What’s the word in Hollywood when someone gets mugged in a back alley? Worked over? Right about now the Lakeville North volleyball team might have an idea what that feels like.
Bloomington Jefferson had just come off a 3-1 loss to Lakeville South Tuesday night and weren’t about to get swept by Lakeville in a single week. When Jaguars coach Michelle Griece was asked before the match where she wanted her team to be at this point in the season, she responded with a single word and a smile, “winning”. Mission accomplished coach.
The Panthers were seemingly lost right out of the gate. The confidence normally associated with a defending state champion sank in game one the instant All-American Alyssa Goehner had one of her kills sent right back to her by the Jaguars’ Eliza Zachary. Standing upwards of six feet, Zachary gave Goehner and Kelly Nizzari fits all night long on the net.
Setting the tone early, Bloomington Jefferson came out in game one and gave the number two team in Class 3A all they could handle. Keeping points alive by diving all over the North gymnasium, capitalizing on uncharacteristic mental mistakes from the Panthers and committing very few errors of their own. The Jaguars took game one 25-23.
Not without their sense of determination, the Panthers tried to keep up with the Jaguars when they could. There was rarely a moment where Abby Monson wasn’t trying to pump up her Lakeville North teammates. But simply put, the Jaguars keyed in on Goehner and the Panthers couldn’t find an answer.
Before Thursday night’s match, Lakeville North Coach Steve Willingham talked about athletes that step up when opponents try to neutralize Goehner and Nizzari. Players like Nicole Latzig, Jessica Wolff and Sami Flattum. To their credit, they tried. However, it seemed that no matter what Coach Willingham threw at the Jaguars, they had an answer.
Game two was no contest, 25-18 Jaguars. Game three more of the same despite the 25-21 score. Once again the Panthers furiously tried to mount a rally late, but the deficit was already too much.
Coach Willingham admits, his team has lost matches this season. Yes they have, now with a 16-3 record overall. This is the first time though, he says, that they’ve been thoroughly beaten.
Hard to argue with that.
The defending state champions have now been humbled twice in the past two weeks. One gut check is enough, that being last Tuesday’s loss to Eagan. But two almost necessitates a self-scouting period. A look internally to figure out what’s going on. Maybe a home tournament is the answer?
The Panthers host area teams for the Todd L. Bachman tournament this weekend.
A loss doesn’t break a season and with a 5-2 conference record, the season certainly isn’t over. But a disconcerting loss like Thursday night’s to a fellow state top 10 team might be a warning flag that deserves attention.