Boys’ Lacrosse Dynasty: An Oral History
January 15, 2019
Almost every sports team at Benilde St. Margaret’s expects to find success at the varsity level. For decades, some of the most dominant sports teams in the state of Minnesota formed at Benilde St. Margaret’s. Some teams, of course, surpass that expectations with numerous state championships: The football team, the boys’ hockey team, dance team, girls’ soccer team. One team has seen the most success in the past years. That team is the boys’ lacrosse team.
The Benilde-St. Margaret’s School Red Knights Lacrosse team has been one of the dominant teams in the state of Minnesota since the beginning of high school lacrosse. In fact, they won the very first Minnesota State High School League State Champions in 2007 along with winning back to back in 2010 and 2011. Recently they have fallen just short of the championship, placing runner-up 2017 and 2018.
So, what is it that has given the boys’ lacrosse team so much success? This article takes a look at what has made the lacrosse team so special over the years with first-hand accounts from past and present players, coaches, fans, and parents of players. This is the oral history of the Benilde-St. Margaret’s boys’ lacrosse dynasty. (Intro by Everett Palmer)
From lacrosse college commits to people looking for a good time, lacrosse intrigues a wide variety of students at Benilde-St. Margaret’s. Lacrosse provides a connection for student-athletes to enjoy a competitive aspect and to develop friendships. Leaders, such as current seniors Nick Carpenter and Shay Kinney Leonhardt, provide an uplift to the team with their skills and experience.
Coach Chaun Klemetsrud, Defensive Coordinator: “When Rob Horn was hired as the head coach, he reached out and asked if I wanted to be an assistant coach. Knowing that BSM has always been a special program in Minnesota lacrosse with a winning history and the opportunity to coach alongside a good friend, I accepted and will now be entering my fourth year with the team.”
Coach Rob Horn, Head Coach: “I can’t really think of why, but I think about something that someone once told me, everything I learned about life, I learned on a lacrosse field growing up. I learned to win, to lose, to compete, to work with teammates, to be humble, to cry – I learned the successful traits that I needed for the rest of my life – that doesn’t really speak to why then, but it speaks to more about why now, and why I coach. Sports can teach us many things about ourselves in that moment, but also for the future. I hope to share some of those lessons with my players along the way.”
Nick Carpenter, Varsity Lacrosse Player: “I like the sport and the competitive aspect; I like the community, and I like the coaches.”
Shay Kinney Leonhardt, Varsity Lacrosse Player: “I started playing because my brother played when he was younger, and then started playing again around 8th grade, so I decided to play.”
Quinn Ehlen, Former Player: “I picked to play lacrosse because I wasn’t good at baseball.”
Everett Palmer, Former Player: “I played lacrosse because I wanted to be with my friends.”
Buzz Williams, 2018 Alumni, Goaltender, and Senior Captain: “Another 2018 graduate, Noah Swindlehurst, convinced me to play during our American Literature class.”
Pepe Smith, Junior Midfielder: “Because it’s something I genuinely love to do. It’s good practice for me in real life to have a goal and not stop until I succeed.”
Benji Barry, Senior Player: “I really enjoy both the game itself and the team.”
Mia Sidel, Manager of Hockey Team/Super Fan: “I played lacrosse freshmen and sophomore year and had always been interested in the statistics of sports.”
Isabel Erickson, Former Boys’ Lacrosse Manager: “I have a lot of friends on the lacrosse team, and I wanted to be part of it.”
Anna Carr, Varsity Manager 2017: “It’s like a brotherhood. They’re really supportive of each other. There’s lots of respect for teammates. Most guys’ sports aren’t like this, they’re super uplifting towards each other. I had a lot of friends on the team and I was at all of the games the year before…Like a superfan.”
Isabel Erickson: “My friend was a manager and asked me if I wanted to be a manager, too, and it sounded like fun.”
Jack Keller, Starting Goalie: “Because when I play it is a completely natural experience. Lacrosse is more than just a sport for me and for our team. And I mean, why not lacrosse?”
Cradling The Mems
The BSM boys’ lacrosse team has only been around since the early 2000s and didn’t form an actual team until 2007. Since then, they have had a rollercoaster of a ride. They have brought BSM three state championships, including the first year the sport competed in the MSHSL. Even though they have come up short in recent seasons––annoyingly getting second place two years in a row––they have had a long history of being a top Minnesota team that has created many memories with each other.
Jerry Pettinger, BSM Athletic Director: “For the first two seasons, it was more just practice seasons and the kids would play for club teams, so that was probably early 2000s, then the spring of 2007 was the first MSHSL season, and we won that year.”
