by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The ERZ lacrosse team, presented with the best opportunity in the program’s six-year history, needed to rise to the occasion Wednesday evening. And they did.
After scraping through the first two rounds of their sectional, the No. 1 seed was one win away from state, with No. 2 Maple Grove in their way, a matchup that looked like a tossup.
The Elk River-Rogers-Zimmerman hybrid generated a near-peak performance, sparked by goalkeeper Kim Scott, and conquered the Crimson 12-8 for the Section 8 championship at Osseo. They’ll take a 12-3 record into their first state tournament Tuesday.
“This is pretty much the best feeling in the world, to know it was my last chance to go to state, and we made it,” said Scott, an Elk River senior whose hockey team lost in the section finals. “We pulled together as a team and we did it.”
Scott was like a sheriff in goal, stopping 17 of 25 shots. That’s a super percentage in this sport, especially against a good team.
“Our goalie was great tonight. Kim Scott was awesome,” said scoring leader Emily Antony.
Antony flipped in five goals, Alleah Baltzer four and Mackenzie Perna three. Perna made one nice assist to each. The Elks’ three season scoring leaders are all from Rogers.
ERZ beat Maple Grove 12-11 in their season opener April 22 indoors, after trailing 6-1. They had a much better start in the all-important rematch, reeling off six straight goals for a 6-1 lead of their own. It was 6-2 at halftime.
Maple Grove (11-5), led by Helena Nguyen and Ashley LaPointe with three goals apiece, got back within three twice but ERZ never let them get closer.
“Our passing was on and our catching was on, and nobody was forcing passes. The girls were calm and worked together,” assessed Scott, who had the best seat in the house to watch her teammates at work.
Maple Grove also got a goal each from Michelle Lynch and Haailey Herdine. Goalkeepers were Coco Francis and Maddie Salas.
ERZ edged No. 8 seed Anoka 17-13 and St. Michael-Albertville 13-11 to reach the finals. “This wound up being the least hard of the three,” said Antony. “The last one was definitely the hardest.”
Coach Stephanie Anderson said the team’s instructions were simple but firm, and they delivered: “To make sure we were strong on offense and defense and not allow anyone to be open, and don’t force passes.”
About the early lead, she said, “The girls just wanted it. We knew we had to get to it right away.”
Anderson praised Scott for being strong and aggressive in the nets, and left her there the whole game rather than switch to Michelle Klimstra in the second half, as the team has done most of the season.
Said Scott: “I had good focus, I guess. That worked for me tonight … The defense got their sticks up and took away some shots so I didn’t have to make so many saves.”
Another Elk hockey player savoring her second chance at a state trip is junior mid Kailey Forster. “I’m really happy to be able to make state in one of my sports this year,” she said.
State starts Tuesday in Chanhassen
Also headed for state are Eden Prairie (15-1), Blake (13-3), Stillwater (14-2), Lakeville North (12-4), Champlin Park (9-5), and Robbinsdale Armstrong (14-1). Eastview (8-7) was dueling Burnsville (13-1) for the other slot.
The state tournament will be held next Tuesday at Chanhassen, Thursday at Chaska and Saturday at Chanhassen. Coaches will seed five teams, with 4 meeting 5, while 1, 2, 3 and paired by random draw against the other three.
This is the first year with an eight-team field for state, rather than four as in the past.
ERHS has 8 state teams this year
For Elk River sports, girls lacrosse is the eighth team to qualify for state in 2012-13, following football, girls and boys tennis, girls and boys cross country, girls track, and softball. Rogers has one other state qualifier, boys golf.