MINNETONKA — Unable to hold a five-goal lead in the second half, Lakeville North mustered a final surge to turn back Stillwater 18-15 in the quarterfinals of the girls’ lacrosse state tournament on Tuesday, June 11 at Minnetonka High School.
It was the 12th consecutive victory for the fourth-seeded Panthers (13-4), who advanced to face top-seeded Eden Prairie in the semifinals on Thursday, June 13. Stillwater, the No. 5 seed, was scheduled to face a familiar Cretin-Derham Hall opponent in the consolation semifinals.
The Ponies defeated Lakeville North 9-5 earlier this season, but the Panthers have averaged nearly 17 goals per game since losing to Stillwater.
“Our first game was relatively close and this one was too,” Ponies coach Rick Reidt said. “Our team fought very hard and didn’t give up and they have some very high level players. Give them all the credit in the world.”
After leading 2-1 in the opening minutes of the game, North scored three straight goals during a two-minute stretch of the first half and eventually built a 9-6 lead after Olivia Mattis and Chloe Fisher each scored in the last five minutes of the first half.
“I think our team didn’t come out as strong as we did at the beginning of the year,” said junior attacker Meredith Parry. “Maybe we were just too excited or something, I’m not really sure, but we came back and we knew this was a really important game.”
The Panthers pushed their lead to 12-7 after Mattis struck again less than five minutes into the second half, but Stillwater didn’t back down.
Lauren Einan and Grace Mattox scored just 39 seconds apart and Parry scored shortly thereafter to pull the Ponies within 13-12 midway through the second half.
Fischer, who scored four of her five goals in the second half, answered with back-to-back goals to take a bite out of Stillwater’s momentum, but the Ponies charged right back with consecutive goals by Annie McGuire, Einan and Grace Lilla to pull even at 15-all with less than eight minutes remaining.
“We came back and I’m so proud of how we played to the end,” Parry said. “We all have so much confidence and trust in each other. We were just really excited to keep it going and staying positive and know that we’re never going to give up, no matter what the circumstances.”
Stillwater won 20 of 33 center draws (61 percent) during the game, but the Panthers gained possession on some critical face-offs down the stretch and turned them into points with Fisher scoring twice and Mattis adding another goal during the last six minutes to seal the hard-fought victory.
“We could have won a few more draws and down the stretch they got the majority of the center draws and that’s a huge difference,” Reidt said.
Mattis joined Fisher with a game-high five goals and also contributed four assists.
Mattis and Fisher were provided the difference offensively.
“Those two girls have amazing skills,” Parry said. “We tried to shut them down. We obviously didn’t do as well as we could have but our team played so well. I think our team just really came back in the second half and I’m really proud of everyone for playing to the end.”
The Panthers also received some help on the other end from Alyson Hasner, who finished with 10 saves.
“I think our defense did a good job, but we could have cleaned up the open girl a little bit, but they have some really good attackers and you have to give them a lot of credit,” Reidt said. “I just think we could have shot a little bit better, especially some of those shots in the second half.”
It was a fast-paced game and the teams set a state tournament record with a combined 33 goals, eclipsing the 30 goals set in Minnehaha Academy’s 17-13 victory over Blaine a year ago.
“I just think they did a better job of passing the ball to the open cutter,” Reidt said.
Stillwater worked hard to climb back into the game, but Reidt said fatigue was not a factor down the stretch.
“Our team is really very well conditioned and we fought really hard to the end,” Reidt said. “Give a lot of credit to Lakeville North.”
Annie McGuire led the Ponies with five goals and an assist. Einan totaled four goals on just five shots and Mattox chipped in with three goals.
If Stillwater defeats Cretin-Derham Hall on June 13 it would face either Forest Lake or Maple Grove in the consolation finals on Saturday, June 15 at Chanhassen High School. The game is scheduled for 11 a.m.
“We’re going to put this game behind us and continue to grow as a team and we’re looking forward to our next game,” Parry said. “I think we need to come out stronger in the first half, but overall our team played really well.”
Stillwater 6 9 — 15
Lakeville North 9 9 — 18
Goals — St, Annie McGuire 5, Lauren Einan 4, Grace Mattox 3, Grace Lilla 2, Meredith Parry; LN, Chloe Fisher 5, Olivia Mattis 5, Sydney Gebhard 3, Jana Korb 3 and Emma Stanek 2.
Assists — St, Tara Naugle 2, McGuire, Parry, Mattox and Gracie Bancroft; LN, Mattis 4 and Fisher.
Saves — St, Lainey Charlsen 6; LN, Alyson Hasner 10.