The Prior Lake girls tennis team expects to be title contenders once again this fall.

The Lakers have ruled the South Suburban Conference for the last eight years, winning seven league titles in that span. Prior Lake should again be in the hunt for another crown, but what about in Section 2AA?

Minnetonka, winner of 10 of the last 12 Section 2AA titles, has beaten the Lakers in the section final the last two seasons, winning 6-1 last year and 4-3 the year before.

Prior Lake made five straight Class AA state appearances from 2012 to 2016, winning the Section 2AA crown in 2015 and 2016 and the Section 3AA championship from 2012 to 2014.

"We should be in the running for another conference championship, but the competition will be strong," Lakers coach P.J. Priest said. "If we can put together a strong doubles lineup, we can compete with anyone."

The Lakers finished 16-6 overall last year (9-0 in the SSC). Since 2011, Prior Lake has lost just once conference match, and that was to Eagan in 2016. The Lakers are 70-1 in league play over the last eight seasons.

Senior Nic Keller and junior Kelly Wu are expected to lead the Lakers' singles lineup this fall. Eighth-graders Tiana Houske and Ella Joesting, junior Katlyn Lam and senior Gabby Betzold are also back after getting some varsity time last year.

Junior Sydney Danielson and ninth-grader Alyssa Lam are also expected to contribute to the varsity.

"The rest of the team is yet to be determined," Priest said.

Priest's program is not short on numbers. He had 70 players come out for the high school team.

"We had 70 girls tryout for 44 spots, so we had to cut this year," Priest said. "We always try not to cut, but the numbers have just gotten so large. Of those 70 girls, only three are seniors.

"We should have a young but strong team," added Priest.

Prior Lake will open the season Aug. 20 in a quadrangular competition at Mounds View at 8:30 a.m. Princeton and St. Michael-Albertville will also be there.

The Lakers open the SSC season Aug. 22 at home versus Lakeville North at 3:45 p.m. Prior Lake is home to Eagan in league play Aug. 27 at 4 p.m.

Prior Lake is at Eden Prairie, a Section 2AA foe, Aug. 28.

The Lakers will face some top competition, including Minnetonka, in the Edina Invitational Sept. 7 at 8 a.m. Blake, Eastview, Hopkins, Mounds View and Rochester Mayo are in the field.

Eastview is expected to be one of the top challengers for Prior Lake in the SSC.

Prior Lake has had a lot of success at state the last three years in doubles play. Last year, Keller and then-senior Charlotte Bowles were the state runner-ups. In 2017, Bowles and Taylor Jackson won the state doubles crown, as did Jackson and Savanna Crowell in 2016.

The Lakers have had at least two doubles teams at state the past three seasons. Wu and Houske also competed at state last year.

This year's Class AA state team tournament is scheduled for Oct. 22-23 at the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis. The singles and doubles tournaments are the next two days.

Edina has won the last two state team championships and 22 of the last 23. The Lakers were state runner-up to Edina in both 2014 and 2015. Prior Lake was also fifth at state in 2016, fourth in 2013 and third in 2012.

Tom Schardin covers sports for Savage and Prior Lake. He is dependable, sarcastic and always joking around. Tom enjoys running and swimming and is often busy coaching his two kids' sports teams.

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