John's Journal
Lacrosse Announcement Is Exciting News For Minnesota Players6/6/2012
This is a big week for lacrosse in Minnesota, with the girls and boys state semifinals and championship games taking place at Chanhassen High School. The week’s biggest lacrosse news, however, came when Augsburg College in Minneapolis announced it will begin fielding an NCAA Division III varsity women’s lacrosse team in the spring of 2014.

There are currently no NCAA men’s or women’s lacrosse programs in the state, and lacrosse enthusiasts hope that Augsburg’s decision will spark similar announcements in other schools. Augsburg is a member of the Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and most of those colleges currently field club teams for men and women.

“It’s awesome,” said Rachel Aiken, girls lacrosse coach at Chaska/Chanhassen and president of the girls lacrosse coaches association. “The club level here is very competitive and has done wonders for our sport but it still doesn’t have ‘NCAA’ next to it, which is really important.”

In 1995 Augsburg became the first college or university in the Midwest to sponsor a varsity women’s ice hockey team. Lacrosse will become Augsburg’s 21st varsity sport and 11th for women. The addition of women’s lacrosse is expected to add 25 to 30 female student-athletes to the college. That fact was exciting to coaches of the teams playing in the girls state lacrosse tournament.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Eden Prairie co-coach Judy Baxter, whose team defeated Apple Valley 11-2 in Wednesday’s semifinals. “It’s a step in the right direction for women’s lacrosse here in Minnesota. We are so excited, and hoping there is a domino effect and a lot more to follow. It offers opportunitiies for girls here in Minnesota who don’t want to leave the state for college.”

Blake coach Laura Mark, whose team defeated Stillwater 17-10 in Wednesday’s other semifinal, tried to count down the closest colleges or universities that have varsity women’s lacrosse.

“Marquette University has a DI program, so that’s huge. The University of Michigan is starting a women’s Division I program, so is the University of Colorado, Denver University. So it’s coming. But for us to have an NCAA program in the state of Minnesota, it’s huge.”

Augsburg will hire a head coach this summer and the recruiting process for the inaugural team will begin during the 2012-13 school year. Women's college lacrosse is a spring sport, and competition will begin at Augsburg in March 2014.

Apple Valley coach Alexandra Ross, who played on the club lacrosse team at the MIAC’s College of St. Benedict, said she is hoping other schools will quickly follow Augsburg’s lead.

“With how many Division III schools we have in this state, and they have such great reputations academically, I believe they can pull men and women players from all around the nation and keep some of these great athletes, instead of having them leave the state to play,” she said.

“It means a lot of these girls who are high-caliber athletes won’t be leaving the state to find colleges to play for, which is only going to help grow the sport. Our youth girls don’t have college games to go watch, so this is big to get them to see high-level lacrosse.”

Lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport for women at the collegiate level, with a 31.7-percent increase in NCAA schools sponsoring the sport from 2006 to 2011, according to U.S. Lacrosse. There are currently 216 NCAA Division III schools that sponsor lacrosse, up from 169 in the 2006-07 season.

“There are such great athletic traditions here in Minnesota,” Mark said. “So let’s keep them here.”

--To see a photo gallery from Tuesday’s girls state lacrosse semifinals, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

--Diet Coke Count: 3 for the day, 5 for the spring tournaments.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 619
*Miles John has driven: 7,982

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Lacrosse Lightning In A Bottle: Eastview’s Big Two Lead The Way 6/5/2012
After his team won a big game Tuesday night and advanced to the state championship contest, Eastview boys lacrosse coach Tim Roche talked about one key component – or maybe two key components -- of his team.

“We thought all year we had the No. 1 and No. 2 best players in the state,” Roche said, talking about senior Jacob Heppner and junior Ryan McNamara, who just happen to own two of the game’s most prestigious awards.

Heppner was named this season’s Mr. Lacrosse by the state coaches association and the St. Paul Pioneer Press has named McNamara its player of the year. That’s a pretty tough combination to beat, as all but one of the Lightning’s opponents have discovered this season.

Tuesday evening’s 15-6 victory over Edina at Chanhassen High School pushed Eastview’s record to 15-1. The lone loss was a 9-8 decision against Lakeville North; the Lightning avenged that defeat with a 9-5 win over Lakeville North in the Section 4 playoffs.

McNamara (right) was the star of Tuesday’s game, finishing with four goals and four assists. Three of his goals came in the third quarter, when Eastview outscored Edina 5-1 to open an 11-5 lead.

“He’s a great player,” Roche said of McNamara. “He’s been doing that all year for us. He’s a complete player, he can put the ball in the net, he makes his teammates better. He did a great job of making his teammates better today.”

Heppner assisted on McNamara’s third goal and scored Eastview’s final goal unassisted before hobbling off the field with an injured ankle.

“On that last goal I kind of rolled it a little bit but it’ll be all right,” he said with a bag of ice taped to his right ankle.

Roche said of Heppner, “He brings veteran leadership. He’s righthanded but we put him in spots where he’s lefthanded a lot, so over half his goals this year are with his left hand. He’s right up there, top 10 in goals and top 10 in assists in the state. The Mr. Lacrosse award recognizes what he’s doing and how he’s doing it.”

Roche has been Eastview’s coach throughout the varsity program’s six-year history. This is the Lightning’s fourth appearance in the state tournament; their best finish was runner-up to Minnetonka in 2009. None of the current players were on that team.

Last season ended with Eagan beating Eastview in overtime in section play. Ever since that day, the Lightning’s No. 1 goal has been getting to state and taking home a championship trophy.

“It’s what we’ve been working for,” Heppner (left) said. “Now we’ve got one more game to finish it.”

