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Yoshida, Del Toro grow into All-Americans

East Ridge junior Alina Del Toro will compete in the Brine National Lacrosse Classic in Maryland from June 30 to July 3. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
East Ridge sophomore Megan Yoshida will compete in the Brine National Lacrosse Classic in Maryland from June 30 to July 3. (Submitted photo) 2 / 2

On the same day, East Ridge sophomore Megan Yoshida and junior Alina Del Toro had the opposite problem.

Del Toro was trying to call her parents, who were out of town, but couldn’t get them to answer.

“I was like ‘mom, dad, answer!’” She said.

Meanwhile, Yoshida was at a friend’s cabin as her parents were trying to call her, but she didn’t have service.

But soon enough Del Toro was able to get through to her parents and Yoshida’s parents got ahold of her and the news was delivered to all.

Both Del Toro and Yoshida had been chosen to compete for the Midwest team in the 2014 Brine National Lacrosse Classic in Maryland.

“When I found out, I was really excited,” Yoshida said.

Del Toro and Yoshida were key pieces on the East Ridge girls lacrosse team that ended its season in the Section 4 final earlier this month. And the two remain teammates throughout the summer as they play for Minnesota Elite club lacrosse.

That’s where the girls heard about the tryouts for Brine.

“Throughout the club world it’s known as something big to shoot for, but throughout high school teams, a lot of people don’t know about it,” Yoshida said. “I think in the club world it’s definitely something a lot of girls shoot for and we’re really proud.”

The club world is where Del Toro and Yoshida have blossomed from inexperienced beginners to talented prospects with collegiate futures.

Yoshida started to play the game in seventh grade, while Del Toro didn’t pick up the sport until she was in ninth grade.

Two years later, Del Toro is Division I bound. In February, she signed to play at Niagara University in New York.

“Alina has improved 200-fold [in two years],” Minnesota Elite Director Maria Slusser said. “When she came to us she was pretty raw, and then she took to everything we offered and I know she worked hard through her high school program and she became this out of no where. … She showed us she’s a force.”

Yoshida’s future appears bright as well. Though she can’t be directly contacted by Division I programs until September 1, per NCAA rules, she was invited to the Northstar Invitational -- which invites the top 150 girls lacrosse players in the U.S. and Canada -- in Lake Placid in late July. Slusser said the event is basically a collegiate recruiting showcase.

“She will and can play collegiately,” Slusser said. “She’s looking for super-high academic school as well as a top lacrosse program.”

Still, despite their achievements, accolades and bright futures in lacrosse, both girls said they are still constantly absorbing new things about the sport. After all, they’re still relatively new to the sport..

“Every second you have a stick in your hand you’re learning something new for sure,” Yoshida said. “Especially in our area in Minnesota.”

That raw potential, along with supreme athleticism, is what Slusser said so many collegiate coaches find intriguing about many players on her Minnesota Elite club -- including Del Toro and Yoshida.

But those learning curves are sped up when the girls head out east to play other club teams in the summer.

“The competition is just crazy [out there],” Del Toro said. “You go out there one weekend and then you come back and you’re like ‘how did I get this good?’ But it’s just playing against that good of competition.”

The competition is superior out east because the sport is well-established there, while it’s still developing in the Midwest. Slusser compared lacrosse in the Northeast to hockey in Minnesota.

“So when we go out east, we’re in shell shock, we get beaten up a little bit and we play a more physical game and a more skilled game,” she said.

The difference in the level of competition in the two regions makes Yoshida and Del Toro’s Midwest squad a bit of an underdog at the Brine Classic, but don’t expect Yoshida and Del Toro to back down to the more experienced competitors.

“Midwest is, as they say, a ‘non-traditional area,’” Yoshida said. “So I think there will be a lot of competition when go out and play the east coast teams like Baltimore area again, and I’m hoping there will be a lot of college coaches there looking at us and it will be really good competition.”