Rob Horn, Head Coach: “I was fortunate enough to have coached here during the early part of my coaching career, and nothing ever really came close to what the BSM community feels like.”
Shay Kinney Leonhardt, Current Player and Captain: “My favorite memory would probably be when we beat Eden Prairie my sophomore year on a goal by Jack VanOverbeke after three overtimes.”
Pepe Smith, Current Player: “I was on the team the past two years in which we went to the State Championship. Each time after losing, it is truly heartbreaking. Coming to the realization that the seniors’ high school careers are done, and that I wouldn’t be playing with them again hits hard. At the same time, we all celebrate our success of the season as a whole, and how far we’ve grown as a family.”
Buzz Williams, Former Player and Captain: “We went to the State Finals my junior and senior year. I loved every moment of them. It made my season at least another month longer to spend time with the guys I care for more than anyone else. I wish we could have won at least one year because I feel an emptiness that to this day still gets to me.”
Quinn Ehlen, Former Player: “I had a great experience last year. It was a successful season despite the loss, and I loved every minute spent with my team.”
Everett Palmer, Former Player: “My favorite memory was the team trips to North Carolina, beating Eden Prairie sophomore year and the whole state run sophomore year.”
Christian Horn, Former Captain and Player: “[My favorite memory is] definitely winning the two State Championships.”
The way athletes prepare before games is essential to the way they play, and that is no different for the boys’ lacrosse team. After the team goes to the Chapel for team prayer, about half of the team will be slumped somewhere around campus while the other half plays wall ball in the Haben Center. For away games, they have silent bus rides to games to get in the zone, mentally preparing for whatever could come next.
Shay Kinney Leonhardt, D3 Commit: “I myself just think about my matchups and some of the plays we ran through and film we watched. The team has its own rituals, but those are just for the team to know about.”
Rob Horn, Head Coach: “We really don’t try to make the game bigger than what it is, a game. We have certain way we go about our prep, our play, so that’s what we tend to focus on more than anything. I try not to go too far down the moving pregame speech hole, but I do often remind them about what is important.”
Isabel Erickson, Varsity Manager 2018: “Before the games we lay out their sticks as they run and give them emotional support.”
Anna Carr, Varsity Manager 2018: “We were there to encourage the boys more than anything. They would hear us, but obviously we can’t relate because we’re not part of the brotherhood aspect of it. All we could do is tell them that they got it.”
Coach Chaun Klemetsrud, Defensive Coordinator: “[I prepare for games by] watching a lot of game film, opponents and our own. We’re looking for tendencies and patterns within team schemes as well as individual match-ups. ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.’ – Sun Tzu.”
Energy Flows Through the Air
Once the game starts, there is nothing but constant energy throughout the entire 48 minutes of the game clock running. The lacrosse players always radiate good vibes of hard work, determination, and a drive to get better. On and off the field, BSM lacrosse players are known for the respectfulness throughout the lacrosse community. BSM likes to keep this rep also while playing their best game and destroying teams left and right. The fans that attend the lacrosse games also have a lot to do with the team and their energy. The Red Knights not only play for their school but the fans and each other during every game.
Anna Carr, Varsity Manager: “Every game they played was to better themselves. They hated losing. The coaches were hard on them like with love though. The team was passionate. They all shared a team energy.”
Coach Chuan Klemetsrud, Defensive Coordinator: “Whether it is a win or a loss the team does a good job of not dwelling on the previous outcome. There are always things to improve upon no matter the result and the team comes ready to work the next day to get better.”
Isabel Erickson, Former Boys’ Lacrosse Manager: “They are very humble whether they win or lose. They wait until they get on the bus to show their emotion.”
Nancy Lothenbach, Parent and Fan: “Parents are super excited and involved I think that’s one of the most fun things that I’ve met some really great parents sitting in the fan section.”
Molly & Ron Kinney Leonhardt, Parents: “Positive. Parents are very friendly with each other, and there is a candy bowl that parents pass around during the game which makes the parents feel more welcomed to the BSM lacrosse team.”
Shay Kinney Leonhardt, Midfield Player: “Get a lot of fans out to the games! Lacrosse is such a fun sport to watch, and I know if they would just give it a chance they would love it. We should be able to crush a lot of teams this year so it will be a good show for sure.”
Buzz Williams, 2018 Alumni, Goaltender, and Senior Captain: “I would say it’s about as dangerous as any other sport. As a goaltender, you will get bruises constantly from shots hitting your body, but those go away quickly. I have been injured a few times. My worst injury was in winter league right before my senior season. I began to run the ball out of the crease, and I was cross checked in the back of the head, which knocked my helmet off of my head, and knocked me to the ground. I woke up a few seconds later to my teammates surrounding me. I had a pretty significant concussion, but I was able to recover.”
