The Park of Cottage Grove girls lacrosse team surprised many, including its coach, by reaching the section final last season. The Wolfpack are not going to surprise anyone this year.
Park is the top seed in Section 3, which includes at least five teams that could represent the group in the state tournament. Park received a first-round bye and opens the tournament Thursday against Hastings.
Last season's playoff run included an 11-9 victory over second seed Cretin-Derham Hall in the section semifinals.
"We were growing. We kind of shocked them," Wolfpack coach Scott Leonard said. "They probably looked past us a little bit. They had a senior-dominated team, and we were young. We weren't expecting [to beat them]. So we felt pretty good going into this year. We thought there were five teams that could win the section. After the season, I still feel that way. The top five teams are all pretty similar."
The depth reminds Leonard of 2019, when the section tournament included overtime games in both semifinal matches and the final. He said he would not be surprised to see similar tight games this year. One thing all the coaches know is that there will be a new champion.
Last year's winner, Gentry Academy, has moved to Section 4. Leonard said he was "ecstatic" to hear the Stars were moving out of the section because of Gentry Academy's location away from other schools in the section.
The Wolfpack (12-1) are taking success in stride. They are heading into the section tournament having won eight consecutive games, including victories over second-seeded Cretin-Derham Hall, third-seeded East Ridge and fifth-seeded Simley. The fourth seed in the section is Woodbury. The Royals are the only team to beat the Wolfpack this season.
"I feel like we have some confidence that we can play with anybody," Leonard said. "We don't have to go into the game as the underdog. There are also some nerves in the fact that we're the one now and do you want to be the team that got upset like other teams have in the past? It puts a little pressure on them that way."