CHANHASSEN — After four previous state tournament setbacks, the Stillwater girls’ lacrosse team broke through its first victory on Tuesday while dispatching Elk River/Zimmerman/Rogers 17-8 in the quarterfinals at Chanhassen High School.
The third-seeded Ponies (15-2) advance to face No. 2 seed and defending state champion Blake (14-3) in the semifinals on Thursday at 5 p.m. The other semifinal features top-seeded Eden Prairie (16-1) vs. fourth-seeded Lakeville North (13-4).
“It just feels really good to get that first victory,” said Ponies senior midfielder Dana Almquist. “We’ve wanted it all three years we’ve been here. We worked hard for it and it came when we wanted it and we need one (Thursday), too, and we’re going to work hard for that.”
Blake and Eden Prairie handed the Ponies their only losses during the regular season and Stillwater will try to do its part to prevent an eighth straight Blake-Eden Prairie championship game. Blake has won five state titles since the inaugural MSHSL state tourney in 2007 and the Eagles have claimed the other two.
“I think we just can’t let their name intimidate us,” Almquist said of the Bears, who defeated Stillwater 17-10 in last year’s state semifinals and 13-8 earlier this season. “We know that we can beat them. We know what they do and we know what we do. We know how we play and that’s just what we have to do.”
Stillwater jumped on the Elks in Tuesday’s opener while building a 12-2 halftime lead.
Mackenzie Perna tied the game for the Elks less than five minutes into the game, but Stillwater answered with nine straight goals to seize control.
Five different players scored Stillwater’s first five goals. Carter Sanderson, who was sidelined by injury down the stretch this season and into the section playoffs, led the Ponies with five goals.
“Carter had one of her best games today,” Almquist said. “She really used what we gave her. She had one vs. ones and she took them and that’s what we need from her. We need everyone to step up and do what Carter does.”
Kate Sheely and Emma Wiessner added four and three goals apiece for Stillwater. Almquist, who is the top scorer in the state this season with 95 goals and 27 assists for 122 points, chipped in with two goals and an assist on Tuesday while Remi Larson, Maggie Corman and Ellie Anderson added a goal each. Larson also led the Ponies with three ground balls.
Stillwater extended its lead to 17-3 in the second half, although the Elks scored five unanswered goals to finish out a game that was not nearly as close as the final score might suggest.
“We just needed to play our game and settle it down if we were ahead by a lot,” Almquist said. “Our defense played really strong today and the same with our offense. We just controlled the center draws how we wanted to and that’s what we want.”
Ponies goaltender Marie Bonine made three stops while allowing just three goals before departing with eight minutes remaining in the game.
Michelle Klimstra and Perna each led the Elks with three goals and an assist.
Stillwater 12 5 — 17
Elk River/Z/R 2 6 — 8
Goals — St, Carter Sanderson 5, Kate Sheely 4, Emma Wiessner 3, Dana Almquist 2, Maggie Corman, Remi Larson and Elle Anderson; E/Z/R, Mackenzie Perna 3, Emily Antony 3, Alleah Baltzer and Alixandra Zierden.
Assists — St, Sheely 2, Corman and Almquist; E/Z/R, Perna, Anthony and Baltzer.
Saves — St, Marie Bonine 4 and Britt Hooley 0; E/Z/R, Kim Scott, 6.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Stillwater 17, Elk River/Zimmerman/Rogers 8
Blake 15, Robbinsdale Armstrong 5
Eden Prairie 18, Champlin Park 0
Lakeville North 16, Burnsville 12
At Chaska High School
#3 Stillwater (15-2) vs. #2 Blake (14-3), 5 p.m.
#4 Lakeville North (13-4) vs. #1 Eden Prairie (15-1), 7 p.m.
Elk River/Zimmerman/Rogers (13-4) vs. Robbinsdale Armstrong (14-2), 1 p.m.
Champlin Park (9-6) vs. #5 Burnsville (14-2), 3 p.m.
Consolation finals at Chaska, 3 p.m.
Third place at Chanhassen, 1 p.m.
First place at Chanhassen, 5 p.m.