Taking on Eagan, unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the Class 3A coaches’ poll from Sept. 30, is a tall task for any team.
For Lakeville North, described by coach Jackie Richter as “undersized,” a match against Eagan, which has seven players standing 5-foot-11 or taller, is an uphill battle in more than one respect.
But don’t let the No. 4-3A Panthers’ relative lack of size fool you. Richter said her team’s athleticism, competitiveness and “bulldog mentality” more than compensate.
Need proof? Check the standings. Lakeville North (15-4, 4-1) has lost only four matches this season: to Eagan (2-0 on Sept. 21), No. 2-3A Northfield (2-0 on Sept. 7), No. 3-3A Wayzata (2-0 on Sept. 21) and No. 6-3A Shakopee (3-0 on Sept. 24). The Panthers' victories have come against the likes of No. 4-3A East Ridge (3-2 on Aug. 29), No. 7-3A Lakeville South (twice: 2-0 on Sept. 7 and 3-1 on Sept. 12), No. 9-3A Champlin Park (3-1 on Sept. 4), No. 8-3A Moorhead (2-1 on Sept. 20) and No. 10-3A Minnetonka (3-0 on Aug. 27).
Lakeville North gets a second chance at Eagan on Tuesday in our Top Game of the Week.
The Panthers’ rise to the upper half of the Class 3A ranks wasn’t entirely predictable. Lakeville North no longer has most of its starting lineup from its 2017 Class 3A state championship team and a group that won 26 games before losing to Lakeville South in a titanic five-set Class 3A, Section 1 championship match last year.
Libero Halle Wolfe is the only returning starter. Outside hitter Maddy Hornyak, who, at 5-foot-10, leads the Panthers in kills this season, was a rotational player a year ago. Savannah Polzin, a 5-7 junior outside hitter who is second in kills, played JV. With sophomore setter Abby Jandro, and 6-3 junior Abbey Milner and 6-1 junior Ella Thompson in the middle, the Panthers have talented young team that's rapidly gaining experience.
Eagan remains in a class by itself. The Wildcats (17-0, 6-0) have lost just four sets this season, paced with some players known to leave a lasting impact.
Six-foot junior setter Kennedi Orr leads the way while super sophomores Kendal Kemp (6-5 middle hitter), Sienna Ifill (6-1 outside hitter), Emma Berran (6-foot outside hitter) and Simara Amador (5-5 defensive specialist) add to an already talented group.