Tianna Houske

Sophomore Tianna Houske will be one of Prior Lake’s top singles players this fall.

Can the Prior Lake girls tennis team be a factor in the South Suburban Conference and in Section 2AA?

The Lakers have a young group, and the SSC and Section 2AA are usually loaded with strong teams so it won’t be easy. But Prior Lake has some talent back and could surprise come time for the playoffs.

Last fall, the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked the tennis season. It started late, only conference matches were played, the playoffs were only team play and there was no state tourney. Prior Lake finished with an 8-5 overall record, 5-4 in the SSC.

In 2019, Prior Lake finished with 10 wins (10-9 overall) and was also 5-4 in the conference. Senior Lisa Ginzburg, junior Alyssa Lam and sophomores Tianna Houske and Rose Netz were all part of both of those squads.

Gizburg and senior Ashley Farley are the Lakers’ captains this fall, while ninth-graders Tory Cvancara and Haven Fisher, senior Madeline Westerholm, sophomores Olivia Newman and Mia Ngo and Shelby Gambucci are part of the varsity mix.

Houske, Lam and Netz opened the season as the Lakers’ top-three singles players.

“Our first goal is to compete for the conference title,” Coach PJ Priest said. “It will be tough with such a young team, but I would not rule us out.”

Prior Lake once ruled the SSC. From 2011 to 2018, the Lakers won seven of eight conference titles and had a combined league record of 70-1 in that span.

In 2019, Prior Lake lost to Minnetonka in the Section 2AA semifinals. It was the first time in nine seasons the Lakers were not playing in a section title match.

The Lakers were the Section 3AA runner-up in 2011, before winning three straight Section 3AA crowns from 2012 to 2014. Prior Lake was moved to Section 2AA in 2015 where the team won titles that season and in 2016.

Prior Lake lost to Minnetonka in the section title match in both 2017 and 2018. The Skippers have won 10 of last 12 Section 2AA crowns.

So Prior Lake has some more rebuilding to do to get to the level they were playing at when they went to five straight state tournaments. The Lakers finished as state runner-up to perennial power Edina in both 2014 and 2015.

The Lakers were also fifth at state in 2016, fourth in 2013 and third in 2012. Meanwhile, Edina has won 22 of the last 23 Class AA state team titles.

“I believe our strength is for sure our depth,” Priest said. “We have a young team with a lot of seasoned players. We should compete very well with the rest of our scheduled matches.

“All players are ready and excited for a good season,” Priest added. “I’m very encouraged about our team and the energy they bring every single day.”

Prior Lake has had a lot of success in the postseason in doubles in recent years. In 2016 and 2017, the Lakers had a doubles pair win the Class AA state title and in 2015 had a pair that finished runner-up.

Prior Lake sent at least two doubles to state from 2015 to 2017.

This season, the Lakers will end the regular season Sept. 28 at home to Eagan in SSC play. The Section 2AA team tournament starts Oct. 5.

Minnetonka will again be the favorite in section. Eastview looks to be the SSC favorite.

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.