The Prior Lake volleyball team's goal all season long is to be playing its best come playoff time.
"Our goal is to play our best volleyball at the end of the season," Lakers coach Dean said before the season. "We want to remember that the season is about growth and staying focused on our goals in practice and how we work to improve instead of focusing on outcome goals on the scoreboard."
Can the Lakers make an impact in a tough Section 2AAA field? Prior Lake put together four straight wins before suffering back-to-back losses.
Sophomore Julia Hanson had 24 kills in the Lakers' four-set South Suburban Conference home win over Rosemount Oct. 3 (27-25, 25-15, 21-25, 25-17).
Prior Lake followed with a three-set loss at No. 9-ranked Champlin Park Oct. 7 (25-7, 25-20, 25-23) and four-set defeat at Eastview the next day in league action (25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22).
The Lakers will end the regular season Oct. 15 at home versus No. 6 Shakopee in conference play at 7 p.m.
Prior Lake (9-13 overall, 4-4 in the SSC) is also in the Bachman Invitational at Lakeville North Oct. 11-12. It's a strong field with the likes of the the host Panthers, ranked No. 5, along with No. 2 Northfield, No. 4 East Ridge, No. 7 Lakeville South, No. 8 Moorhead.
Stewartville, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, is also in the field.
The Section 2AAA tournament starts Oct. 23. Shakopee (16-5), the defending champion, New Prague (16-6) and No. 10 Minnetonka (17-4) look to be the top-three seeds. Prior Lake will likely get the No. 7 or 8 seed in the 12-team field.
Other teams in the field include Waconia (12-10), Hutchinson (14-7), Eden Prairie (15-7), Chaska (9-11), Chanhassen (8-10), Mankato West (13-9), Mankato East (8-14) and Willmar (11-6).
Prior Lake is 2-3 against section teams with wins over Minnetonka and Chaska and losses to New Prague, Shakopee and Eden Prairie.
The quarterfinals are Oct. 25 with the semifinals Oct. 29. The higher seed is at home in the first three rounds. The title game is Nov. 2 at a site to be determined.
In the win over Rosemount, junior Camille Libert chipped in nine kills for Prior Lake, while senior Rachel Ring had seven. Junior Shannon Wallskog had 23 setting assists, while junior Emmy Benson had 14.
Ring and senior Dezirae Spratt each had five ace serves, while sophomore Courtney Haugen had four and Benson had two. Ring led in digs with 17, followed by Spratt with 14, Haugen with 12, Hanson with 11 and Benson with nine.
In blocks, Libert led with four, while Ring, junior Isabella Westerholm and sophomore Alex Lloyd each had three.
Against Champlin Park, Hanson had 13 kills, while Libert had eight and Ring had seven. Junior Lainey Van Hecke had 11 set assists, while Wallskog had 10. Haugen led in digs with 14, followed by Hanson with six and Spratt with five. Westerholm had two blocks.
In the loss to Eastview, Hanson had 24 kills, followed by Ring with 15. Benson had 23 assists, while Wallskog had 13.
Ring and Spratt both had three ace serves, while Benson had two. Spratt had 16 digs, while Hanson had 14 and Haugen and Ring both had nine. Westerholm had two blocks.
Dean has made some adjustments to the lineup since the start of the season. Spratt started the season as an outside hitter and is now the team's defensive specialist (libero).
Wallskog and Benson have been splitting the setting duties. Hanson continues to be the team's No. 1 option on offense, while Libert has stepped up on the outside.
Prior Lake won the Section 2AAA crown three straight years from 2014 to 2016. The team finished second, fifth and third, respectively at state those three seasons. The Lakers fell in five sets to Eagan in the title match in 2014.