by Bob SAn
SUN PRESS Newspapers
On a dreary, soggy day this early spring, Maple Grove girls’ lacrosse coach Morgan Kingstedt said to a visitor during her team’s pre-season practice at the Maple Grove Dome that her team had a realistic chance of making its first state tournament.
Two months later, Kingstedt proved to be a prophet because the Crimson indeed claimed the section championship and earned the school’s first trip to the state tournament. They did it with a nailbiting 14-13 win in sudden death overtime over Wayzata in the section final June 4 at Osseo.
Hailey Herdine scored four goals and had one assist and Lauren Kaufman added three goals, including the winning goal in the second sudden death overtime period.
“I have never been in a game that went into sudden death overtime,” Kingstedt said. “Give credits to Wayzata, they played amazing. But our girls clicked and we just happened to get that goal first.”
It was a game of twists and turns, with each team facing what looked like certain defeat but yet clawed back to extend the game. The Trojans had the better of the first half and took a 7-5 halftime lead.
“At halftime instead of telling them things they were doing wrong — they knew what they had to fix — we talked about why we love the sport of lacrosse,” Kingstedt said. “So it brought us back positive.”
The Crimson played a strong second half and even with senior captain Brittany Throndson going down with an injury, they tied the score and even took an 11-9 lead when Tippy Hill scored with 5:21 left. But Wayzata erupted for three goals between 3:10 to 1:17 to take a 12-11 lead with 1:17 left.
Wayzata had all the momentum and there was not much time left but the Crimson were not ready to give up.
“We never give up, not once,” senior captain Helena Nguyen said. “We were just trying to get the possession right off the draw and just try to get to the net. We got it.”
MG gained control of the ball, worked it inside and Claire McLean tied it 12-12 with 54 seconds left, sending the game into overtime.
“This team has significantly time and time again come back,” Kingstedt said. “They know how to fight. We have a lot of girls who are very mature athletes for their age, those in the ninth, 10th and 11th grade classes. They have an understanding for sports and know what it means to play all the way the entire time.”
The Crimson jumped ahead 13-12 2:10 in the first OT on a goal by Herdine but the Trojans tied it 13-13 2:10 into the second. The game went into sudden death overtime and both teams had good chances in the first sudden death period but MG goalie Coco Francis and the Trojan goalie both made big saves.
“Coco is only ninth grade and she has really stepped it up in goal. She has been a lynchpin for us in many games,” Kingstedt said.
Finally, Kaufman ended it early in the second sudden death period. She dodged the Wayzata defense to break free on the left flank and buried the winner from close range. Her goal set off a wild celebration for the Crimson as they realized they had just made school history.
“It’s our first ever (state tournament). It’s pretty exciting,” said Nguyen. “We have been trying to go to state. We took second in the section last year and that was definitely a step up for us. It was one step closer for us and this year we hit the spot. We’ve worked so hard for this. We took second last year and this year we are first. Here we are.”
Nguyen said the key to Maple Grove’s success is it has a very balanced team with solid players up and down the line-up. Nguyen, the Crimson’s top scorer during the regular season, drew double coverage throughout the section tournament but credited her teammates for picking up the scoring.
“Every game in the section I’ve been locked on and I haven’t really gotten much goals,” Nguyen said. “But I am proud of the rest of my team for pulling through. Our team has a variety of girls who can shoot so it works out well. We played our hearts out, we wanted it and we got it.”
In all, eight Crimson scored goals. In addition to Herdine and Kaufman, Paige Naasko scored two goals, and Nguyen, McLean, Rachel Thielen and Christina Kampa and each had one.
“It’s a long time coming,” said Kingstedt, who is in her ninth year at Maple Grove. “We have a group that works together and really wants it. They really understand how to work together and not be selfish with the ball and pass it around. That’s how you win the game — to play together.”
The Crimson enter state with an 11-5 record. They took on No. 1 ranked Blake in the first round Tuesday, June 10. Win or lose, they will play Thursday, June 12. All state tournament games are at Chanhassen.
“We are going to state to have fun,” Kingstedt said. “If we are having fun that’s when we play our best.”
Contact Bob San [email protected]