The field has expanded to eight teams this season and so has Stillwater’s expectations for its third straight trip to the girls’ lacrosse state tournament, which begins on Tuesday at Chanhassen High School.
The Ponies (14-2) are still seeking their first state tournament victory after placing fourth the past two years.
“The last few years we were competitive in all our games, two one-goal losses in third-place games and our games against the top two teams were competitive so we know we can play with the better teams — and I think we have a stronger team this year,” Ponies coach Rick Reidt said. “We have confidence coming in, but we know we have to play our very best to win games at state.”
Stillwater has earned the No. 3 seed and will face Elk River/Zimmerman in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at 1 p.m. The Ponies join perennial state powers Eden Prairie and Blake in returning from last year’s state tournament.
“I think most of our players, our starters have played in the tournament two years in a row and I think that’s a plus for our team. They know what to expect,” said Reidt, who favors the expanded state tourney.
“I think the eight teams is a positive for girls lacrosse,” the coach added. “We have over 60 teams now and each year you get increasing numbers of good teams playing at a higher level so it makes for a more interesting tournament.”
Stillwater’s only losses this season came against Eden Prairie and Blake — who have advanced to the finals in all seven years since the Minnesota State High School League began sponsoring the state tournament.
“I think our goal this year — we’ve never really had this goal — our goal after we completed the season was to actually win the state championship,” Reidt said. “That’s been our underlying goal. It’s not something we talk about a lot, but that’s what is pushing us right now to play our games at that level. That’s the challenge ahead of us, but you have to take it one game at a time.”
The Ponies outscored their three Section 4 opponents 57-13, including East Ridge 17-5 in Tuesday’s championship game.
“I think the big thing is to play really great team defense,” Reidt said. “The other thing is to really perform in the fundamentals, catching and passing. We don’t have to pull any tricks out of our hat, just not make mistakes and we have to be patient when we do have the ball and when we do take a shot.”
The semifinals are scheduled for Thursday at Chaska and the finals are scheduled for Saturday.
“We are looking forward to it,” Reidt said. “It was a long season because of the weather and crazy practice schedule, but now is the fun part of the season.”
#3 Stillwater (14-2) vs. Elk River/Zimmerman (13-3), 1 p.m.
#2 Blake (13-3) vs. Robbinsdale Armstrong (14-1), 3 p.m.
#1 Eden Prairie (15-1) vs. Champlin Park (9-5), 5 p.m.
#4 Lakeville North (12-4) vs. #5 Burnsville (14-1), 7 p.m.
Semifinals at Chaska, 5/7 p.m.
Consolation at Chaska, 1/3 p.m.
Consolation finals at Chaska, 3 p.m.
Third place at Chanhassen, 1 p.m.
First place at Chanhassen, 5 p.m.