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History of St. Louis Park Lacrosse

The History of Park Lacrosse

 

In the Beginning

It all started in 2006 and the Hopkins Lacrosse Team was accepted into the Minnesota State High School League. Hopkins had been running a joint program with St. Louis Park and the two schools had been playing together for years. The move to Varsity status meant the St. Louis Park players could no longer be on the Hopkins team.

At the time, Hollywood and Dave Dodds had been coaching the Hopkins program and they wondered what would the park players do?

Something had to be done. Where would Olsen, McLoone, Shandley, Brinkman, The Brothers Valenzuela, Reynolds, Dvorak, Twardowski, Baker and Doctor play?

In a late night conversation in Dave Dodds’ Kitchen, the decision was made. Dodds and Hollywood would leave Hopkins and Coach the new start up team. A Sunday trip to Home Depot turned out to be one of the best things to happen to the new coaching staff. It was at Home Depot that Hollywood and Andrew Peschong would bump into each other. The former teammates at St. Thomas quickly started talking lacrosse and Park’s new team. Pesch was in. The coaching staff was set, all that was needed… Players. The above mentioned guys promised to recruit and Hollywood petitioned the MBSLA for admittance. We were granted a team.

2007 – The First Season

With Barry Doctor as the team’s first president, Park took the field. On April 18th, 2007 St. Louis Park played its first lacrosse game. While the outcome would not be the win Park was looking for, it would showcase one of the greatest single game performances on record. Benji Shandley would score the Orioles first ever goal and continue to score 7 goals and chalk up 1 assist in Parks first game. St. Louis Park would have to wait until May 2nd when it would beat the St. Paul Celts at Cedar Manor to capture the first ever Varsity win. While it was a great year, the team would struggle and finish 5 – 10 in its first season.

2008 – The Boy Gets The Girl

The new year would get off to a good start, and the team began to gel. Offensively the Dvorak / Shandley / Reynolds combination proved too much for most teams. Pesch’s defense solidified with McLoone & Diego Valenzuela and the league’s top goalie Ernesto Valenzuela did not disappoint.

The team opened up the season hot, scoring goals and playing hard but would struggle mid-season with the #1 ranked Champlin Park and Buffalo. But Park would dig deep, win the remaining conference games and capture in their second season a conference title.

It was time for the playoffs and Park had home field advantage. In the opening round they would beat Hastings and sneak by Blaine in the Quarterfinals. This would set up a State Semi Final match against Andover, the #2 ranked team in the League and a heavy favorite. The game would start and Andover would take an early lead, only to see Park fight back and tie the game up in the 4th quarter. Park would force over time and deep into the 2nd overtime and arching pass would find Brandon Reynolds and he would send Park to the State Championship Game.

The Orioles would meet the undefeated Champlin Park Rebels in the Finals. The number #1 team in the state was confident and feeling good about their chance to capture a championship. But they did not expect to encounter a team of destiny. Park would start out the scoring and trade the lead with Champlin all night. A 3 goal performance from freshman Art Elmer and incredible team defense lead to a 4th quarter 7 – 7 game. With under 2 minutes remaining Brandon Brinkman scored to give Park the lead. Could the Defense hold? Yes. As time expired the Park faithful swarmed the field and hosted the MBSLA State Championship Trophy (finishing 15-5). St. Louis Park was a champion and as Coach Dodds would say “The boy got the girl, the boy got the girl”.

2009 – Staying on Top?

Graduating 15 players from the State Championship squad, most would have considered this a rebuilding year. Park would start off hot, snapping up wins with the devastating attack trio Bergeron / Kyle Johnson / O’Keefe and the sharp shooting Art Elmer. Lighting up the score board the team would position themselves for a shot at the conference title. While the Defense played well the Offense struggled and Orono would win and take the conference. A season ending injury to Max Bergeron meant Park would enter the playoffs without their leading scorer.

