Lakeville South's Carlee Gonzalez (2) and Camryn Strong (13) went up to block a shot by Shakopee's Mackenzie Reeder. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Lakeville South's Carlee Gonzalez (2) slammed a shot past Shakopee's Lauren Aus. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Lakeville South climbed up to the No. 3 spot in the Class 3A Coaches’ poll this week, but based on the Cougars’ play in Thursday’s match against Shakopee, Lakeville South looks like a team that has been that highly-ranked all season.
The Cougars rolled as they took on the No. 8-3A Sabers, winning in straight sets 25-15, 25-23, 25-23.
With a roster littered with upperclassmen, Lakeville South (18-3, 8-2) has learned the importance of starting quick in just about any match and the Cougars showed that in the early going.
Senior setter Syd Case had the Cougars moving the ball well all match, including in the early going. Case had a game-high 31 assists. Her passing and strong setting caused trouble for the Sabers (16-5, 7-3).
“We were just struggling to pass the ball,” Shakopee coach Matt Busch said. “It took us too long to figure out what we needed to do to get going. They came at us hard.”
As could be seen throughout, Case is a major cog in Lakeville South’s offensive machine. She facilitates the Cougars offense and gets the opponent’s defense out of sorts.
“On the court, she’s a quiet kid and keeps a straight face. But she’s so important to us out there,” said Lakeville South coach Stephen Willingham. “She’s able to draw her teammates in and hold them accountable. She’s always making others better.”
One of those players she has helped make better is Ava Moes. The Lakeville South freshman middle hitter has emerged into the Cougars’ starting lineup and had four kills in the win.
“[Moes] is just such a physical player,” Willingham said. “She’s able to study the game and ask good questions. She really enjoys being out there.”
Moes has also worked alongside some experienced outside players. Senior outside hitter Camryn Strong had a team-high 13 kills in the win.
And while Lakeville South boasts upperclassmen, Shakopee has been forced to work with a younger nucleus. After losing nine starters from the 2016 team, the Sabers have been able to work their way up the rankings and be competitive in the loaded South Suburban Conference.
“There are plenty of things we’ve had to work on,” Busch said. “But we’re continuing to build confidence and have that willingness to stop whoever is coming at us.”
For both teams, one major struggle has been knocking off the conference’s best. Both teams have fallen to No. 1-3A Eagan and No. 2-3A Lakeville North. All of Shakopee’s losses have come to top-10 teams.
Soon enough, both teams will have an opportunity for redemption in the section tournament. Thankfully for the Sabers, they have yet to lose to a Section 2 opponent.
For the Cougars, the opportunity to avenge a previous loss will come in the section tournament. Lakeville South, which plays in Section 1, could end up being pitted against its crosstown rival in section play—but no matter the opportunity—Willingham knows how his team feels about section play.
“One thing we’ve never had a problem with here in Lakeville is having our teams be committed,” Willingham said. “We’re super excited to go out there, get after it and show other teams in our section what we can do.”
In just three sets, Lakeville South made quick work of South Suburban conference foe Shakopee on Thursday at Shakopee High School. The Cougars defeated the Sabers 25-15, 25-23, 25-23.
The Cougars (18-3, 8-2) rolled behind a strong frontcourt with plenty of experience. Senior outside hitter Camryn Strong had a team-high 13 kills in the win.
Meanwhile, senior setter Syd Case had 31 assists and facilitated kill after kill for Lakeville South, which is ranked third in the Class 3A coaches’ poll.
After falling behind early, the No. 8-3A Sabers had trouble clawing away at the Cougars’ lead. Shakopee (16-5, 7-3) couldn’t overcome the powerful Lakeville South offense despite eight kills from junior outside hitter Ella Karst and six kills from sophomore outside hitter Maddie Fratzke.
Lakeville South's Camryn Strong (13) served in the third set of the Cougars' victory at Shakopee. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
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