By STUART GROSKREUTZ – Stillwater Gazette
OSSEO – The Stillwater girls’ lacrosse team has carried a businesslike attitude throughout the season, but on Thursday it was time for a well-deserved celebration after holding off Mahtomedi 12-10 in the Section 4 championship game at Osseo High School to earn a repeat trip to the state tournament.
"Normally they’re pretty clam after a game, but it was a hard, tough game and we had to fight to the end. The girls were very happy and excited with themselves at the end and they deserved a little room for quite a bit of celebration."
The top-seeded Ponies (14-2), who finished 0-2 while making their inaugural state tournament appearance a year ago, defeated Mahtomedi 15-5 earlier this season. Thursday’s victory, however, more closely matched a hard-fought victory Stillwater earned against the Zephyrs in the section semifinals a year ago – which also followed a more lop-sided win during the regular season.
"It was really back and forth," Reidt said. "It was the same as last year where we had the upper hand, but really had to fight to win. They have a very senior team and I think that makes a huge difference. That first game we were totally dominant, but Mahtomedi played very well (on Thursday) and defended our offense better than anyone has all year as far as strategy."
The Zephyrs (12-4) tied the game at 4-all with two minutes remaining in the first half on a goal by Annie Buttermore, but Katie Casto answered with the first of her two goals on an 8-meter shot with just 30 seconds remaining in the half.
"It was tied 4-4 and at that point I thought Mahtomedi had the momentum and was beating us to the ground balls, but then Katie Casto scored to give us the halftime lead," Reidt said. "I think the girls felt they were being outplayed a little bit throughout a good portion of the first half, so it was nice to remind them at halftime that we were winning the game and they just needed to play better."
Remi Larson scored on a pass from Almquist and Casto added finished after taking a one-handed pass fired by Jennifer Jorgensen in the first five minutes of the second half as Stillwater extended its lead to 7-4.
Buttermore scored again for Mahtomedi, but the Ponies answered again with consecutive goals by Almquist and Remi Larson midway through the half for a 9-5 lead.
"Remi Larson had a really strong game in the second half when we needed scoring," Reidt said.
The Zephyrs did not go away, climbing back with three straight goals during a two-minute stretch to trim the deficit to 9-8. It got worse for the Ponies after top defender Savanna Handevidt received a yellow card with eight minutes remaining.
Stillwater, however, went on the offensive as Kate Sheely and Almquist scored 40 seconds apart with about seven minutes remaining to regain a three-goal cushion.
"To score two goals with a person down really showed our team was fighting back at that time," Reidt said.
Almquist delivered her fifth and final goal for a 12-8 lead with 3:47 remaining, but promptly drew a yellow card to help keep Mahtomedi’s flickering hopes alive. The Zephyrs did score twice in the final 2:28, but the Ponies hung on for the victory.
Marie Bonine finished with 10 saves in goal for the Ponies.
"She made some really critical saves and twice came out of the net to secure ground balls with very aggressive, athletic plays that really helped us out," Reidt said. "Rachel Martel played her best game of the year on defense Jenny Jorgensen just moving the ball kept our offense together. Sydney Evensen came in as a defender and played a significant portion of the game and helped our defense out with accurate passing to clear the ball out."
Seeding for the state tournament at Chanhassen will take place on Saturday. The schedule has yet to be finalized, but semifinals will be held on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Goals – St, Dana Almquist 5, Katie Casto 2, Kate Sheely 2, Remi Larson 2 and Maggie Corman 1.
Assists – St, Jennifer Jorgensen 1, Almquist 1 and Casto 1.
Saves – St, Marie Bonine 7.
Anoka 11, Hill-Murray 10
Champlin Park 14, F. Lake 4
Mounds View 13, Irondale 3
Mahtomedi 20, SL Park 6
Centennial 13, T.-Grace 12
W. Bear Lake 14, Blaine 7
Coon Rapids 20, Andover 4
Stillwater 21, Anoka 4
Champ. Park 18, M. View 9
Mahtomedi 24, Centennial 13
WB Lake 12, C. Rapids 11
Stillwater 17, Champlin Park 10
Mahtomedi 20, White Bear Lake 14
Stillwater 12, Mahtomedi 10