In Park's opening playoff game they would draw Hastings, and in a close game Park would hang on to win 6 – 5. Next up St. Paul. St. Paul had beat Park in the regular season and walked into the game with a 13 – 1 record. What transpired was a Lacrosse upset that allowed the Orioles one more shot at Orono. Park would play in their second straight Championship Game. The team would fight hard, and pushed by Oriole nation, give Orono everything they had. But the fortunes would not favor Park, a late drive would fall short in the final seconds and the Orioles would fall 7- 8. With heads held high after a great post season run, Park claimed 2nd place and a 14-7 record.

2010 – Fortis

When the 2010 season started the Park team was a young squad, but a squad full of confidence. The season opener against Irondale went Parks way and after beating Shakopee, The team faced rival Delano. The game was a tense, physical game in which the Oriole defense lead by Spencer Weckwerth dominated. When the final horn sounded Park earned a convincing 6-1 victory. In a post-game interview Delano coach Larry Hunter famously said “We will drop kick them in playoffs”. Part would go on to wind their next 6 games and start 9-0. 

Mid-season proved a challenging time for the Orioles.  As Park would go through a 5 game losing streak and the teams commitment was in question. Hardest of all was an overtime loss to rival St. Paul, a game Park figured they should have won. 

St. Louis Park did peak at the right time, a gutsy double overtime win on senior night against Monticello game the squad the confidence they needed in the playoffs. 

Fortis was the theme. Courage and strength, like Greek warriors Park set out to make their run. Round one saw park put down Eden Prairie in convincing fashion, quarterfinals saw a rematch of Park versus Monticello and this time, it would be all park all game. Park took care of Monticello in convincing fashion 8-4 and entered a semi-final match against St. Paul. While the sun began to set on Orono’s Stadium Park exploded with goals early in the game and never looked back. St. Paul entered the game 12-0 and never saw the explosion that Elmer, Bergeron, Shandley and Sherno would bring to the game.  Fortis was all they needed. When the final Horn went off Park had a easy 10-5 win and a berth to their 3rd straight championship game. 

St. Louis Park would face Orono, rival Orono in a rematch of the 2009 championship game. Concordia Stadium and St. Paul was the site and both teams were amped for the big game. The game opened with both teams trading goals, when Brookes Patterson emerged with a key goal that broke it open. The goals came fast for Park. Elmer added one, Casey Villagrana another, Sean Berens another. Park took a commanding lead. There was no looking back. As the final whistle blew, the celebration began.  St. Louis Park had won its second Championship. 

 2011 – The seniors that started it all

The 2011 season showcased a talented Park team that was filled with 18 seniors. Despite the talent the team struggled early, losing games in Iowa before making corrections and picking up 6 straight wins. The team then lost a tough game to Shattuck and another tough game to rival Delano before rebounding to collect 8 straight wins. In that time St. Louis Park managed to Win the Shakopee tournament and pad their stats. Park then headed up north to the Grand Rapids Shootout when in the semi-finals they again met rival Delano and in a game that seemed to seal Parks fate, Delano won convincingly 8-2. Work needed to be done. 

Park rolled past their first 2 opponents and into the quarterfinals and against an impressive Hudson team. Hudson had problems early with Parks big guns, but managed to claw back into the game in the 4th quarter. As the 4th quarter drew to a close, Hudson scored to tie the game and send it into over time. Taking a page from his older brothers playbook, Connor Shandley picked up a loose ball and drove hard to the cage. He took a couple hard slashes, but continued to drive.  He pulled back and fired, the net moved, Park had won and overtime thriller. On to the Semi-Finals. 

The Semi-finals had Park taking on Rival Delano, the top seed in the tournament. They went undefeated in league play and it looked as though this might be then end of Parks run. But the Orioles took the field with the confidence of champions and put on a show. The State’s top offense was stifled against Park’s zone defense and some key goals from Bergeron, Shandley and Sherno gave Park what they needed.   The 4th quarter Elmer added two goals and Brookes Patterson added one and Park had completed the upset. 

Park entered their 4th straight championship game. At Orono Stadium part took the field against rival Monticello. The game got away from Park early as Monticello’s Midfield proved too much for the Orioles.  As time expired Connor Shandley added a few late goals, but it was too late. Monticello would come out on top. Park would hoist the 2nd place trophy and graduate its 18 seniors. In a tearful good bye, the boys that help start the park program graduated on to become men. Park would have to reload for the 2012 season.   

