The Prior Lake volleyball team couldn’t have had a tougher start to the South Suburban Conference season.
The Lakers’ first three league matches were against No. 5-ranked Lakeville South, No. 1 Eagan and No. 4 Lakeville North. It doesn’t get any tougher than that.
Prior Lake finished that stretch Sept. 17 with a three-set home loss to Lakeville North (25-20, 25-22, 25-17). The Lakers lost in four sets at home to Eagan Sept. 12 (25-15, 25-9, 23-25, 25-20) and fell in three sets at Lakeville South Sept. 10 (25-14, 25-18, 25-19).
Prior Lake faces some more tough competition in the Eagle Invitational in Apple Valley The Lakers open play versus No. 3 Wayzata Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. Action continues Sept. 21.
The field is loaded with some of the top programs in the state: Eagan, Lakeville North, Lakeville South, No. 2 Northfield, No. 6 Shakopee, No. 7 East Ridge, No. 9 Moorhead, Hopkins Eden Prairie, Stillwater, Chaska and Marshall, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A.
Prior Lake follows with SSC matches at Farmington Sept. 24 and at Burnsville Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.
In the loss to Lakeville North, sophomore Julia Hanson led the Lakers with nine kills, while adding eight digs. Senior Rachel Ring had seven kills and two ace serves, while senior Dezirae Spratt had five kills, seven digs and two aces.
Junior Lainey Van Hecke paced the offense with 19 setting assists, while Shannon Wallsklog had eight.
Sophomore Courtney Haugen had eight digs, while Van Hecke had seven. Sophomore Alex Lloyd and Hanson each had a block.
Against Eagan, Hanson led the offense with 15 kills, while adding 16 digs and three blocks. Spratt had six kills and nine digs, while Ring had eight kills and junior Isabella Westerholm had five.
Van Hecke finished with 14 setting assists, while junior Emmy Benson had 12. Haugen had two ace serves and four digs. Van Hecke recorded seven digs, while Lloyd chipped in two blocks.
Prior Lake’s final four league matches are versus Apple Valley Oct. 1, versus Rosemount Oct. 3, at Eastview Oct. 8 and home to Shakopee Oct. 15 to end the regular season.
The Lakers also have a tough non-league match Oct. 7 at No. 8 Champlin Park.
The Section 2AAA tournament starts Oct. 23 with first-round play. Quarterfinal action is Oct. 25, while the semifinals are Oct. 29. The higher seed is at home in the first three rounds. The title match is Nov. 2 at a site to be determined.
Shakopee is the defending champion. The Sabers and No. 10 Minnetonka are the only two ranked teams in the field.
This year’s Class 3A state tournament is Nov. 7-9 at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Champlin Park is the defending champion, beating Eagan in the title match last year.
Prior Lake made state three straight years from 2015 to 2017, finishing second, fifth and third respectively.