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New No. 1 in girls lacrosse didn't take an easy route to the top

Coach Joel Tornell's quest to load the schedule for his Lakeville South girls lacrosse might have gone too far.

Not that his Cougars are complaining.

"We have a special group of kids who are rising to the challenge," said Tornell, who added Edina and East Ridge to a schedule that already included longstanding nonconference opponents Benilde-St. Margaret's, Chanhassen and Stillwater.

A 6-0 start to the season earned South the top ranking from the Minnesota Girls' Lacrosse Coaches Association this week. The acclaim brought Tornell a bit of relief.

"I did ask myself at one point, 'Is this really how we want our season to go?' " he said.

South has laid waste to a murderer's row of opponents, winning its first six games by an average score of 15-5. Midfielders Sivanna O'Brien (20 goals), Ella Mills (16), Tori Tschida (13), Katie Grubbs (12) and attack Charlotte Fannin (12) have combined to replace scoring potency lost to graduation.

The defensive corps has also made an impression. Grace Buesgens, Addie Hammes, Kali Nyberg and Molly Oehlerts have made life tough on opposing offensive players — and easier on goalie Kate Baell.

The Cougars rolled to a 15-5 victory against Benilde-St. Margaret's last week, dethroning the defending state tournament champions and the No. 1 team thus far this spring.

"We played lights-out that day," Tornell said. "We were winning draws like crazy, and Baell had a great game. We have speed and depth at several positions, and our goalie is playing so well."

State rankings

By the Minnesota Girls' Lacrosse Coaches Association (through May 8)

1. Lakeville South 6-0-0; 2. Benilde-St. Margaret's 8-1-0; 3. Prior Lake 6-1-0; 4. Stillwater 5-2-0; 5. Minnetonka 6-1-0; 6. Champlin Park 8-0-0; 7. Eden Prairie 8-1-0; 8. Cretin-Derham Hall 6-2-0; 9. Orono 7-1-0; 10. Rosemount 7-1-0.