Eastview lacrosse seniors know time is short
With playoffs approaching, No. 2-ranked Lightning doesn’t want to slip up
High school athletes know the drill on Senior Night. The parents come on the field with them and have their pictures taken. Maybe the mothers get flowers. Then the coach takes a moment to talk about what the seniors meant to the team.
For Eastview’s boys lacrosse team, Senior Night means all that and something else – that the end of the season is fast approaching and it’s no time to let up.
“It really makes you want to make sure these last few games count,” said senior attackman Jake Heppner after Eastview routed Burnsville 16-5 on Tuesday night.
The Lightning, 10-1 and ranked second in the state, missed the state tournament the last two years after placing second in 2009. The team is aiming not just to get back to the tourney, but to win it.
It’s easy for seniors to be distracted during their final few weeks of high school, but Eastview head coach Tim Roche has marveled at his team’s focus.
“It’s the best senior group I’ve ever had,” Roche said. “They’ve just done a phenomenal job.
“Our first week of practice was spring break. Not one senior went on spring break. That told me a lot about these guys – that, and our East Coast trip (last summer). It’s an amazing group.”
With the help of the dozen seniors on the roster, the Lightning rebounded from its only loss of the season – 9-8 to Lakeville North on May 8 – by outscoring its next two opponents 31-8. Eastview went into its final regular-season game at Apple Valley on Thursday needing a victory to clinch at least a share of the South Suburban Conference championship.
Asked if the loss to Lakeville North could benefit Eastview later in the season, Roche said, “We hope so. Lakeville North is a team we could see in the section playoffs. I think losing to them shocked our guys. They’ve seen what can happen if they’re not playing their best.”
While most high school lacrosse observers know about the firepower supplied by Eastview attackmen such as Heppner and junior Ryan McNamara, the Lightning’s defense sometimes is overlooked. Eastview allowed 15 goals in its season opener against Minnetonka – a 16-15 Lightning overtime victory – but has not given up more than nine in any of the 10 games since. Eastview has held six conference opponents to five goals or fewer.
“Those guys go unnoticed,” Roche said. “From (Andrew) Koenen in the net to Luke Frederickson to our D-poles to our long-stick middies, we’re deep. We were putting some new guys out there who had to play Minnetonka in their first game, but we knew our defense would be good.”
Against Burnsville, “We didn’t let up,” Heppner said. “I don’t think we gave up a goal in the second half. I think we’ve shown we’re a balanced team.”
Junior attackman Tanner Hamill had four goals against Burnsville, while Heppner and McNamara scored three each. McNamara also had three assists and led his team in ground-ball recoveries with five.
A victory over Apple Valley likely would assure Eastview of the No. 1 seed in the Section 3 playoffs. First-round games are May 23 (the top seed will receive a bye) with the quarterfinal round scheduled May 25.
“Eagan and Rosemount, if we faced them, would be tough games” in the section tournament, Heppner said. Of course, there’s also the possibility of a rematch with Lakeville North.