The Prior Lake girls tennis team returns a strong nucleus that won 12 matches last fall.
Led by senior Tianna Houske, who has been the Lakers’ No. 1 singles player the last three seasons, Prior Lake is hoping to make a run at the South Suburban Conference title and be a contender in Section 2AA.
“We lost one player who played all the matches last year,” said Lakers coach PJ Priest, whose team finished with a 6-3 mark in the SSC last fall.
Prior Lake went 2-1 in section team play last year, losing 4-3 to Eden Prairie in the semifinals. Three matches went to three sets with the Eagles winning two of them.
It was the fourth straight year the Lakers lost in the semifinal round.
Houske and then-senior Alyssa Lam also made a run at state in the section doubles tourney, losing in three sets in the semifinals, before winning the third-place match. The top two teams qualify.
Houske is a team captain, along with senior Rose Netz. Seniors Shelby Gambucci and Olivia Newman are also back, along with sophomore Chloe Soundara and juniors Tory Cvancara, Haven Fisher and Emily Eisma.
Priest said seventh-grader Sophia Livingston is also expected to contribute to the varsity.
Prior Lake will open the conference season Aug. 24 at home against Burnsville. The Lakers will be at home Sept. 6 versus Minnetonka, winners of the last two Class AA state team titles.
Prior Lake was one of state’s better programs from 2011 to 2018. In that span, 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, winning the title that season and again in 2016. The Lakers lost to Minnetonka in the section title match in both 2017 and 2018.
In 2019, Prior Lake fell to Minnetonka in the section semifinals. It was the first time in nine seasons the Lakers were not playing in a section final. There was no 2020 postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, in SSC play, the Lakers also dominated from 2011 to 2018, winning seven of eight conference titles in that span with a combined league record of 70-1. The team has a 21-15 mark over the last four years in the SSC play.
The Section 2AA team tourney starts Oct. 2 with the semifinals and title matches Oct. 10 at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. Section singles and doubles play starts Oct. 12 with the finals for both Oct. 17 in St. Peter.
This year’s state tournament is Oct. 24-27 at the Baseline Tennis Center in Minneapolis. The team tourney is the first two days, followed by singles and doubles play the next two days.
A Lake Conference team has won 24 of the last 25 state team titles. Edina has captured 22 of those since 1997 with Minnetonka getting the other two. Mahtomedi is the only non-Lake team that has won back in 2016.
The Lakers finished as state runner-up to Edina in both 2014 and 2015. The team was also fifth in 2016, fourth in 2013 and third in 2012.