Quick-striking Wildcats start 4-0

Boys lacrosse team plays top-ranked Eden Prairie next week

Eagan senior Nicholas Forsha races upfield against Bloomington Jefferson on Tuesday night. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy
Eagan senior Nicholas Forsha races upfield against Bloomington Jefferson on Tuesday night. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Eagan averaged 15 goals in its first four boys lacrosse games. While that might seem prolific to others, Wildcats coach Bob Felter reacts with a shrug.

“I knew we’d be able to score,” Felter said after the Wildcats dispatched Bloomington Jefferson 15-5 on Tuesday night. “We’re trying to hit a specific number of goals each game. I don’t want to say what that is, but we’ve been over it so far.”

The Wildcats, ranked third in the state, defeated Benilde-St. Margaret’s 11-9 and Rosemount 17-13 in their first two games, and drubbed Bloomington Kennedy 17-5 on Thursday.

Tuesday’s victory at Jefferson gave Eagan its third consecutive victory against a highly regarded lacrosse program. The Wildcats’ first three opponents either are, or have been, ranked among the state’s top 15.

The Wildcats travel to Totino-Grace at 7 p.m. Friday before a non-conference showdown against No. 1-ranked Eden Prairie at 6:30 p.m. Monday at home.

While Felter said he wasn’t worried about the Wildcats’ ability to score, there were concerns about the other half of the field.

“We have some sophomores, some new starters, on defense,” he said. “They’ve held up well, and we have a goalie (Luke Westrum) who’s a three-year starter, and he’s been outstanding.”

Eagan’s game against Jefferson was all but over about midway through the second quarter. By that time the Wildcats had used their quick-striking, high-pressure attack to take a 9-0 lead. After that, the Wildcats had to try to strike a balance between remaining aggressive and not showing up the opponent.

“We’re a run-and-gun team; always have been,” Felter said. “It’s considered old-school, but it’s the style I like to play. It’s coming back in college lacrosse, but in high school you still see teams that want to play lower-scoring games.”

A team can’t play fast-paced offense without skilled players, and Eagan has them. Senior attackman Michael Kukulski has 15 goals – more than one-third of his team’s total – and scored eight times against Rosemount. Senior captains Connor Simpson and Nicholas Forsha also are dangerous on offense, as are seniors Cullen Willox and Thomas Powers. Max Elsenheimer, a junior, has sparked the offense with 16 ground ball recoveries, most among the Wildcats’ attack/midfield group. Sophomore Jackson Melby is the faceoff specialist and is winning more than 60 percent of his draws.

Andrew Markland, a senior, helped solidify the Eagan defense by moving there from long-stick midfield. Felter said Markland probably would have preferred to remain a midfielder, but he has responded with a team-high 22 ground balls.

Next week is a big one for the Wildcats. In addition to the non-conference game against Eden Prairie, the schedule includes a game at Burnsville on Tuesday and Eagan will face defending state champion and No. 2-ranked Eastview at home at 7:30 p.m. May 9.

Eastview ended Eagan’s bid for a state championship last year with an 8-7 victory in the Section 3 championship game. Although the playoff sections have since been revamped, the Wildcats and Lightning likely will still have to go through each other to reach the state tournament, again.