Top-seeded Eastview will meet No. 3 seed Eden Prairie in Thursday’s championship game at Chanhassen. The Eagles advanced with a 15-2 victory over Totino-Grace in Tuesday’s second semifinal. Brooks Armitage made a pretty significant statement, scoring five goals for Eden Prairie.

Eden Prairie has never won a state title in three championship-game appearances. The Eagles lost to Benilde-St. Margaret’s in the inaugural 2007 title game, to Blake a year later and to Benilde-St. Margaret’s last year.

If Eastview is to win its first title on Thursday, McNamara and Heppner will have a great deal to do with the outcome. I asked each of them to describe the other.

“There are not too many people who are better than that kid,” Heppner said of McNamara. “He works harder than anyone I know and that’s why he’s so good. In lacrosse, lifting or conditioning he’s always the hardest worker. Playing alongside that kid is nice because you’ve got someone to back you up if you’re not doing well.”

Conversely, McNamara said Heppner has “speed, vision, he can go with both hands, he’s so quick he always finds seams to find me or Tanner (Hamill) wide open. He’s just got great vision.”

McNamara also spoke about Tuesday’s big victory, while looking toward Thursday.

“As a team we had a great game, probably one of our best,” he said. “But we can still play better.”

That’s a scary thought.

--To see a photo gallery from Tuesday's games, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 601
*Miles John has driven: 7,906

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
Baseball, Golf, Lacrosse, Tennis, Softball, Track … 6/4/2012
Take a few deep breaths, make sure your gas tank is full and pack a lunch ... and a dinner and maybe some snacks. This is the single busiest week of the year when you look at all the action taking place around the state in spring sports.

There are section tournaments in baseball, girls golf and boys golf as well as state tournaments for girls and boys lacrosse, boys tennis, softball and state girls and boys track. In other words, if you can’t find an event to attend this week you’re not looking very hard.

Section tournaments can be found on baseball diamonds and golf courses all over the state. State lacrosse tourney games will be played at Chanhassen High School, boys tennis at the University of Minnesota Baseline Tennis Center (Class 2A) and Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in south Minneapolis (Class 1A), all three classes of softball will be played at Caswell Park in North Mankato and the two-class state track meet will be held at Hamline University’s Klas Field in St. Paul.

The weather is always a factor, but so far the forecast for this week looks excellent. I always have an umbrella in my car, but hopefully we won’t need any such equipment this week. The biggest issue for me when the schedule is so packed with big events is trying to figure out where to be.

I sat down Sunday evening with a calendar, the tournament schedules, a Minnesota highway map and an Ouija Board and tried to come up with a tentative plan. At this early point in the week, this is what I came up with…

Monday: Baseball.
Tuesday: Tennis and lacrosse.
Wednesday: Tennis and lacrosse.
Thursday: Softball, tennis and lacrosse.
Friday: Track and softball.
Saturday: Track.

My driving plan looks something like this: Minneapolis to Chanhassen to Minneapolis to Chanhassen to Mankato to Chanhassen to St. Paul to Mankato to St. Paul. I think.

I’ll be posting frequent updates and photos throughout the week on Twitter (follow @MSHSLjohn), with photo galleries and tidbits going up on the MSHSL Facebook page.

Honk when you see me driving by!

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 597
*Miles John has driven: 7,846

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
State Lacrosse Pairings Are Set6/2/2012
The coaches of the teams involved in the girls and boys state lacrosse tournaments completed the electronic seeding procedure Saturday morning, finalizing the pairings for the state tournaments.

Boys semifinals will be held Tuesday and girls semifinals will be played Wednesday, with third-place and championship games on Thursday. All games will be held at Chanhassen High School.

The top seeds are the Eastview boys and Eden Prairie girls. Here are the tournament schedules...

Boys Lacrosse State Tournament
Tuesday’s Semifinals
6 p.m.: #1 seed Eastview (14-1) vs. #4 seed Edina (7-9-1)
8 p.m.: #2 seed Totino-Grace (13-3) vs. #3 seed Eden Prairie (14-2)
Thursday’s Games
Third-place game at 6 p.m.
Championship game at 8 p.m.

Girls Lacrosse State Tournament
Wednesday’s Semifinals
6 p.m.: #1 seed Eden Prairie (16-0) vs. #4 seed Apple Valley (13-4)
8 p.m.: #2 seed Blake (14-2) vs. #3 seed Stillwater (14-2)
Thursday’s Games
Third-place game at 2 or 4 p.m.
Championship game at 2 or 4 p.m.
Field Is Finalized For State Softball Tournament6/2/2012
The brackets are set for the state softball tournament, which will be held Thursday and Friday at Caswell Park in North Mankato. Congrats to all the teams who qualified.

Here are the quarterfinal matchups…

Class 1A
Eden Valley-Watkins (16-7) vs. Blooming Prairie (20-3)
Red Lake Falls (22-4) vs. New Ulm Cathedral (20-4)
Cherry (23-0) vs. Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (24-0)
Sebeka (21-4) vs. New Life Academy (16-7)

Class 2A
New Ulm (20-2) vs. Kasson-Mantorville (23-2)
Albany (19-1) vs. Maple River (18-7)
Hawley (16-3) vs. St. Anthony Village (22-3)
Mound Westonka (16-9) vs. Cloquet (13-9)

Class 3A
Stillwater (18-8) vs. Farmington (17-4)
Bloomington Jefferson (17-2) vs. Mankato East (24-3)
Big Lake (14-7) vs. Maple Grove (22-2)
Forest Lake (23-1) vs. Orono (23-1)