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Woodbury resident Caroline Cayot competed for Team Minnesota at last week’s Brine National Lacrosse Classic in Maryland. (Submitted photo)

Early Riser: Cayot selected for Brine as a freshman

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Team Minnesota’s girls lacrosse team wasn’t suppose to pose much of a threat at the Brine National Lacrosse Classic last week in Maryland.

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The All-American crew from the “non-traditional” state was supposed to bow aside to the powers from the Northeast.

That didn’t happen.

Minnesota upset goliath Maryland 9-8 early in the week en route to securing a spot in the playoffs.

“The look of shock and fear on those people’s faces was probably the best reward you could get for playing hard,” Woodbury resident and Team Minnesota member Caroline Cayot said, adding it was clear people perceived her squad as underdogs heading into the week.

And that wasn’t the end of it. The girls from Minnesota took down Syracuse in the quarterfinals to advance to the semis before finally falling to Long Island to end a magical run. Minnesota advanced the furthest of any team in the tournament not from the Northeast.

“We shocked a lot of people,” Cayot, a Hill-Murray sophomore-to-be, said. “It was very cool to be able to represent Minnesota. … It was probably the strongest team I’ve ever played on.”

Minnesota’s run of success was about as unexpected as Cayot’s placement on the team to begin with -- at least to her.

Cayot was a star for Hill-Murray as a freshman, leading the Pioneers in points. Still, When she participated in the Team Minnesota tryouts months ago, it wasn’t with designs on making the team.

“I did not expect to make it at all,” she said. “I thought it’d be a really great experience to go and tryout. Almost my whole 2017 team tried out, and we went we said we’re going to give it our all on the tryout and make it more competitive.”

Shortly after, Cayot was informed she had made the squad. She was the only 2017 grad to do so.

“I was extremely excited when I heard,” she said. “Making it was a surreal moment. It was definitely an honor.”

Maria Slusser, Cayot’s Minnesota Elite club coach, thinks Cayot made the squad at such a young age for two reasons -- one, her ability to feed potential scorers from behind the net and two, her leadership abilities.

Having a leader as mature and composed as Cayot is “amazing” at such a young age, Slusser said.

Slusser said being selected for Brine as a 2017 grad was a huge feather in Cayot’s cap.

But Cayot hopes the experience wasn’t a one-time ordeal.

Cayot said she spent a good portion of last week learning from everything that was said and done on the field. She called the event “a really cool experience.”

“I think it was probably unlike any other tournament, because everybody there is extremely talented and it’s definitely the best of the best from each region and you see so much skill, not only do you learn from playing with each other, but you learn from watching the other team.” she said. “Every shift on the field, every time you’re out there, there’s a mistake you made or something that you observe from other teammates.”

Cayot said she thinks she gets better everytime she steps onto the field. Slusser said that’s partially because Cayot is “incredibly coachable.”

“She comes to practice wanting to get better, wanting to learn,” Slusser said. “As a result of that, she has improved so much.”

Now, Slusser said the next step for Cayot is to take the lessons she learned from Brine and incorporate them into her play moving forward. She said Cayot will “play differently” following her Brine experience.

Cayot said one of the lessons she learned was the importance of ball movement when you get into the higher levels of competition, where defensive play is so strong within each squad.

“The faster you move the ball, the more you work with your team,” she said. “I would say no matter how good you are, when you’re there, you can’t do it alone.”

Cayot said ball movement was a strength for the squad of Minnesotans. She said the team gelled early in the week, making it easy to work with one another. That type of team chemistry was clearly missing within other regions, as Cayot said teammates on opposing teams were having to call out to one another by jersey numbers, as they didn’t know each other’s names.

“We knew how each other played and we knew how to play together,” Cayot said.

The other thing Cayot said was evident still needed work was her stick handling. That’s something Slusser said is common in the Midwest, as players are behind with their stick play because they start playing well after girls from the Northeast grip sticks.

“You can do more in a game if you can do more with your stick,” Slusser said. “All she needs to do is keep a stick in her hand.”

Cayot, who will be just a sophomore this fall at Hill-Murray, has plenty of time to work the minor kinks out of her game before heading to the next level. But she might not have quite as much time to figure out where exactly she’ll be going for that next level.

Cayot said she “definitely” wants to play collegiate lacrosse, but also wants to attend a prestigious academic institution.

With her high school graduation still three years away, it may seem like Cayot has plenty of time to make a collegiate decision. But she said that’s not the case. She’s already made pit stops at various colleges to check them out while in the area for tournaments or camps.

“For lacrosse it’s never too early, because they recruit really young,” she said.

How young? Cayot said Vanderbilt, one of the schools she is interested in, will be recruiting its 2017 class, Cayot’s class, this fall.

Cayot said many recruits commit before their junior years of high school, when they can actually take official visits to schools. She also said it would be nice to commit early and get that decision out of the way. Cayot’s already had a few inquiries from interested schools.

“That’s why it’s important for me to keep my eye open for colleges to figure out what I want,” she said. “Then you start to figure out what you do and don’t want in a school, and you’re able to use that to sift through the college inquiries that you do get and figure out which is the right school for you.”

Still, regardless of when she makes her collegiate choice, Cayot has a lot of prep lacrosse in front of her. She said hopes to be selected for Brine again in the next couple of years, potentially to take on more of a leadership role with Team Minnesota.

“I think it would be really awesome to come back to the future, being a veteran of the competition and being able to help the younger girls deal with the pressure and take full advantage of the opportunity,” she said.

Really, Cayot seems up for anything that allows her to spend more time on the field. Slusser said college coaches are always looking for girls that have a true love for lacrosse, something she sees in Cayot from “the moment she steps out onto the field.”

“She’s got a bright future,” Slusser said.

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