Nancy Lothenbach: “Games are fast moving and fun.”
Rob Horn, Head Coach: I don’t think we tend to dwell on either one too much, to be honest. Our season is so short, so no matter the outcome we are usually leaving the sideline prepping for the next one. Clearly, after big wins, we leave with a bigger smile.”
Each team has its own energy whether it be calm, fierce, or competitive, but the BSM boys’ lacrosse team brings their own unique energy to every game and practice. This group of competitive individuals focuses on the importance of protecting each other and playing the game they love most. Through hard work, passion, and team camaraderie, the Red Knights display true teamwork day in and day out. Training together at the dome, hosting team dinners, and supporting each other before games builds this team’s chemistry. Through the triumphant victories and defeating losses, the team manages to stay humble and connected while growing as teammates and lacrosse players.
Coach Chaun Klemetsrud, Defensive Coordinator: “[The culture of the team is] hardworking, our guys play for one another. We have a culture where everyone is held accountable to certain standards and to play for something greater than themselves.”
Tucker Turrittin, Big Time Player: “Everyone comes in with a common goal, which is being the best year in and year out. Because truly we are a bunch of hard workers.”
Isabel Erickson, Former Boys’ Lacrosse Manager: “The support they give each other is like no other. You don’t have to be on the team to see how connected they are.”
Benji Barry, Highly Experienced Player: “In the off season [we] make sure to go to Dome sessions and listen to the older players; they’re there to help.”
Rob Horn, Head Coach: “Its a special relationship our players share with one another, and we really drive home the importance of having a relationship with your team. I think they would say we are a big part of that, but I don’t know if it’s really my focus as much on them supporting one another. They know we (coaches and staff) are here for them, we’ll make sacrifices for them just like we ask them to do for us. It’s a special bond.”
Isabel Erickson: “The energy of the team and how they boost each other up keeps them going.”
Tucker Turrittin: “Oh and here is a quote. A hot take. We’re winners. And winners win.”
Quinn Ehlen, Former Player: “The team is gonna bring it home soon.”
Christian Horn, Former Player and Captain: “It’s a little hard to explain. There were probably a lot of teachers rolling their eyes at us with the swagger we kind of walked with, but at the same time, we had earned it. We were on top of the lacrosse world in Minnesota, there really is no other way around it.”
All great sports teams have rivals, BSM boys’ lacrosse is no different. Since BSM has been a top team for the past 11 years, teams always give their best when given the opportunity to play this historically successful team. Be it because of a particular moment, game, or goal, there has always been a reason for teams to resent BSM lacrosse and their success. One of BSM’s greatest rivals, Blake, dates back to the beginning of the sport, and since head coach Rob Horn left BSM to coach the neighboring school, the feud hasn’t fizzled.
Tommy Forsha, Eagan Starting Attacker: “We are always playing a hard an intense game against Benilde because we know how good they are, and it challenges us to play our best game.”
Dakota Johnson, Blake LSM: “BSM has beaten us a lot the last few times; we have competed against them, but regardless our rivalry has lasted a while.”
Coach Chaun Klemetsrud, Defensive Coordinator: “Each team we play offers unique challenges, but I love the rivalry we have with Blake. Whether its home or away the stands are packed with fans matching the same intensity we’re playing with on the field.”
Dakota Johnson: “When we get to play BSM we always get big crowds and a super high intense game because usually it’s a Section game and both teams know they need a win.”
Tucker Turrittin, Current Captain: “When we play Blake, we’re playin’ em. Ya know what I mean? Like really playing them.”
Tommy Forsha: “During the State game, the tension was super tight, and everyone was looking for a win and both of our teams were nervous.”
Christian Horn, Former Player and Captain: “What was also special for me was playing Blake. My older brother, who is now the head coach at BSM again, was at Blake. For three years, either we were #1, and they were #2 or vice versa, those games were a lot of fun.”
Chasing Number Four
All the BSM Lacrosse program has ever known is success. Since its creation in 2007, the Varsity Lacrosse team has never had a losing season. After competing in the past two straight State Championships and falling short, the star power for this team is unmatchable. With five future collegiate players returning to the team, there is optimism for another return to the State Championship game. Even though they lost fourteen players last year, they have many young, talented guys who are willing to step up the the challenge. Led by head coach Rob Horn, who has a lot of experience, this upcoming season will be yet another championship contending season.
Quinn Ehlen, Former Player: “I think that the Red Knights will have another strong season. With Rob Horn as the coach and many skilled players returning, I see another successful season.”
