Eastview lacrosse title worth the wait
Championship is school’s first in a boys sport
Andrew Koenen wanted the state boys lacrosse title badly enough to take a shot in warmups on his thumb, watch it discolor and swell before his eyes, and not even think about asking out of the championship game.
His Eastview High School boys team wanted the title badly enough to endure several weeks of riding buses last summer, going to camps and tournaments to seek the best competition available.
And when the state tournament arrived, Eastview couldn’t be stopped. The Lightning defeated Eden Prairie 10-4 on June 7 at Chanhassen High School for the school’s first state championship in a boys sport. The title capped a 16-1 season for Eastview, which had been to the state tournament three other times, including a runner-up finish in 2009.
Eastview coach Tim Roche said the championship was a tribute to the players’ dedication – and to the fact they could still put up with each other after spending so much time on buses last summer.
“Coach (Colin) Achenbach went out with them, and I flew out later to meet them,” Roche said. “Then I rode back with them on the bus, and let me tell you, I’m never doing that again. Riding a bus for 26 hours is miserable.
“But it was fun when we weren’t on the bus. We played in three tournaments on a 13-day trip, and it got us ready to play this season.”
Koenen, the Lightning goalie, said the No. 1 benefit of the trip was “it made us like a family. When you spend that much time on the road, you get to know people. You see people on their good days, and you see them when they’re down or mad, and you form a bond.”
“We did it because we wanted to be the best team in the state, and the best team we could be,” senior attack Jacob Heppner said after Eastview was awarded the championship trophy. “We put in the time, and our parents put up the money so we could go on the trip. Tonight, it all paid off.”
Koenen was asked if there is more passion for the sport at Eastview than at some other high schools.
“I think so,” he replied. “At Eastview, the expectation is the team is going to be good every year, and that’s something we desire. When we didn’t get out of the section last year, it motivated us.”
In the state championship game, the Lightning started quickly and never let Eden Prairie (15-3) back into it. Eastview led 4-0 before the game was 10 minutes old.
Heppner, named the state’s Mr. Lacrosse earlier in the week, had two goals and one assist in the first quarter.
Heppner said Eastview noticed early in the game that Eden Prairie seemed committed to taking away Ryan McNamara, the Lightning’s talented junior attack.
“Once we saw they were trying to lock out Mac, I felt like I had to step up a little,” Heppner said.
Heppner finished with two goals and two assists. Junior attack Tanner Hamill scored twice in the second quarter after Eden Prairie cut Eastview’s lead to 4-2. Senior attack Erik Gage had a goal and three assists.
McNamara, Brett Schweiger, Mitch Beattie, Shane Kenealey and Jake McGlocklin also scored for Eastview in the championship game.
Koenen and the Eastview defense shut down an Eden Prairie team that scored 15 goals in its state semifinal victory over Totino-Grace. Koenen stopped 16 of 20 shots and Eden Prairie was held to one goal in each quarter.
“Our goalie played out of his mind tonight,” Roche said.
“We always knew we had a great goalie,” Heppner said, “but no one gave him any respect.”
McNamara had four goals and four assists as Eastview defeated Edina 15-6 in a semifinal game June 5. Hamill scored three goals for the Lightning, which scored nine of the game’s final 10 goals.
After beating Minnetonka 16-15 in its season opener, Eastview didn’t allow an opponent more than nine goals in any of its last 16 games.
“I just think we all relaxed,” Koenen said. “When we played Minnetonka, because it was our first game, we were probably a little tight. But we knew what we were supposed to do and we settled down.”
Not everything went smoothly for Eastview this season. The Lightning lost senior midfielder Alex Wohl to a torn knee ligament after he scored nine goals in the team’s first seven games. It also was missing a starting defender during the state tournament because of an unspecified code violation.
And the Lightning’s faith could have been shaken by a 9-8 loss to Lakeville North on May 8. Instead, Eastview won its final eight games.
“Right after we lost to North, we knew why we lost,” Roche said. “And we made sure it never happened again. That’s what I love about these guys.”