Prior Lake's Kayla Bair with a spike attempt against Eden Prairie on Nov. 4 in the Class 3A, Section 2 championship. The Lakers won in five sets. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine
Prior Lake's Amber Reis (9) and Maddy Bremer (16) block a spike attempt by Eden Prairie's Grace Persson during action Saturday night at Shakopee High School. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine
On a night where the University of Minnesota’s football program headed into the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., two University of Michigan-bound volleyball players from the Gopher State led their respective teams in an edge-of-your-seat battle in the Class 3A, Section 2 final.
For Prior Lake, the No. 6-ranked team in the Class 3A coaches’ poll, senior hitter Kayla Bair helped her Lakers squad return to the state tournament after defeating fellow Michigan commit, Grace Persson, and an Eden Prairie team that just wouldn’t quit. And while Bair and Persson are enemies on the court, competitors in a high-stakes game that could either mean the end of the season or the start of a title run, they’re both Wolverines in the fall -- and pals after the nets go down.
“In the moment, we are both very competitive people,” Bair said after the win. “We both wanted it just as much as the other. During the game, you know we are kind of enemies, but afterwards, we always go out and we love each other. We’re friends.”
The Lakers won in an exciting five-match game, 18-25, 25-19, 25-21, 26-28, 15-8, Friday night at Shakopee High School that, for most of the game, was a back-and-forth tangle with each side trading punches and lining up kills that would often swing the momentum like a pendulum. As Section 2 champions, the Lakers will play in the state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center.
Across the net from Bair was Persson, a 6-foot-2 senior hitter who finished the night with a game-high 23 kills. In the first frame, the Eagles’ set Persson up for a dominant performance that Prior Lake (21-10) couldn’t figure out how to stop.
No. 8-3A Eden Prairie took a six-point lead before closing the first match 25-18, but it was a Prior Lake adjustment during the break that helped the Lakers come roaring back to win the next set 25-19.
“The biggest thing was we started passing better,” Lakers coach Mike Dean said. “Once our adjustments started happening, and we started putting pressure on them on the service line, I feel like they got more predictable, and we were able to turn things around and attack them.”
Prior Lake junior setter Katie Brostrom notched a game-leading 12 assists that went to attackers like Emma Brostrom and Maddy Bremer, who each finished the night with 10 kills.
“It was a close game throughout the entire match,” Bair said. “I think our team did a great job of bouncing back. Eden Prairie had their runs, but at the end of the day, we had more.”
One of those Eden Prairie (21-6) runs was in the fourth, where, after being down 19-18 at one point, it came back to lead 24-22 before surrendering two straight points. The Eagles took that match to stay alive, but they couldn’t get the momentum going in the fifth and final set.
“At the ends of a couple sets… we felt like we could’ve closed it out, but didn’t,” Eden Prairie coach Chad Becker said. “We knew how talented (Prior Lake) was, but we felt like we were prepared.”
While most of the focus on the other soon-to-be Wolverine, Persson, was on the spiking-and-killing game, Becker said one of her bigger contributions to this year’s Eagles team was her improved back-row efforts and serve returns.
So even though Persson won’t be able to continue working for the Eagles, she’ll soon get to look next to her -- instead of across the court -- at a familiar face in Bair, and the two can sharpen their skills together in the Big 10.
For the third straight year, Prior Lake, ranked No. 6 in the Class 3A coaches' poll, claimed the Class 3A, Section 2 championship. The Lakers edged Eden Prairie 18-25, 25-19, 25-21, 26-28, 15-8 Friday night at Shakopee High School.
Throughout the five sets, Prior Lake (21-10) was led by senior hitter, 6-foot-1 Kayla Bair, who racked up 16 kills and one helper. Junior setter Katie Brostrom notched a game-leading 12 assists.
For No. 8-3A Eden Prairie (21-6), senior hitter Grace Persson set the stage early for a battle. Persson couldn't be stopped in the first set and finished the night with 23 kills.
With the win, the Lakers advance to the Class 3A state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center.
The MN Volleyball Hub polls are for entertainment purposes only.
Prior Lake senior Kayla Bair wins her final section championship Nov. 4 against Eden Prairie. Bair will attend Michigan next year. Photo by Korey McDermott, SportsEngine