Buzz Williams, Former Player: “The team will bounce back in a huge way. The young talent we had in previous seasons are getting older, and they are absolutely ready to win a State Title. Jack VanOverbeke, Seamus Foley, Matthew Dowden, Jack Budniewski, Jack Keller, and many others are an elite force on the field.”
Matthew Dowden, Current Player: “I expect we will have one of the best teams in the state again this year. We are ranked third in the state in pre-season polls. We lost 14 players from last year, but we are bringing back a lot of very skilled players.”
Benji Barry, Current Player: “I think we will be fine. We lost a lot of talent and that always sucks, but I have faith that we’ll be able to manage.”
Nick Carpenter, Current player: “Going to State was awesome, and I thought we were going to win, but when we lost, it was really hard. Knowing that all season the work was for nothing. Then that day, I decided that it wasn’t going to happen again, and that all season I was going to work so next year it wouldn’t happen.”
Matthew Dowden, Current Player: “Our starting attack line led by Jack VanOverbeke should be together for the next two years, which is huge in lacrosse. Our defense led by recent Georgetown commit Seamus Foley and recent RIT commit Tucker Turrittin should be stellar, our midfield led by recent Hamilton commit Shay Kinney Leonhardt is stacked with great athletes; our starting goalie Jack Keller is like a Jedi Knight, and with recent Holy Cross commit Jack Budniewski, we have the best face-off guy in the state.”
Buzz Williams, Former Player: “I have two suggestions for them: don’t worry about how you failed, make the next play; and don’t take a single moment for granted.”
Shay Kinney Leonhardt, Current Player: “I have really high hopes for this year. I don’t wanna say anything too prematurely but I think we could be as good as or better than last year’s team.”
Anna Carr, Varsity Manager in 2017:”I think they’ll go far this year. It’s a totally different team than last year. They’ll have to try harder than last year too.”
Nick Carpenter, Current Player: “Through hard work and dedication the team will recover from the loss and the seniors that we lost as well we will just need to become stronger as a unit and work as a unit not as individuals if we can achieve that then we will be successful.”
Quinn Ehlen, Former Player: “I have seen the BSM lacrosse program at its worst, but I know that the Red Knights are becoming a dynasty-like program. The traditions of the BSM lacrosse team is one of success.”
Jack Keller, Current Player: “The future for our team is something for the books, wait to see it.”
Buzz Williams, Former Player: “I did talk to a few different colleges in high school, but I decided my education was much more important.”
Tucker Turrittin, Current Player: “Not a main part of my decision, but for sure part of it. I just didn’t want to go to a ‘garbage lacrosse school.’”
Pepe Smith, Current Player: What do you think will change? Our team has a lot of talent, especially in the younger kids. We just need to continue to develop our play as a team together.
Buzz Williams, Former Player: “I think maybe a league after college just for fun, but I don’t think I would try anything uber difficult.”
Any team needs to have great players to be successful. Over the years, the BSM lacrosse team has seen many great players. Each one brings their own personal attributes to the team to give them success: some of them contributed their outstanding athletic abilities, some were leaders who helped the team face any adversity they faced, and some just brought the team comical relief when they needed it most.
Jerry Pettinger, Athletic Director: “Bo Mlnarik was one of the first players I remember to play on two state championship teams in the same year because he was on the boys’ soccer team and the lacrosse team that won State in 2006-07.”
Pepe Smith, Junior Midfielder: “Favorite player to be on a team with was definitely Brian Arnold or Johnny Brask. My freshmen year, Brian was a senior and always jokingly bullied me in practice, and it helped me ease my nervousness, which I’m sure wasn’t his intention. Johnny Brask was a senior last year and has been friends with me since I played in a few B squad games in the summer going into my freshmen year. Love the kid.”
Christian Horn, Former Player: “Bailey Dodds, Sean O’Toole, Taylor Touposis, Christian Rekow, Peter Schubloom, Ryan Lawyer, Adam Clark, Thomas Gilligan, Will Hoesly, Chase Mlnarik, Joe Pettinger, Jack Naughtin, Luke McCormick… Truth be told we didn’t have a real weak spot in our lineup.”
Everett Palmer, Former Player: “Quinn Ehlen, Buzz Williams (both graduated last year) and Ben Scherer (graduated two years ago) definitely were the biggest leaders since the coach Horn era in my opinion.”
Matthew Dowden, Current Player: “I would say the backbone of our team last year was our goalie, Buzz Williams. Statistically, he was the best goalie in the state, and having him between the pipes gave us the confidence that we could beat anyone.”
Jack Keller, Starting Goalie: “Buzz was my top player from last year; it was amazing to look up to him and learn under his leadership. I learned a lot from him. He was a beast in the net.”