The Prior Lake volleyball team held on to earn its first South Suburban Conference win of the season Sept. 20.
The Lakers won the first two sets at home against Burnsville (25-18, 25-15), dropped the next two (25-23, 25-21), before winning the decisive fifth set (15-9).
Prior Lake (4-7 overall, 1-2 in the SSC) went into the match losing a pair league road matches to ranked teams. The Lakers fell in four sets (25-20, 20-25, 26-24, 25-23) at No. 9 Rosemount Sept. 12 and lost in three sets (26-24, 25-18, 25-18) at No. 3 Lakeville North Sept. 14.
Prior Lake won 15 matches last fall and graduated seven seniors from that squad, including Julia Hanson, who was the Ms. Baden Award winner last year as the top senior in the state.
Hanson is now on the Division I court at the University of Minnesota, leaving Prior Lake as the program’s all-time leader in kills with 1,492. Her 537 kills last season were a single-season record for the Lakers.
Senior Kaia Harvey was one of the top returning players for the Lakers, but she suffered a knee injury and looks to be out for the season. She had a team-best 11 kills in the loss to Rosemount and was leading team with 87 kills through the first 10 matches.
Junior Liz Coleman was second on the Lakers in kills through 10 matches with 37. Behind her, Prior Lake will need some of its younger players to step up with Harvey out.
Juniors Kayla Ahlstrom and Julia Thoms, sophomores Greta Tompkins, Marin Harvey and Elli Tufto and senior Micayla Meyers will have to do a little more if the Lakers want to be competitive come playoff time.
“The team has a lot of talent and potential to be competitive,” Lakers coach Mike Dean said. “Many people are new to their roles and the varsity level, so it will take some time to come together and learn what it takes to be successful at the varsity level in our conference, metro and state.
“We are looking forward to a lot of growth from all of our players in the short high school season,” Dean added.
Junior Ella Joesting was leading Prior Lake in set assists through 10 matches with 132, while sophomore Catalina Connell had 79. Ninth-grader Sidney Burley had a team-best 143 digs through 10 matches, while Tompkins had a team-high 20 blocks and Tufto had 16.
“Defensively, I think we have the ability to stay in rallies and transition from defense to offense,” Dean said.
The SSC is a tough place to rebuild. Three teams in the league are ranked, including No. 7 Lakeville South. Eagan opened the season ranked No. 5, but has since fell out of the top 10.
In Section 2AAAA, sixth-ranked Chaska is the only team ranked in the seven-team field. However, Eden Prairie is the defending champion.
Minnetonka, Chanhassen, Waconia and Shakopee are also in the field. Prior lake lost in the first round of section play last year, falling in five sets to Minnetonka.
The regular season ends for Prior Lake Oct. 19 at home against Shakopee in an SSC match. The first round of section play starts Oct. 25 with the quarterfinals.
The semifinals are Oct. 27 and the title game is Nov. 2. The higher seed is at home all three rounds.
The Class 4A state tournament will be Nov. 9-12 at the Xcel Energy in St. Paul. Second-ranked Wayzata is the defending champion.
Prior Lake won three straight Section 2AAA titles from 2015 to 2017, but have a 1-3 playoff mark since then. Volleyball went to four classes last fall.