The Prior Lake softball team will begin a new era this spring.
Erika Smyth will take over the Lakers’ program from Kelsey Anderson, who spent two seasons guiding the team. Prior Lake had a 14-8 overall mark (12-5 in the South Suburban Conference) last season under Anderson.
The COVID-19 pandemic completely wiped out Anderson’s first season as coach in 2020.
Smyth, a Washington state native, is eager to take on the challenges of becoming a high school coach. This will be her first time coaching at that level, although she’s familiar with the talent since she’s the director of softball at Starters Sports Training in Burnsville.
“I have wanted to enter into the high school coaching ranks for quite some time now and I’m thrilled and honored to begin my career here as a Laker,” said Smyth, who has been the head coach of the Starters’ 16U team in the summer.
Smyth was standout at the University of Minnesota from 2012 to 2015. She was part of the Gophers’ first Big Ten championship squad in 15 years in 2014. That team also won the Gophers’ first-ever Division I regional championship, making their first-ever super regional appearance.
Smyth started 110 career games for the Gophers at second base. She posted a 1.000 fielding percentage in 2014. She’s also the only Gopher softball player in history to win back-to-back Teammate of the Year awards in 2014 and 2015.
Her experience with the Gophers and with Starters Sports Training have more than prepared her to take over the Lakers’ program.
“(Those experiences) have truly molded me into who I am as a person and professional today,” Smyth said. “I value my experiences as a former softball athlete and know that it has helped me connect and understand the young women I’m privileged to work with — whether it be as a former high school athlete, competing at the college level or being a great teammate when facing adversity.
“My passion for the sport of softball is something that clearly cannot be denied and I’m lucky enough to feel rejuvenated daily by working full time in the sport at Starters with some incredibly intelligent women and men by my side,” Smyth added. “From a program standpoint, I’ll be bringing a lot of my player development and program-best practices over to Prior Lake.
“As a head coach, I’ve been coaching for over a decade and I feel prepared and confident moving into the high school sector of the sport, especially with such great softball minds around to support me.”
Smyth will inherit a Prior Lake program that has had some success over the years. Under former coach Matt Haefner, who Anderson replaced, Prior Lake had a record of 123-46 in his seven seasons as coach.
Haefner stepped down after the 2019 season. He led the Lakers to a runner-up finish at state in 2013. He had a 23-13 overall record in the playoffs and won one SSC title in 2018.
“Entering this season, I see a group of fantastic young athletes and seasoned veterans who have the full capability to compete and win ball games against any team they face,” Smyth said. “My goal for each individual athlete at Prior Lake is to continue to build off their skillset and softball knowledge they already possess and empower these young women to take ownership of their development.
“One of my goals for our varsity team is to create a positive environment where accountability, hard work, competition and fun lead the way,” Smyth added.