Within the first few minutes, Lakeville North was already mixing up its lineup. Filtering into the game as planned with a 2-1 lead, were two of five reserves the Panthers would use in a well-rounded straight set victory in the Class 3A girls’ volleyball state semifinals.
No. 1-seed Lakeville used 11 players to finish off No. 4-seed Shakopee 25-11, 25-20, 25-18 Friday morning at Xcel Energy Center to earn a spot in the championship game for the second straight year.
“I like how everybody is involved,” said junior right side hitter Sami Flattum, who is part of the never-ending rotation that has become a big advantage for the Panthers throughout the season. “I think it helps a lot because Courtney [Hayes] is a lot better passer than me.”
The tradeoffs coach Walt Weaver has recognized added up to nine kills for Flattum, while Hayes contributed five digs and an assist on Friday. The mixed effort kept the Lakeville North attack fresh and a step ahead of Shakopee, who missed out on a chance to return to the title game for the first time since winning it three straight years from 2007-2009.
“I think it really helps to have fresh legs and it really helps communication,” Lakeville North junior Abby Monson said. “It’s a real team effort.”
After falling behind 1-0 in the first set, Lakeville North never trailed again and never trailed at all in the third set. The Sabers best shot at a win came in the second set, trailing by only one, 19-18. Shakopee coach Matt Busch called two timeouts within a two-point span attempting to plan his way past the Panthers, but it wouldn’t work.
“I feel like we really could have pushed it out,” Shakopee senior setter Maggie Holcombe said after leading her team with 13 assists, five kills and five digs. “We stuck with them, which was nice.”
Attempting to stick with the Panthers is all anyone has done this season. The Panthers return to the championship game with a 31-1 record, the only loss a forfeit. Leading the run has been Metro Player of the Year Alyssa Goehner who finished with 17 kills, seven digs in the semifinal sweep. Setter Erica Handley assisted 43, had four kills and three digs.
In his first year as coach, Weaver will attempt to finish a nearly perfect season today in the 5 p.m. championship game. The Panthers were state champs in 2010.