Julia Hanson

Prior Lake senior Julia Hanson may become the school’s all-time leader in kills this season.

The Prior Lake volleyball team has the talent to contend in the highly competitive South Suburban Conference and in Section 2AAAA this fall.

The Lakers could have a strong offensive attack, which will be led by senior Julia Hanson. She begins the season needing just 41 kills to become Prior Lake’s all-time leader.

Hanson would have set that mark last season, but the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t let it happen. The Lakers’ season started late and the team played only 12 matches.

There was no postseason either. Prior Lake finished 6-6 overall and Hanson had a team-best 212 kills and 30 ace serves.

“Offensively, we will feel like we have some kids that can really cause problems for the other team,” Coach Mike Dean said. “Defensively, our front row can be disruptive. That said, ultimately our success will come down to tough, consistent serving and strong ball control.

“If we have those two things working for us, our ability to compete increases dramatically,” Dean added.

Hanson entered the season with 955 kills for her career, which was 40 behind Ella Francis, the program’s all-time leader. Hanson will also be looking to break Francis’ school record for kills in a season, which is 473 set in 2015.

Hanson is off to a good start. She had 20 kills in the Lakers’ season opener Aug. 27, which turned out to be a 3-0 loss (27-25, 25-17, 25-23) to No. 3-ranked East Ridge.

Other Lakers back from last season include seniors Alex Lloyd, Courtney Haugen and Taylor Hennen and junior Kaia Harvey.

Haugen and sophomore Ella Joesting led the Lakers in digs versus East Ridge with nine apiece, while Hanson had seven. Joesting led in set assists with 13, while ninth-grader Catalina Connell had 10.

Senior Sophie Gardner led in blocks with four, while Hanson had three. Connell and sophomore Liz Coleman each had two ace serves. Senior Sierra Washington chipped in four kills.

Prior Lake opens the conference season Sept. 14 versus Rosemount. The SSC had five ranked teams in the Class 4A preseason poll — No. 2 Eagan, No. 4 Lakeville North, No. 5 Lakeville South, No. 6 Shakopee and the No. 10 Lakers.

The Minnesota State High School League reclassified sections for all sports last spring. Volleyball went to four classes and the Lakers are in Section 2AAAA with familiar schools, Shakopee, No. 7 Chaska, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Waconia and Chanhassen.

Prior Lake won three straight Section 2AAA titles from 2015 to 2017. The last three seasons the program has been in more of a rebuilding mode.

The Lakers have a 31-40 record over the last three years, 15-15 against South Suburban Conference teams.

“The new section is an exciting opportunity,” Dean said. “We know all of those opponents from our previous section, but with only seven teams, it is a quick section run. Any of the teams in our section could come out of it and it will really depend on who is playing well at playoff time.

“Our overall performance goal is to play our best volleyball at the end of the season,” Dean added. “We believe we can be competitive against anybody, but how we grow as a team will really determine how successful we can be this season.”

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.