The mood transcended the both the setting, and the stage it occurred on.
This had been the moment that, prior to this season, the Champlin Park boys lacrosse team could only dream about.
The Rebels owned a spot in the state semifinals, and were matched up with the type of opponent they are starting to become.
The boys would play like they belonged for the entirety of their June 13 stay at Chanhassen High School, vying back and forth with defending state champion Eastview for the right to play for a title 48 hours later.
The Rebels overcame an early 1-0 deficit to take leads of 2-1 and 3-2. They responded to a 5-1 Eastview run that lasted until the early portions of the fourth quarter by scoring a pair of goals in 17 seconds to make it a one goal, 7-6 deficit with well over eight minutes to play.
And, in the bitter end, after the Lightning pulled away with three goals to push the finally tally to 10-6, Champlin Park walked off with a message they would once again deliver in a 9-5 victory over White Bear Lake in the state tournament’s third place game.
“We walked out of here with our heads held high, and I think that says a lot about this team,” said senior forward and Mr. Lacrosse finalist Ryan McNeil. “We are down. We wanted this game bad. But we have a lot to be proud of.”
Their official arrival would likely top that list.
The powers that be have resided primarily in the southern suburbs since the sports official inception as a Minnesota State High School League sanctioned sport in 2007.
Five-time state tournament entrant Eastview is in that group, as 2013 state champion and four-time state runner-up Eden Prairie.
But as he fielded questions about his teams entrance into the 2013 title game, Lightning head coach Tim Roche insisted that is changing.
“That team we just played was a legitimate final four team,” said Roche. “They are well on their way. This is their first time here, but you couldn’t tell. And I’m willing to bet they will be back here.”
Champlin Park head coach Eric Borer said he would wager the same, though he wasn’t ready to look past what this group had accomplished together.
The Rebels have used the term ‘family’ before ‘team’ in most of their own descriptions this spring. It is a trait that, frankly, is as a common refrain among sports teams.
In some cases, it wears old.
This, however, is not one of those.
“It is really legit for this team,” said McNeil. “And it is not just the players. It is the coaches, the managers, the parents. It is everyone involved. We are a family.”
Added Borer: “It is entrenched in our DNA. They really live and die with each other.”
In the aftermath of the loss to Eastview, their faces looked like death. But by Saturday afternoon, the group was alive once again.
McNeil scored four times and Luke Dalman had a pair as Champlin Park closed out its season by beating White Bear Lake 9-5 to finish as the third best boys lacrosse team in all of Minnesota.
For the players, it was something tangible – the third place trophy – to verify all they had spoken of. For the coaches, it still might not have been enough.
“If two years ago someone tells me that we will be in the state semifinals, and then playing for a third place finish, I might have slapped them,” said Borer. “But we’ve been incredibly fortunate, and our guys have worked in incredibly hard. This just didn’t happen. They worked for it, and they earned it.”
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]