The Prior Lake girls swimming team has the depth and some talent back to contend for another South Suburban Conference title this fall.
But can the Lakers make a bigger impact in the Section 2AA pool? Section realignment last April will make that much more difficult for coach Katie Haycraft’s squad.
The Section 2AA field now includes perennial power Edina, winners of the last four Class AA state team titles, along with Minnetonka, Eden Prairie, Chanhassen, Chaska, Shakopee and Bloomington Jefferson.
“We have an incredibly talented team this year and I cannot wait to watch what they are going to accomplish,” Haycraft said. “We have been working hard both in and out of the pool. The girls are motivated to hopefully win another SSC championship.
“Our main goal is to continue to build a strong team bond and have a pool full of young women who want to work hard together and who will support and encourage one another,” Haycraft added.
The Lakers have won three straight SSC titles, going 27-0 in duals in that span. Prior Lake opened this fall with a 105-75 league win over Lakeville South Sept. 2.
Prior Lake won all three relays in the season opener. Senior Brooke Bauer, juniors Maria Soria and Lauren Moeller and ninth-grader Alex Peterson teamed up to win the 200 medley with a time of 1:53.84.
Soria, senior Abby Mattila, ninth-grader Ivy Solt and junior Zella Lucas won the 200 freestyle (1:45.45), while Moeller, Lucas, Solt and Bauer won the 400 freestyle (3:46.44).
Lucas won both the 200 freestyle (1:57.21) and the 500 freestyle (5:15.90) for Prior Lake, while junior Izzy Ondracek won the 200 individual medley (2:16.93).
Moeller captured the 50 freestyle (25.31) and the 100 backstroke (1:02.51), while Peterson was tops in the 100 freestyle (54.93).
Seniors Grace Netz, Kaia Gastony, Kylie Thompson and Gray Walker are also back for the Lakers this fall, along with sophomore Halle Nelson. Sophomores Gabi Sentryz and Karlee Salmela and juniors Lillian McRoberts and Kylie Loehlein are also expected to contribute.
Thompson is part of the diving group with sophomore Anna Cundiff and juniors Sophia Church and Kiera Priebe.
Last fall, the COVID-19 pandemic made many SSC duals virtual competitions, and there was no state meet.
“Last year, it was very challenging to virtually compete against other strong SSC teams,” Haycraft said. “The girls thrive on those close races and the loud atmosphere. We are really looking forward to having those things back.
“We have graduated some big classes the last few years, so we are excited to see so much new and young talent out this year,” Haycraft added. “It’s fun watching the girls all get to know each other better and build a tight knit family.”
Last fall, Prior Lake would have qualified two individuals for the Class AA state, but both were seniors. The Lakers were third in the Section 2AA team standings behind Minnetonka and Eden Prairie.
Prior Lake’s final SSC dual this fall will be Oct. 26 against Apple Valley. The Section 2AA competition will be held Nov. 10-12.
This year’s Class AA state competition is set for Nov. 18-20 at its annual site, the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center.