new roles and who may graduate early or transfer. In that regard, the list was selected assuming every non-senior athlete will return next spring.
This is just one attempt at previewing next season given the Hub's insight, so feel free to hammer or agree with my picks in the comments section to get the conversation going.
Minnetonka ended a nine-year state tournament drought by breaking through Section 2 and finishing third in the state tourney behind coach Aaron Oliver, who was named Coach of the Year by the coaches’ association.
Returning nearly three-quarters of its scoring, goalie Jack Bayless, face-off specialist Reed Gatenby and all but one defender, the Skippers are poised to run the table next year, given the three losses they suffered this season were by decided by a total of five goals.
Denver commit and ace attackman Andrew DiFrancesco led the team with 31 goals and 52 points in 2018. He’s followed by Lindenwood prospect Grant Brunsvold (31-15-46) and Max McGraw who’s coming off a 24-goal season as a sophomore.
After missing Minnetonka's 13-11 semifinal loss to eventual champion Prior Lake, defensive anchors Elliott Ische, a Star Tribune All-Metro second team selection, and Josh Luedtke, will be back to help the Skippers pursue their first state title since 2009.
Winner of two of the past three state crowns, Prior Lake has become one of Minnesota’s premiere teams, bolstered by a flourishing youth program. Despite losing a crop of 15 seniors, the Lakers expect to have a bevy of returning talent hoping for a repeat and many newcomers eager to win their first championship.
Lead runner Benjamin Jung (23-23-46), midfielder maestro Luke Bloedow (16-28-44) and top defender Brian Kallberg all return as senior captains along with long stick midfielder Lucas Gratz. Add in Riley Bachinski who led the team with 33 goals, and Prior Lake has all the leaders needed for another run through Section 6.
After back-to-back state title game appearances, losing five starters on offense and Mr. Goalie finalist Buzz Williams could pose problems for the state runner-up Red Knights, but Benilde-St. Margaret’s possession-driven system, and stout defense should remain intact and capable of making another run at a state title.
Army commit Jack Rigley and Seamus Foley will be three-year starters highlighting a defensive group that returns every member. Attackman and leading distributor Jack VanOverbeke will help facilitate and ease in newcomers, while Matthew Dowden could step forward and take the scoring reins after tallying 26 goals as a freshman. Faceoff specialist Jack Budniewski should help alleviate growing pains after a his successful sophomore season that saw him win 74 percent of his draws.
Mahtomedi will again be the favorite to win Section 4 after its 2018 state tourney appearance, where it lost 14-7 in the third-place game against Minnetonka. In 2019, the Zephyrs will be down 89 goals between Timmy Lindquist and Alabama-Huntsville-bound Josh Campbell, but they do have a 40-plus goal scorer in Connor Stoker (45-20-65) returning.
The Zephyrs will need to address losing four all-section longpoles and their goalie, but third-team all-state face-off specialist Colin Hagstrom should help Mahtomedi control possession after winning at a 72 percent clip this spring.
Returning 89 percent of its scoring and six all-section honorees, Rosemount should contend with Prior Lake for the Section 6 title in 2019.
Thomas Purfeerst is coming off a 41-goal, 27-assist season as the Irish's go-to offensive weapon, while Austin Lentz returns as the team's top defender. They'll lead a deep group of returners after seven seniors graduated.
Wayzata graduated its top three scorers and will need to address a void at midfield, but the Trojans should bring back plenty of talent on both ends of the field after making their third consecutive state tournament appearance.
Brayden Nelson and Andrew Sahli will be entering their senior seasons at attack and are complemented by Thomas Seyfert. Cade Ciarrocca, a second-team all-state defender, and all-state honorable mention selection Luke Goetz will be pivotal as Wayzata will look to lean on its traditionally stalwart defense after graduating a wealth of offensive talent. Chris Thomas could help his team see added opportunity as he returns to the face-off circle after winning 67 percent of his draws in 2017.
The departure of 11 seniors leaves over half of the Wildcats' scoring in limbo. Drew Wilson, Damien Schultz and Jack Stone are the only double-digit scorers returning, but added depth from the Wildcats junior varsity that won the state championship should bring competition for positions in coach Bob Felter's uptempo offense that's proven lethal over the years.
Half of Eagan's defenders are returning, but the Wildcats will have to learn to play without four-year starter and 2018 Mr. Goalie winner Jack Courington.
Eden Prairie missed its first state tournament in eight years this spring, but the Eagles stayed with some of the best teams in the state, and next year's roster remains largely intact after graduating just three seniors.
Collin Penn tallied 29 goals this spring and will lead a group of four double-digit goal scorers who hope to improve offensively after Eden Prairie failed to surpass 100 goals in a season for the first time this decade.
Quentin Matsui, a Star Tribune All-Metro first team selection, is one of the top defenders to emerge in state history and will lead six returning longpoles.
As an eighth-grader, Ty Thureson was the Ponies' leading scorer on a team that finished 10-5. Entering his junior year in 2019, Thureson, a three-sport athlete, aims to be a two-way standout at midfield for an aggressive Stillwater team.
Mercer commit Blake Evensen is coming off a 32-goal season, while Nelson Summary returns as the team’s second-leading scorer with 31 goals in 2018. The Ponies, however, will have to fill some holes on defense, including goalie.
Graduating Division I talents in Cole Grindberg, an Air Force commit who was 2018's Mr. Lacrosse and the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, and Jadon Kerry, a Duke commit, will leave questions on offense, but Hunter Holcomb could be a solution. After averaging 2.3 points per game through the 2018 regular season, Holcomb asserted himself in the playoffs, scoring six goals and tallying 16 points, 11 against Orono and Minnetonka in the Section 2 semis and final.
The Knights went undefeated, winning 13 regular-season games to clinch their first Northwest Suburban Conference title, and earned the No. 4 seed in Section 4, where they eventually fell 17-3 to Mahtomedi in the semifinals. Irondale expects to return 89 percent of its scoring, including midfielder Parker Freiberg, a Star Tribune All-Metro first team selection.
Making the program's debut appearance in the Section 7 final, the Wolfpack fell a game short of a state tournament berth, falling 8-6 to Centennial. Attackman Jayden Erie, who tallied 35 goals in 2018, headlines a group of returners hoping to build on their section final appearance.
The third year under coach Steve Van Sloun could prove lucrative as many of the underclassmen he's developed are keyed to return to the Section 3 championship after faltering 11-10 to Eagan this spring. Midfielder Jack Mohler and attackman Isaac Edwards will provide leadership at their respective positions after they had 25-plus goal seasons.