The Prior Lake volleyball team won’t get a chance to earn an upset or two in the Section 2AAA playoffs.
That’s because the postseason was canceled. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz announced a four-week shutdown Nov. 18 for all youth and high school sports across the state (Nov. 21 to Dec. 18).
That ended the Lakers’ season Nov. 19 when they lost in three sets to Shakopee.
Prior Lake played just 12 matches this fall, winning six of them. It was a tough end for the team’s seven seniors — Camille Libert, Lainey VanHecke, Annika Evenson, Isabel Westerholm, Isabella Stein, Emmy Benson and Shannon Wallsklog.
Back in early August, the Minnesota State High School League originally pushed volleyball back to the spring due to the pandemic in a board of directors meeting. But the league reversed that decision Sept. 21.
So a volleyball season was quickly put together, and it was supposed to end Dec. 12 for all teams in the state with section final matches for all three classes. There were no state tournaments planned for any fall sports.
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 SSC is the toughest league in the state and Section 2AAA is arguably the most difficult section. Four SSC teams were ranked in the final Class 3A poll, including No. 2 Lakeville North, No. 3 Eagan, No. 5 Shakopee and No. 6 Lakeville South.
In Section 2AAA, three teams are ranked, Minnetonka and Chaska, both at No. 8, along with Shakopee.
The future of the Lakers’ program looks strong with the likes of junior Julia Hanson leading the way. She finished the season with a team-best 212 kills and 30 ace serves.
Hanson’s 212 kills give her 955 for her career, which is only 40 behind Ella Francis, the program’s all-time leader. If sports were not shutdown by Walz, Hanson would have most likely passed Francis this season with two regular season matches left and at least one in the playoffs.
Now Hanson has to wait until her senior season, where she can also try to break Francis’ school record for kills in a season, which is 473 set in 2015.
Hanson had 386 kills as a sophomore, which is third most in a season at Prior Lake.
This fall, Hanson was also second on the team digs with 167. Evenson led the team with 167, while junior Courtney Haugen was third with 76.
Libert led the team in blocks with 31 and was second on the team in kills (72) and ace serves (20). VanHecke led the Lakers in set assists (211), while Benson was second (143).
Junior Alex Lloyd was third in kills (52), while sophomore Kaia Harvey was fourth (45) and Stein was fifth (43).
Haugen was third in ace serves (19), followed by Evenson (13) and Haugen (11). Haugen was also third in digs (78), followed by Benson (58) and VanHecke (37).
In blocks, Westerholm was second (18) on the team, while Stein was third (16) and Harvey was fourth (12).