Lakeville North Activities Director Robert Ertl called it a barn burner, that’s exactly what it was Thursday night in the Panther’s gym. Lakeville North Volleyball (9-0) came out on top of a five game, instant classic, match against cross-town rival Lakeville South (8-1).
The Cougars jumped out to an early 1-0 lead as they kept the Panthers on their heels through the first game.
“Yeah, they smacked us around,” says Panther’s Coach Steve Willingham. Looking apprehensive the Panthers dropped their first game of the season 25-22.
Game 2 was a struggle as well for the Panthers, however this one turned out in their favor. Riding on the shoulders of Kelly Nizzari, Lakeville North got their home crowd into the match with a strong start to the game. Until then, the packed North gymnasium was relatively quiet, specifically the student’s sections. A 25-20 win for the Panthers though turned things around as an eruption of cheers echoed out with the final point.
Game 3 was all Cougars as they stifled the Panthers offense, not allowing anything to get past McKell Anderson and Monica Turner at the net. Lakeville South won 25-17 and had all the momentum, 1 game away from upsetting the number 1 team in the state (Class 3A).
Cougar head coach Jen Nelson never underestimated the capabilities of her team. Before the game, stating that she wasn’t going to satisfied with just keeping up with the Panthers. She wanted to win and they now had a chance.
Game 4 was back and forth, as most of the match was, neither team being able to capture any significant momentum. Ultimately it was the all-american Alyssa Goehner that took control of the game for the Panthers. The sophomore got the bulk of her match leading 18 kills in game four. Each point from Goehner finishing with a sense of purpose and emotion.
“I’ll do anything to get a kill,” explains Goehner, “Even if it’s off-speed. I love the game.”
When it looked like the Panthers were going to put things away with a six point run, the Cougars fired back with a run of their own late in the 4th game. Going down to the wire, North threw South off their game, forcing a net error that gave the Panthers a 26-24 win.
Coach Willingham never thought that his squad didn’t have a chance to pull this one out. He never gave up and neither did the Panthers.
The final game was a perfect representation of how the entire match. It was back and forth, with a few mistakes and a few key plays by key players. At the end, it just so happened that North got the final points, topping South by a score of 15-13, taking the match 3-2.
North coach Steve Willingham says it was a great match for the community of Lakeville.
“Got a couple players that just really steadied us at the end of the (fifth) game, Alyssa (Goehner) and Abby (Monson) and our servicing settled down in game five. We passed balls to the net and changes the game for us completely.”
Despite the fact that Lakeville South wasn’t going to settle for just sticking with Lakeville North Coach Jen Nelson is happy with how things went Wednesday night. Stating that there are plenty ofthings to work off of and now they know what to do should the two squads meet again. That next matchup would come up in the post-season.
We can only hope.
By Kyle Zander