Lacrosse seniors

Hutchinson’s girls lacrosse team is led by a strong group of returning upperclassmen. They are, from left, front row, Maddy Seifert, Hannah Ladwig, Ellie Campbell and Avarie Petersen; back row, Alia Rieger, Stella Schwartz, Marlee Harlander, Ellie Bock and Audrey Seifert.

The last time the Hutchinson girls lacrosse team played, in 2019, they were coming off a historic 13-2 season. The Tigers had won their fourth straight Wright County Conference title and shocked Shakopee for the program’s first Section 2 playoff win ever.

They were all set to continue their run of winning in 2020, and then COVID-19 hit and the season was canceled.

As the Tigers prepare to return to the field for 2021, some things will be different, but one thing hasn’t changed: “We’re here to defend our conference championship,” head coach Randy Seifert said.

Coach Seifert has good reason to be confident as the Tigers are returning with an experienced core of players who were part of those younger conference champion teams. Combined with a large group of young players coming out for lacrosse this year, and it’s no surprise the Hutch coach likes his team’s odds.

“We’ve got a great group of young girls coming up, I bet we have 10 or 15 freshmen coming in,” Seifert said. “That’s super to see, but with that said, our offense is almost entirely intact from two years ago. We were a young team, so that’s one bonus we had.”

Leading the way for that returning offensive core is senior Maddy Seifert, who led the Tigers and the state in goals in 2019 with 102. She’s joined by some of the team’s other top scorers from two years ago, such as Marlee Harlander, Ellie Campbell, Hannah Ladwig and Ellie Petersen. Other experienced returners include Avarie Petersen and Bella Conn.

But while the Tigers are experienced on offense, they have much less experience on defense. Ellie Bock and Stella Schwartz are back with some varsity time under their belts, but after that the Tigers will have to rebuild their defense “100%,” according to coach Seifert. The good news is some of the younger players are showing initiative.

“They know who’s there and who’s not there from two years ago, and everyone knows that defense is the hole,” Seifert said. “So we’ve got a lot of girls interested in playing defense, and that makes me really happy.”

The Tigers will also have to replace former goalie Laina Berthiaume, but they’ve got junior Alia Rieger and Lola Schramm competing for playing time in the net.

So far, with just a few days of practice under their belts, Seifert said the team’s mood has been energetic and excited.

“We have a bunch of new girls, and I think that alone adds some positivity to it,” he said. “Everyone’s in a great mood, having fun and working hard.”

The Wright County Conference remains largely the same as past years, with Delano/Rockford, Holy Family, Mound Westonka, New Prague, Orono and Waconia competing against the Tigers.

“I really think we should take first again, honestly,” Seifert said about the conference competition. “We should be able to go through our conference.”

Like every year, Seifert said teamwork would be a key to the team’s success, and after that, just getting the team back up to speed after nearly two years away from the game.

“Everybody’s still pretty rusty, so working on our skills, that’s one of the main things we’re really driving home,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of team speed, so that’s beneficial, and we’ve actually gained some height this year with some of the new girls coming in. … So that will add a new dimension we’re not used to having.”

And when it comes to playoff time again this year, lacrosse is still a single-class sport, which means Hutchinson will play some of the largest schools in the state including Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Chaska, Minnetonka and Shakopee. But as they proved in 2019, size isn’t all that matters.

“Two years ago we won our first section quarterfinal game, so our goal would be to win up to the semifinal game this year,” Seifert said. “We always run into the bigger schools, which makes it a little more difficult. But some of those schools are down a little bit, so if we run into the right schools we could have a good run.”