2012 – The Youth Movement

With all 18 seniors from the 2011 campaign moving one, St. Louis Park Lacrosse would look very different going forward.  The high scoring offenses of 2011 and 2010 would not be the driving factor for this team to find success.  The 2012 team had a youth movement lead by Carlos Siguenza and Matt Harkema, balanced with senior captains Max Sherno and Max Arko. 

The regular season would see the Orioles play in a number of tight games.  Park would lose to rival Shattuck St. Mary 5-6 and rival Shakopee 3-4.  On the upside park would take wins from Cretin Derham Hall, St. Paul and Providence in convincing style.  Park would wrap up the season with an 11-6 record and head into the MBSLA playoffs with a #2 seed in the south. 

The opening round of the playoffs had St. Louis Park hosting offensive power-house Cretin Derham Hall.  Park would get on top in the game and never look back.  The state quarterfinal would see St. Louis park hosting the section #1 seed, St. Cloud North.  Park would come out hard and topple St. Cloud North 11-1.  Oriole Nation would fly into the state semi-finals.

The semifinal match-up was a rematch of conference rivals Shakopee and SLP.  Shakopee owned the regular season contest with a close 3-4 victory, this would be a close game.  Sean Berens had the assignment of slowing down Shakopee’s powerful star midfielder.  The offense would need to step up.  Shakopee would take a 2-0 lead in the first quarter and would continue their dominance in the second quarter.  With Shakopee up 4-1 Park would begin it’s comeback.  The goal trading would begin and the half would have park trailing 3-5.  The second half park’s defense tightened.  Park would add 2 goals and tie it.  Shakopee would add one and take a 1 goal lead into the 4th quarter.   It was in the fourth quarter that Senior LSM Sean Berens would light the lamp and score that games tying goal.    The heavens would open, the rain would start and so would over time.  Both teams would battle, no one would score despite both teams having great looks.   With the second overtime about to start, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and a rainbow stretched over St. Thomas’ stadium.   In the second overtime, the Shakopee goalie attempted to clear the ball, it was intercepted by Max Sherno.  Sherno faked high, went low and sent SLP to its 5th straight MBSLA Championship. 

The Championship would have Park taking on top ranked Delano.  In the End the Orioles would not have what it took to keep up with Delano.  Delano would win, Park would have to remain content with its second consecutive state runner-up finish.  

2013 – Record Setting Offensive Power

The 2013 season saw the return of the Carlos Siguenza / Matt Harkema combination the led park in scoring in 2012.  Add in 8th grade attackman Brody Ilstrup, midfield shooter Henry Albrecht and Reed Suess and Park would have its most dominating offensive combination ever.   Siguenza would set almost every possible SLP scoring record in route to becoming an All – American.  Harkema would score a record setting 99 goals.  The Kramer and Speicher led defense also produced solid results, park was looking like a contender early.

An early season trip to Montana had SLP’s offense well oiled.  The team started 7-0. Before losing to Hudson at home, but would rebound and quickly chalk up win after win.  The Grand Rapids Shootout would yield St. Louis Park their 100th win as a Varsity program.  Doing so with a 17-2 win over Beausejour, where SLP played with Character, Class and Integrity and won with our having a single penalty.  Dominating wins over Montiquois and Shakopee had SLP’s confidence high and the Orioles wrapped up the regular season with an 18-3 record. 

The 2013 playoff run saw SLP sail past Waconia and Montiqous and into the State Semifinal.   Their opponent would be Duluth.  The undefeated Duluth Chargers where riding the wave of their most successful season in program history.  A young Charger team representing the Northshore fell behind 8-2 in the first half and SLP rolled to their 6th consecutive MBSLA Championship game with an 11 to 7 victory. 

Park would enter their 6th  straight MBSLA championship game.  This time taking on rival Hudson.  Hudson had been the victor in the two regular season match-ups and despite a fast start by St. Louis Park their 1st half lead would slip and Hudson would win their first championship.  Park would again be Runner up, but with pride in the accomplishment.