MINNETONKA — It was overtime before Farmington and adversity eventually won out against Stillwater’s ability to triumph over both.
The fourth-seeded Tigers charged back from a three-goal halftime deficit to upend the Ponies 10-9 in the girls’ lacrosse state quarterfinals on Tuesday, June 13 at Minnetonka High School.
Already playing without Ms. Lacrosse finalist and All-American Olivia Konigson, the Ponies lost three more starters during the game, including high-scoring junior Abby Hagberg and defenders Maggie Raedeke and Mady Drompp.
Ashley Steffes, who tallied four assists, scored the game-winning goal from an unusual spot to send Farmington (15-2) to a state semifinal showdown with top-seeded Eden Prairie. The Ponies (14-3), who will finish outside the top four for the first time in their seven trips to state, faced Blaine in the consolation bracket on Thursday afternoon. The Bengals (15-2) lost to Eden Prairie 18-5 in the quarterfinals.
If the Ponies defeat Blaine, they would play in the consolation finals on Saturday, June 17 at Chanhassen High School.
“Our plan is to stay strong and hopefully finish the last two with wins,” said senior Maddi Hafner, who led the Ponies with two assists.
Farmington was pressuring the Ponies in overtime when goaltender Kinsey Weyer made a nice play to intercept a pass from behind to a player cutting towards the face of the net. After stealing the pass, however, the ball squirted away and slowly rolled backward across the goal line.
“Bad luck,” Ponies coach Rick Reidt said. “Kenzie made a great play. It was scored as an interception, which is something we practiced this week.”
The Tigers scored several times on similar passes from behind the net earlier in the game, with Kamryn Corraro scoring five times in more conventional fashion.
It was a stunning conclusion to a superb game which saw Gina Jablonski score the tying goal for the Ponies with just eight seconds in regulation.
“We just know we gave it everything that we had,” Hafner said. “There was no reason to hang our head because we know had done all that we could.”
Hagberg, Luci Bischoff and Jablonski each scored early to help Stillwater build a 3-0 lead before the Tigers even attempted a shot on goal. The Ponies were controlling the center draws and maintaining possession as part of a strong start.
“I think overall our team played one of their better games of the year,” Reidt said. “A good part of the first half they hadn’t gotten a shot on goal. We had 70 percent of center draws for the game, but more so in the first half.”
Mikala Revels finally answered for the Tigers and Corraro struck quickly for her first goal of the game to pull within 3-2, but Jablonski and Bischoff scored for the Ponies before halftime to regain a three-goal cushion.
“Most of the time the team that has possession most of the game usually wins, or the team that gets the draw the most,” Hafner said. “Possession definitely helped us.”
Stillwater lost to Farmington 7-6 in the second game of the season, but the Ponies entered the state quarterfinals on a 14-game winning streak.
The adversity struck Stillwater when Konigson suffered a season-ending injury in the section semifinals and Raedeke, an all-state honoree, and Drompp also left in the first half of the state quarterfinals because of injury. Prospects didn’t improve when Hagberg fell hard on a rush late in regulation and did not return.
“Four starters, but I still think our team was playing well,” Reidt said. “The ball just bounced the wrong way for us. Give a lot of credit to Farmington because they played just as hard as we did. It was a good game. We had the lead most of the game, but it wasn’t easy to keep it.
“It is tough, but we have a kind of a thought pattern when we have to deal with adversity. We train ourselves not to whine or complain or make excuses. This year we didn’t really have a lot of adversity until Olivia tore her ACL and when we had adversity in this game I don’t think it fazed the kids. We had a good game. There’s disappointment any time you lose and it’s not as fun as when you win, but we still got something out of it. It will be good to regroup and have a chance to play two more games.”
The Tigers turned up the heat in the second half as Corraro and Ashley Hessler scored to climb within 5-4, though Hagberg answered for Stillwater for a 6-4 advantage.
Corraro then scored back-to-back goals to even the score at 6-all before Bischoff and Hagberg pushed Stillwater back in front 8-6.
“I think our mentality is that we never give up,” Hafner said. “We’re going to give it every remaining ounce of strength and give it all for our team, so I think when we get down we just have to focus and settle, take a deep breath and go for it again.”
Josephine Laube and Corraro then scored goals on the power play to tie the game and Alexandra Laube scored while the Tigers were shorthanded to take their first lead of the game at 9-8 with 1:25 remaining.
“I don’t think they really changed anything up,” Reidt said. “They relied on feeds to (Corraro). The reason we were able to control the game in the first part was possession, center draws and getting the ball back before they got into the attack.”
Stillwater did not panic, however, and Jablonski forced overtime with her third goal of the game with just seconds remaining in regulation.
“The girls just kept playing really hard,” Reidt said. “They certainly didn’t give up.”
Just because the Ponies do not dwell on injuries or other obstacles, does not mean they don’t exist. Hagberg and Konigson combined to rack up 106 goals and 32 assists for the Ponies this season.
Hagberg joined Jablonski and Bischoff with three goals apiece against Farmington.
“We were down two defenders relatively early in the game and then Abby Hagberg went down,” Reidt said. “The team really continued to fight. The girls that came in the game did a great job.”
“It’s been a really big change having Kon out of the game,” said Hafner, who took over the majority of the center draw duties with Konigson out. “I had to kind of fill her shoes, which nobody can, because it’s Kon. We also had a lot of defenders who had to come out after getting injured and we know that the people that we have on the bench are ready to go. When they watch on the sidelines, their mentality is that they’re ready to go at any time.
“We also rely on Abby for scoring a lot. I think we gave it everything we could so I don’t think there’s anything we could have done differently.”
Stillwater 5 4 0 — 9
Farmington 2 7 1 — 10
Goals — St, Gina Jablonski 3, Luci Bischoff 3, Abby Hagberg 3 and ; Farm, Kamryn Corraro 5, Mikala Revels, Ashley Hessler, Alexandra Laube, Josephine Laube and Ashley Steffes.
Assists — St, Maddi Hafner 2; Farm, A. Steffes 4.
Saves — St, Kinsey Weyer 5; Farm, Lexie Grove 7.
Contact Stuart Groskreutz at [email protected]