Boys state lacrosse: New gameplan and blue-collar approach move Stillwater into semis

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Stillwater didn’t end the regular season on the strongest of notes. The Ponies dropped one-goal contests to Prior Lake and Benilde-St. Margaret’s – two of the state’s top programs – and just edged Mounds View and Woodbury for one-goal victories.

Stillwater head coach Peter Flock said the Ponies continued to struggle in the same areas of the game.

“It was turning into insanity,” Flock said. “We kept struggling in the same area and we said, ‘OK, we’re done. We’re doing something different. We don’t care if it’s the end of the season, we’re doing something new.’”

Flock said the Ponies made “almost wholesale changes” to various parts of their system. Those changes have led to massive amounts of postseason success to date. Following Stillwater’s 17-3 win over unseeded Minnetonka in the state quarterfinals Tuesday at Eden Prairie High School, the Ponies are outscoring opponents 65-20 in the playoffs.

“That was the big thing,” Flock said. “We just needed to learn and stop being stubborn and make changes to make the team better.”

The second-seeded Ponies will meet third-seeded Lakeville North at 3 p.m. Thursday at Chaska High School in the state semifinals.

Tuesday’s result was a near replica of Stillwater’s 17-5 victory over Minnetonka to open the season. The Ponies struck early and often in the quarterfinals, leading 5-0 after one and 11-1 at the half. Junior attacker Grant Giese scored six times, while sophomore attackman Bobby Appert added four goals as Stillwater (15-2) featured a largely balanced attack.

“We just played as a team,” said junior midfielder Luke Geisbauer, who had a goal and three assists. “Everyone did their job, played their role.”

Stillwater’s big lead allowed it to rest many of its major contributors down the home stretch of the contest.

“We’re not really trying to impress anyone here with numbers,” Flock said. “It really was more about winning, getting out healthy and moving on.”

Flock said Stillwater spent much of the past few days working on itself – the minute details that may not be fun for players to drill, but make the Ponies dangerous in the long run. Because Stillwater was confident in its man-to-man matchups with the Skippers (10-7).

For good reason.

Geisbauer noted the Ponies came into the week “ready to dominate.”

So far, things have gone according to plan.

“We showcased our talent, but we also were the more blue-collared team,” Flock said. “We won the ground ball battles. We won the battles that were less pretty, and it showed on the scoreboard.”

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