Sydnie Soto’s advice to younger players is play every game like it is your last. The Chanhassen lacrosse star is one of 10 seniors who had no clue their final game as a member of the Storm came in the 2019 Section 2 final last June.
A pandemic wiping out the 2020 season before it began.
And while Eden Prairie ran its consecutive section championship streak to, well, forever, defeating first-time finalists Chanhassen, the Storm celebrated the season. Celebrated the achievements. Celebrated the progress. Celebrated because they played like it could have been their last game of the season.
“I think we were all surprised about it all. Event after event kept happening and the news just got worse and worse. To hear the season was canceled was tough,” Chanhassen senior attack/midfielder Elle Wagner said.
“At first, I never thought this would happen. I thought, maybe we’ll start a few weeks late. Baseball and softball already get going before us, so maybe we won’t miss anything,” Soto said. “When school got pushed to our homes, I really had a bad feeling. It is tough. This was supposed to be our season.”
“We all had the mindset that this was our year,” Wagner added. “There were plenty of indicators. We took first place in the Eden Prairie Winter league. We beat them. In fact, we beat every team, and most were by a big difference. Then we won the Cabin Fever tournament. We made it to the final game and beat Lakeville North, so I felt good about our team.”
Chanhassen was 14-2 last spring, both losses to state runner-up Eden Prairie.
In 2018, the Storm won 13 games in a row, while in 2017 Chanhassen recorded 12 victories. The post-season victory over Minnetonka in 2019 avenged section losses in two previous seasons.
“We have a lot of seniors. They worked so hard for this season. As seniors, being our last year, we really wanted to go out with a bang. It’s sad to not have that chance,” Soto said.
Han Solo completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs in Star Wars. Sydnie Soto doesn’t remember her 100-yard dash time, but it’s safe to say her flight down the field from one end of the field to the other is just as impressive.
Wagner, teammates and friends with Soto since sixth grade, cross country running mates as well, said she has been pushed to be her best thanks to Soto.
“The best thing you can do to improve your game is pair up with the best. Sydnie’s always been the player I wanted to be. She really introduced me to the game. We’ve played together ever since practically. We definitely push each other to be better,” Wagner said.
Soto didn’t give it much thought at trying out for the high school team as a seventh grader. Her mother, Jodie, thought otherwise. Good thing. She made JV that first year, started on defense on varsity as an eighth grader. She’s been prominently featured in the line-up ever since.
“I saw what other players were doing and I thought I can do that. I never was too nervous. Our defensive group was so close. They’re some of my best friends still. A big thing I’ve learned in the Chanhassen program is never to get upset at your teammates. From my first game on to my last game, after every goal, we get together as a unit, talk about what happened and what we can do better. I think that’s why we made such a strong unit,” Soto said of Shea Kerry, Lauren Armani and Maia Hodgins.
Soto shifted to a midfield position as a junior, resulting in a team-best 46 goals and 17 assists in 16 games.
“I loved it. I loved playing defense, and I’ll always be a defender at heart, but to play on both ends of the field, have your hand in offense and defense, it was so much fun,” Soto said.
“There is no off switch when it comes to her playing lacrosse; she goes full force regardless,” Chanhassen head coach Rachel Aiken said of Soto, calling her the most “influential player” on the field last season.
Wagner, a natural lefty, also finished with a team-best in assists (35) and points (71), second on the team as a junior with 36 goals.
Over three seasons, Wagner notched 82 goals and 65 assists (playoff statistics from 2018 are missing).
“I think my game has completely changed. When I was a freshman Erica (Peterson) fed me a lot. I saw the goal a lot, one-on-one with the goaltender. I think looking at my game, my assist total really sticks out. I really started creating opportunities for my teammates to score. I see the field a lot better now,” Wagner said.
“Her smooth stick skills, hard shot and her speed make her so dangerous in the midfield and in the attacking zone. Elle has truly shined over the last few seasons and there was no doubt that she would have this year, too,” Aiken said. “She will go down in Chan lax history as one of our best scorers and assist players.”
FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Soto always knew she wanted to be an Oregon Duck. Having moved from the state of Washington at the age of 7, most of her family living in the west coast, she worked hard to be noticed by the University of Oregon staff.
Three years into her varsity career, playing for Minnesota Elite in the summer, Soto felt that might be a reality. Then new coaches were hired days before the start of her junior year of high school.
That’s not good she thought.
“I remember thinking, this sucks. I had spent so much time talking to the old coaches. I went out there for a 2-hour clinic and the new coaches offered me, which was really, really exciting,” Soto said.
Lacrosse in the west coast remains a growing sport. Oregon’s conference has strong teams, including perennial top-10 University of Southern California.
“What happened this spring, it kind of put me in the mindset to work harder to be ready to win a championship in college. That is something I worked for five years at Chanhassen for. To be a part of something like that. One day I just decided to stop thinking about how we lost this season and think about how now I have more time to prepare for the skills I’ll need in college skills,” Soto said.
Wagner continues the growing pipeline from the west metro to Marquette University in Wisconsin. Former Holy Family Catholic players Leigh Steiner, Bella Dervin and Megan Menzuber were in the program this spring.
“It’s super exciting. The coaching staff acknowledged they really like recruiting players from Minnesota Elite. They have a great relationship with our coaches and it has worked out really well for them. I can’t wait to get there — hopefully — and start that next chapter of my life,” Wagner said.
Chanhassen senior Taylor Jones is the third member of the team that will play lacrosse in college. Jones has committed to Youngstown State in Ohio, a new Division I program.
Jones registered 19 goals and 18 assists as a junior, including a pair of tallies in a post-season win over Minnetonka.