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The bus that carried the Lakeville South girls lacrosse team to Saturday's state title game had each player's name and number written on the windows. In unrelenting rain, players carried soggy backpacks and damp state championship medals onto the bus, celebrating their 12-8 victory over Prior Lake.

But three players and a coach were missing.

Already waterlogged, senior midfielders Tori Tschida, Sivanna O'Brien and Katie Grubbs hung back inside the stadium and snapped a few more photos with the state championship trophy and their coach, Joel Tornell. Since fourth grade, the trio of Cougars captains had played lacrosse together, coached by Tornell. Before that, they played basketball together. Their families grew close as they traveled for club lacrosse and saw the girls grow up.

And even in the chilly rain, the three soaked in their last game together for just a few minutes more.

"All year, we were just thinking about, 'This is our last game together, our last practice, last this, last that,' " Grubbs said. "But this game, we just went into it like, 'We're going to make another state championship.' "

Top-seeded Lakeville South completed a 19-0 season with its rainy victory over No. 2 Prior Lake at Eden Prairie High School. The Cougars team remembered the sour taste of last year's semifinal loss to Benilde-St. Margaret's, which spoiled then-undefeated Lakeville South's attempt to defend its 2022 state title. That loss was something "we think about every day" as motivation, Grubbs said.

Since that loss, which O'Brien described as "panicky," the team had emphasized supportive words and positive language "so that we can just play how we play and not be worried about what our teammates are going to think," O'Brien said.

In Saturday's championship game, South jumped out to an early 4-1 lead, but Prior Lake scored five unanswered goals to go ahead 6-4 with a minute left in the first half. Two goals in that final minute, however, plus five more to start the third quarter, shifted the game's momentum in the Cougars' favor.

O'Brien netted four goals, and Grubbs had three. Metro Player of the Year Tschida scored twice and handled draws. And even when Prior Lake began to pick up what codes the Cougars were signaling, the trio fell back on their playing history.

"Eventually they started figuring out our draw signs, but Sivanna and Katie, playing with me so long, could pick out body language instead, and we got a rhythm going for sure," Tschida said.

Lakeville South last faced Prior Lake in April, beating the Lakers 10-3 then. The Cougars had also lost to the Lakers in the 2021 state championship.

This year's state championship win felt like "a game of destiny," said Tschida's father, Chris. Tornell described it as "a long time coming" — and it was. Ten years, in fact.

"This year, we made sure to keep it [as], we're confident, we're not cocky," Tschida said. "We're just grounded, and we help keep each other that way."