By STUART GROSKREUTZ
CHANHASSEN – A furious second-half rally was not enough to carry Stillwater to victory in Thursday’s third-place game of the girls’ lacrosse state tournament at Chanhassen High School.
The Ponies (14-4), who trailed by four goals at halftime, tied the game in the final minutes before eventually falling short in a 9-8 loss against Apple Valley 7-3 to place fourth for the second year in a row.
"It was a close game, a one-goal game," Stillwater coach Rick Reidt said. "It was an exciting game and I think it was an enjoyable game to watch and the girls played very hard. They gave it their all and came up one goal short."
A series of factors conspired against the Ponies on Thursday, including their top scorer Dana Almquist sidelined for all but a brief stretch in the second half because of an asthma attack. Freshman Remi Larson also suffered a broken arm in the game and the Ponies were short-handed for two minutes after a yellow card was assessed to senior captain Jennifer Jorgensen with four minutes remaining.
"There was some bad luck when you have one of your steady players like Remi Larson has to leave the game," Reidt said. "Her teammates rallied for her and really turned it up a notch and stuck together."
Almquist scored 12 seconds into the second half before being forced to the sideline and Emma Wiessner and Kate Sheely followed with goals as the Ponies pulled within 7-6 with 16 minutes remaining.
"It was important for us to score early in the second half," Reidt said. "It increased the energy level of our team and we played smarter in the second half. We were a little more patient on offense."
Apple Valley scored to regain a two-goal lead, but Katie Casto and Sheely scored three minutes apart as the Ponies tied the game at 8-all with 3:21 remaining. Even after Hannah Segar, who led all scorers with five goals, scored with two minutes left to give the Eagles the lead back, Stillwater threatened to tie the game before running out of time.
The Ponies gained possession twice during the final stretch of the game, but committed a costly turnover to thwart one scoring chance and also got the ball back with 10 seconds remaining at midfield. Almquist re-entered the game for one last attempt, but was stopped by goaltender Ashlynn Seely to preserve the victory.
"Almquist took it down and got and got an excellent shot on goal and the goalie saved it," Reidt said. "She got a great shot off. Their goalie throughout the whole game was very good. Dana’s shot was perfect, but the goalie just made a great save."
Sheely finished with three goals to lead the Ponies while Almquist and Wiessner finished with two apiece. Almquist scored seven goals in Stillwater’s semifinal loss against Blake, which went on to defeat Eden Prairie 11-10 in the championship game, to tie three other players who hold the record with seven goals in a state tournament game.
Although still searching for their first win at the state tournament after two appearances, the Ponies are hoping for more opportunities in the future with just four seniors on the state tournament roster. Erin Dougherty was one of those seniors playing her final game and she stepped up nicely when the Ponies needed to go to the bench in the second half.
"It was an enjoyable season and a very cooperative group of athletes to work with," Reidt said. "Stillwater is the only team other than Blake and Eden Prairie that has been in the state tournament twice and I think we’re close to being in the same category. There’s a lot of other teams getting better, too, but we’re returning 10 starters and they’re all very serious athletes so I think next year will be a good year for us."
n Almquist was the lone Stillwater player selected to the All-Tournament Team.
Goals – AV, Hannah Segar 5, Liz Hermes 1, Katrina Vogelgesang 1, Mandie Kaiser 1 and Hannah D’Cunha 1; St, Kate Sheeley 3, Dana Almquist 2, Emma Wiessner 2 and Katie Casto 1.
Assists – AV, Liz Hermes 2, Segar 1 and Vogelgesang 1; St, none.
Saves – AV, Ashlynn Seely 8-3-22; St, Marie Bonine 5-6-11.
Eden Prairie 11, Apple Valley 2
Blake 17, Stillwater 10
First place – Blake 11, Eden Prairie 10
Third place – Apple Valley 9, Stillwater 8