Stopped in a thrilling five-set state finals a year ago by several member of this Eden Prairie team, top-seeded Lakeville North wasn’t to be denied this time around.
Lakeville North won 25-21, 25-19, 19-25 and 25-18 in the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Saturday to claim its second Class AAA Minnesota state volleyball championship in three seasons.
Stopped in the state finals a year ago by several member of this Eden Prairie team, top-seeded Lakeville North wasn’t to be denied this time around.
Led by all-star junior Alyssa Goehner – who had 39 kills – the Panthers dropped defending state champion Eden Prairie in four games.
"My goal was a state championship and we have it," said Goehner. "So I couldn't be more happy for my team."
Lakeville North ended the season 32-1, their only loss a forfeit to Burnsville for using an ineligible player.
Third-seeded Eden Prairie ended its season at 28-5.
"Alyssa Goehner is without question one of the top athletes in the county in volleyball, without question," said first-year Lakeville North head coach Walt Weaver. "I thought she had a good day. She has a lot of potential and has played matches all year long that would be similar to this. So it isn't something way different than what she does on a daily basis.
"She's a major kid," Weaver added. "And she's a major kid playing with lots of other major kids on the same team. There's certainly a number of kids on that team which are exceptional."
Goehner, senior setter Erica Handley and junior right hitter Sami Flattum of Lakeville North were all named to the all-tournament team.
Eden Prairie kept it close, but Lakeville North gained small early leads in each of the first two games and won 25-21, 25-19 to go up 2-0. But the Eagles came back strong in the third game, going from a 9-7 deficit to a commanding 19-13 lead before wining 25-19.
The fourth game repeated the pattern of the first two, with the Panthers jumping out to an early lead and then holding it the rest of the match. Eden Prairie closed to 16-14 and 19-16 before the Panthers pulled away down the stretch.
"It's great," said Flattum. "I can't believe we won in four. That was a surprise, that we won in four games instead of five. We kept each other positive when we were down.
"We practiced way harder than last year," Flattum added. "We were determined."
Handley had 56 sets for the Panthers.
Laura Larson had 21 defensive digs for the Panthers, Goehner 16 and Abby Monson 14.
It was the 17th appearance at state for a Lakeville volleyball team. As Lakeville North, the Panthers have had two runner-up finishes and two state championships in the last seven years.