Eagles jump ahead early, Tigers can’t keep pace

Apple Valley wins matchup of top-5 girls lacrosse teams

Farmington found Apple Valley junior midfielder Molly Moynihan tough to stop Tuesday. Moynihan had six goals and four assists in the Eagles’ 19-8 victory. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Everything about Apple Valley and Farmington – records, state rankings, results against common opponents – suggested a close game when their girls lacrosse teams met Tuesday evening.

One problem: The Eagles refused to cooperate. They scored early and often in a 19-8 home-field victory to remain in second place in the South Suburban Conference.

Prior Lake (7-0 in conference games) controls the South Suburban outcome, having already defeated Apple Valley (6-1) and Farmington (5-2). The winner of the Apple Valley-Farmington game would still be in a position to grab a share of the conference championship if Prior Lake stumbles in either of its last two league games.

Apple Valley was fourth and Farmington fifth in this week’s mnlaxhub.com state rankings, and the Eagles treated it as a big game. “We came out fighting right away, swinging,” said Apple Valley midfielder Molly Moynihan, a junior captain. “The defense was firing on all cylinders. We had really good communication on the field and our transition was fantastic today.”

Apple Valley (9-1 overall) scored 12 goals in the first half, leaving the Tigers (9-2) struggling to keep pace. Eagles coach Alexandra Ross said a zone defense is Farmington’s trademark and the longer the Tigers could play it, the tougher things would get for Apple Valley.

“We knew if we could beat the zone defense right away, that would make it easier as we got further into the game,” Ross said. “It forced them to switch to man to man, which we’re also more comfortable with. We knew we had to score a lot right away on the zone to set that standard for the rest of the game.”

Ross said the zone makes it difficult for offenses to find open players in the middle of the field and also makes it tougher for Apple Valley to run isolation plays for some of its talented scorers, such as Moynihan and junior midfielder Reagan Roelofs.

“Fortunately, we have a lot of plays that work well against the zone, and we were able to start with those right away and be successful with them,” Ross said.

Moynihan was involved in more than half of Apple Valley’s scoring with six goals and four assists. Forward Lily Leong, a ninth-grader, scored four goals. Roelofs had three goals and four assists, and Josie Segar and Emma Vogelgesang each scored twice.

During the first half, “I looked at our stat sheet and our first six goals were by six different players, all with assists,” Ross said. “That’s what makes our offense so special, everybody is scoring and everybody is contributing.”

Apple Valley was held to a season-low seven goals in its only loss, April 27 at Prior Lake. The Eagles have scored at least 13 goals in all of their victories. Eight of their nine victories have been by seven goals or more.

Offensively, Apple Valley’s chemistry has developed over time. For some of the Eagles’ top players, “this is our fourth year together,” said Moynihan, who has a team-high 40 goals. “We’ve really connected well every single year, and it keeps getting better every year. We know how each other plays, we know what each other likes, and it just shows up on the field.”

Ashley Steffes had three goals and Alexandra Laube two for Farmington. “We know they have some very strong players, especially Kamryn (Corraro) and Ashley Steffes. They are all over the field,” Moynihan said. “We thought if we could shut them down we could close this game like we did.”

“Defensively, we had some really nice stands, some really good crashes,” Ross said. “We felt we made them work hard for their eight goals.”

Farmington closes its regular season with home games against Shakopee on Friday and Lakeville South on Tuesday, May 23. Both begin at 5:30 p.m. Victories in their final two games likely would give the Tigers home field throughout the Section 1 tournament as they try to qualify for state for the first time.

Apple Valley knows it probably has to beat Prior Lake in Section 6 to go to state for the first time since 2014. Prior Lake and Apple Valley are expected to be the top two seeds in Section 6.

When the Eagles lost 9-7 at Prior Lake in April, “we didn’t have a bad game, but there was a lot of room for improvement,” Ross said. “There were some really positive things, but offensively it was only Molly and Reagan scoring. If we play Prior Lake again and have the balanced scoring like we had (against Farmington), maybe things will be different.”