Is this the spring the Shakopee girls lacrosse team takes the next step?
The Sabers return a lot of talent from last year’s squad that finished 6-9 overall, 2-5 in the South Suburban Conference, before falling 16-5 to Eden Prairie in the Section 2 quarterfinals.
Shakopee has had just two winning seasons since the inception of the program in 2014. Coach Bailey Childs is looking for a third one, as well as contending in the loaded SSC and in the playoffs.
“My hopes for this season is to execute our systems flawlessly,” Childs said. “These girls have been using our systems for a couple years now and it’s starting to all come together. We have built a great culture together and it will show on the field.”
Shakopee had just three seniors on the roster last year, but one of them was their top scorer. But there is some talent back in junior Nadia Rylance, who had 27 goals and 13 assists last spring.
Sophomore Rachel Schwabe was third in scoring last year with 14 goals and 11 assists, followed by junior Olivia Hayer (20 goals, 3 assists) and sophomore Gia Lynch (6 goals, 2 assists).
Junior Alli Parker returns in goal. She made 105 saves last season with a .392 save percentage.
Defensively, senior Faith Scott returns for the Sabers. She missed much of last season with a knee injury, as well as the Sabers’ girls tennis campaign last fall.
“She had a huge impact on our draw control and defensive turnovers,” Childs said. “I expect her to really stand out this year.”
Junior Lauren Huschka and sophomore Madde Hillman were also key contributors on defense last year, but now are expected to be in the midfield. Junior Addy Huschka, ninth-grader Brielle Olsonoski and sophomore Paige Armstrong are also expected to contribute to the team.
“Our strengths are that we are fast, aggressive, great stick skills and have a solid offensive and defensive system,” Childs said. “Our team has built a lot chemistry playing together and I’m excited to see how we do.”
Childs also said the team needs to develop more confidence in the offensive and defensive zones.
“These girls are great players and know what they are doing, but sometimes we hold back our full potential,” she said. “I think we’ll be able to overcome that.”
An SSC team has won the last four state titles. Apple Valley, now a co-op program with Burnsville, won in 2018, followed by back-to-back crowns from Prior Lake in 2019 and 2021 and a title from Lakeville South last year.
There was no 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lakeville South beat Chanhassen in the state title game last year. Chanhassen will again be the team to beat in Section 2, along with Eden Prairie, a program that has won five state titles since 2007, including three straight from 2015 to 2017.
Chaska and Minnetonka are also strong section teams, along with Hutchinson and Orono.
In the SSC, Lakeville South, Prior Lake and Rosemount are expected to be the teams to beat. They were one-two-three, respectively in the league standings last year.
There are only seven league games for the Sabers, since there are two co-op programs, including Eagan-Eastview.
Shakopee opens the SSC season at Prior Lake April 25. The regular season ends May 25 at home to St. Michael-Albertville.
The first round of section play starts May 30 with the title game June 7.
This year’s state tournament will be June 13, 15 and 17 at two sites, Stillwater and White Bear Lake High Schools.