Lakeville North's Elizabeth Juhnke hit a kill shot over Hannah Prasky of Champlin Park in the second set Tuesday at Lakeville North High School. Photo: JERRY HOLT • firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth Juhnke and her Lakeville North teammates couldn’t wait.
All day Tuesday, the Panthers had their minds on their upcoming match against No. 1-ranked Champlin Park, a team that had defeated them 11 days ago in the finals of the Southwest Minnesota Challenge in Marshall.
“We were talking about it everywhere,” the senior outside hitter said. “We were ready. We were hyped.”
With the multi-skilled Juhnke leading the way, Lakeville North turned that anticipation into its biggest victory of the young season, handing the Rebels their first loss, 25-22, 25-22, 23-25, 20-25, 15-10 at the Panthers' gym.
Juhnke, a senior outside hitter, had 28 kills, 12 digs and four block assists for the defending Class 3A champion Panthers. Outside hitter Macy Winter chipped in with 12 kills, including three in the final, match-deciding set.
Panthers coach Jackie Richter noticed her team’s focus right away.
“I could tell when they walked into the gym that they were looking forward to this match with a degree of excitement and not a degree of hesitation,” Richter said. “They approached it with a mindset of ‘We have nothing to lose, so let’s just lay our game on the line and see what it looks like.’”
The Panthers came out strong early, winning the first two sets by identical 25-22 scores. They were the first two sets Champlin Park had lost all season.
“All week, we worked on our shots and worked on our grit,” Juhnke said. “Our main goal was to start off strong.”
Champlin Park battled back behind its relentless attack. Paced by outside hitter Lauren Clark, who thumped 25 kills, and fellow hitters Jordan Stalpes and Emma Schmidt, the Rebels fought back and squared the match at two sets apiece.
Going into the fifth and final set, Richter tried to shrink the game for her team and worry about the process, not the end result.
“We tried to keep them centered on a smaller game, just pockets of a few points versus looking at the whole 15 points,” she said. “The way we played the game and the poise that we had gets me excited.”