Hastings youth lacrosse team claims state title in program's second year
When the Hastings Lacrosse Club launched its youth lacrosse program two years ago, there were only about 15 third- and fourth-graders and a seventh- and eighth-grade team involved. They put together a team and got out on the field to see what they could do. It was mostly just to give children younger than seventh grade a chance to try lacrosse.
This year, the program is proving its worth. The summer program has one third- and fourth-grade team, two fifth- and sixth-grade teams and one seventh- and eighth-grade team - about 75 players.
On Aug. 4 and 5, the Hastings fifth- and sixth-grade gold team claimed the Youth Lacrosse of Minnesota state championship.
"We went from not having a fifth- and sixth-grade team at all two years ago to winning state this year," said Terry Iverson, the team's coach.
Iverson and coach Branson Nickel launched the youth program two years ago. While some smaller communities are just getting started in lacrosse, many metro-area cities already have established programs.
"Anything inside or adjacent to (Highways) 694, 494, they've had a strong program for probably five more years than us," Iverson said.
The win, however, wasn't exactly an upset. After going undefeated in ten regular season games and two playoff games, the Hastings boys were the top seed going into the 16-team tournament.
Their undefeated streak continued at the tournament. They beat Stillwater 16-3, Eastview (Black) 6-0 and Orono 7-3 to earn a spot in the championship game. Hastings faced Eastview (Blue) in the final game and put on an exciting performance.
"That was kind of a rollercoaster game," Iverson said. "We had a 4-0 lead I think in the first half and then the other team had a big comeback in the second half."
Eastview tied it up at 6-6 and put the game into sudden death overtime.
"Our team wasn't used to that," Iverson said.
But the boys picked it up again. About three minutes into overtime, Luke Reifenberger scored the game-winning goal and gave the team its perfect 19-0 record for the season.
"You've got to give credit to the kids for hanging in there and making sure it didn't go the wrong way in the end," Iverson said.
The state title is a testament to the athletic ability of the youth in the program, but that's not the only reason they saw success so early. Another reason was that the spring lacrosse season put about 10 of the more advanced sixth-graders on the seventh- and eighth-grade team. Those sixth-graders developed better skills competing against bigger and faster players, and brought that skill back to the fifth- and sixth-grade team for the summer session, Iverson said. Teamwork was another major key.
"Having great athletes alone does not always translate to team success," he said. "This particular group of kids trusted each other to do the job they were assigned to do. They were skilled at moving the ball quickly to the open player and which did not allow the opponent to key on just one or two players. Our team had six or seven players that could score on a regular basis plus a very strong defensive unit. Bailey Burr and Jackson Gergen shared the goal tending duties."
Iverson said he and the other coaches are looking forward to a strong seventh- and eighth-grade program next year, as most of the players on this state title team will move up to the older team. They're also looking forward to bringing new athletes in at the younger levels and building a tradition of lacrosse in Hastings.
For more about the Hastings Lacrosse Club, go to www.hastingslacrosse.com.