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The usual attack wasn't working. So Lakeville North hung around, made some adjustments and eventually pulled away to beat Eagan 25-18, 21-25, 25-23, 25-20 to win the Section 3, 3A championship for the third consecutive season.
In a match that would have been fitting for a state tournament final, No. 2-ranked Eagan gave the No. 1-ranked Panthers different looks, a determined block and a whole lot of worries. Lakeville North had won the previous match between the two, also in four sets, but this time around things were much closer.
"That is a very good team, and they changed up their defense from the first time we played them," said Alyssa Goehner, Lakeville North's fabulous outside hitter. "But we hung close and got a few points and our defense was phenomenal."
While Goehner accounted for 28 kills, the continued focus on stopping her allowed the rest of the Panthers roster to step forward. Setter Erica Handley was creative around the net, outside hitter Hailey Lonergan put down some key kills from the right side, and the defense, led by Laura Larson and Abby Monson, refused to let balls hit the floor.
"We have an amazing defense," said Monson. "We communicate with each other and we're always helping each other out."
Eagan coach Kathy Gillen-Melville conceded that her Wildcats could hardly have played better.
"I don't know what more we could do," said Gillen-Melville. "They have Alyssa, and it makes a difference when you have a player like that. We played well, but they were better."