Shakopee rolls as the Panthers are left looking for answers 14 Oct 11

The Lakeville North Panther volleyball team had many issues Thursday night at Shakopee High School, one of the biggest though was handling Claire Sames. Plain and simple, they weren’t able to. The Senior that has two state titles to her credit with the Sabers dominated the net, was a source of inspiration for her team and helped her team top the number #5 team in the state.

With their former head coach, Milan Mader, in attendance, the Panthers looked to make a statement Thursday night that despite two tough losses in the past two weeks, they were still headed in the right direction.

Playoffs are right around the corner and Lakeville North had dropped games to Eagan and Bloomington Jefferson. Both top ten teams and the type of competition they’ll have to face if they intend on making a run at a second consecutive state championship. Unfortunately, the team that would be required to achieve that goal, wasn’t on the court against Shakopee.

A tough 3-1 loss for the Panthers. Words spoken by North head coach Steve Willingham after the game, simply, “Yeah, another one.”

The Sabers came out in game one and immediately forced their aggressive but disciplined type of play on the Panthers. Extending points and forcing the Panthers to stick with them, rather than the other way around.

Sames’ net presence was unrelenting and dominating forcing the Panthers into a defensive style of play. Coach Steve Willingham’s team is used to be on the other side of that game.

The Sabers coasted to a 25-15 game one victory.

Despite the Panthers ability to pull out a win in game two, it still seemed like the advantage was on the other side of the court. Shakopee made a couple of mistakes that allowed long four and five point runs to end. Lakeville North played from behind, but did enough to win 25-19.

Game three was a completely different story and probably most accurately represents how one-sided Thursday night’s game was. The Sabers came out with a five-nothing lead before a net violation sent the ball back over to the Panthers side of things. But what would end up being the underlying story of the night, Lakeville North gave possession right back. Coach Willingham and his team couldn’t buy an answer.

“It just snowballed. We couldn’t get anything going, the things we were trying weren’t working…we had given up too much of the momentum and control of the match to that team early on.”

Shakopee would go on a run of five, give the serve to Lakeville, who in turn would give it right back. The Sabers would take game three and emotionally secured the match 25-10.

The bulk of the frustration for the Panthers comes on the net. Whenever a dominating force can neutralize Alyssa Goehnner, there seemingly isn’t an answer.

Against Eagan, the Wildcats were able to take the All-American out of the match. Last Thursday against Bloomington Jefferson, Eliza Zachary singlehandedly frustrated Alyssa. Last night, it was Claire Sames. Blocking pretty much everything the Panthers sent over, while getting in her kills as well. It was the ‘Sames Show’ Thursday night in Shakopee, as it pretty much has been all season.

Despite a strong effort to tie things up at the end of game four. The Sabers took the final game 25-23 and the match.

Shakopee extends their win streak to six games and heads to the Eastview tournament this weekend, before closing out their season schedule at Northfield on Tuesday.

Lakeville North will continue to look for answers when they host Chanhassen (#10 3A) Saturday. Season finale is next Wednesday at home against Rosemount.