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An opponent's stick on her hip for an entire game doesn't faze Emily Moes.

Lakeville South's senior standout attacker won't be denied by any defender. Her purpose was renewed after a knee injury wiped out much of her junior season.

Moes leads the undefeated and defending state tournament champion Cougars (17-0) into Thursday's semifinal game at Stillwater High School with 74 goals and 42 assists for a state-best 116 points. She is the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year.

On a loaded team with seven players who have tallied 20 or more goals, Moes stands apart.

"She's a force," one opposing coach said.

A torn ACL and meniscus threatened to change all that. Moes rehabilitating her knee while using crutches had the look of training wheels on an Aston Martin. As competitive a player and impatient a teenager as they come, Moes gained perspective while waiting to make her season debut May 5 — Lakeville South's sixth game of the season.

"It made getting back on the field so much more enjoyable," Moes said.

Getting there required Moes to accept the process of practicing at incremental amounts of intensity, from 25% to 50% to 75% to getting cleared for contact.

"I had to learn to just like be happy and be proud of taking the little steps," Moes said. "I just kept my focus and stayed totally present."

Playing time also started small, about five minutes per half, before growing. She resumed regular minutes by the start of the playoffs and added 25 goals toward the Cougars' inaugural state championship run.

Picking right back up this season, Moes scored 29 goals and added 16 assists in her first six games. The Lakeville South juggernaut averages 18.9 goals per game.

Her care team, which included her coaches at Training Haus, her parents and South teammates, lifted Moes during the days of doubt.

"I love being in control," Moes said. "Knowing who I could go to and rely on was huge."

A collision at a summer tournament weakened her knee, though Moes wasn't aware. She left the field, but when she returned to action the knee gave out. Trusting the knee when cutting and running took time.

"There were times where I'm like, 'I just can't get the feeling of it tearing again out of my head,' " Moes said. "You just don't forget that."

Moes committed to California Berkeley in the fall, so everything worked out. Would she trade any portion of the journey to self-discovery?

"That's just a super hard question," Moes said. "Because I would hear when I went on some of the college tours, coaches saying tearing my ACL is the best thing that ever happened to me.

"I don't think I'm at that place yet," Moes said with a laugh. "But it's put me in a place of having the mind-set of knowing who to go to for my support. And the determination it's taught me, and the way it made me so much more grateful for the times that I can step on the field and play an entire game in lacrosse. That is a beautiful thing, in my opinion."