SSC Volleyball

Prior Lake and Shakopee are two of five teams from the South Suburban Conference ranked in the preseason Class 4A state poll.

Practices for fall sports don’t start until Aug. 16, but preseason volleyball rankings have already been released.

And to no surprise, the South Suburban Conference has five teams ranked in the top 10 in Class 4A. The SSC has been the most dominant league since it debuted in 2010, winning six of the 10 state titles in that span, while finishing runner-up five times.

Eagan is the highest ranked SSC school at No. 2, followed by No. 4 Lakeville North, No. 5 Lakeville South, No. 6 Shakopee and No. 10 Prior Lake.

Wayzata will be ranked No. 1 to open the season, while East Ridge is No. 3 and Chaska is No. 7. Bloomington Jefferson is ranked No. 8, followed by Northfield at No. 9.

Shakopee coach Matt Busch is not surprised by five SSC teams ranked.

“The SSC was put together as a power conference of south suburban schools with high enrollment and strong growth opportunities,” he said. “For volleyball specifically, the area has been a hotbed for 20-plus years.

“Part of the reason for that is the competitive juniors programs in the area that pull from the surrounding towns,” he said. “The obvious large enrollments of the schools gives an added advantage based on tryout numbers each year. The tenure of coaches in this conference is also incredible.”

Last season, the volleyball season started late due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no state tournament.

SSC teams played just 12 league games with Lakeville North winning the title (10-2), followed by Eagan and Shakopee (9-3).

Champlin Park won the last big-school state title in 2019, beating Eagan in the finals. This fall volleyball will go to four classes, having had three classes since 1999.

Overall, since 2010, Eagan has won three state titles (2011, 2015, 2016) and has four runner-up finishes (2014, 2017, 2018, 2019).

Lakeville North won state titles in 2010, 2012 and 2017 and was runner-up in 2011. Prior Lake was the state runner-up in 2015.

Meanwhile, right before the SSC was formed in 2010, Shakopee won three straight titles from 2007 to 2009, and has made the state field twice over the last decade (2012 and 2018).

Busch said the years of coaching experience is one of the reasons why the SSC has been so good for so long. There’s not been a lot of turnover at the top of many of the programs.

“This means continuity within the program that is no longer typical,” he said. “The newest additions, (coaches at Burnsville and Lakeville North), are super dedicated people with high aspirations and the realistic ability to make solid changes in the near future.

“Finally, when you are placed in a conference like this you have no choice but to build programs that can be respectable and compete year after year,” he added.

The SSC has at least one team in four different sections — 1AAAA, 2AAAA, 3AAAA and 6AAAA. Could four SSC teams make up the eight-team state field come November?

Lakeville North, Lakeville South and Northfield are ranked teams from Section 1AAAA, while Eagan and East Ridge are ranked from from Section 3AAAA.

In Section 2AAAA, Shakopee, Prior Lake and Chaska are three of the seven teams in the field ranked. Burnsville is lone SSC squad in Section 6AAAA where Jefferson is the only ranked squad.

The Blaze’s last state appearance came in 2009 when it finished third.

So getting four teams to state will be tough. Over the last decade, the SSC has had three teams at state three times (2015, 2017 and 2018).

To see the preseason volleyball rankings from all four classes, go to mnvbca.org.

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.

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