The Panthers' three-set victory sets up an all-South Suburban Conference matchup for the state championship.
Izzy Fuerst (13) of Lakeville North digs the ball in the match Friday against Moorhead. Photo: Leila Navidi * leila.navidi@startribune,com
Photo Gallery: Class 3A semifinal matches
To hear it from Lakeville North teammates, playing at Xcel Energy Center is no different than just another match in the high school gym.
Not that the Panthers aren’t thrilled to be where they are, which is one match from a state championship after a thorough 25-18, 25-16, 25-20 victory over Moorhead on Friday in the Class 3A semifinals. They are. But keeping an even keel and consistent approach has been the mantra all season. It’s gotten them this far and they’re not about to change now.
“One of our biggest strengths is that we take every single game we play the same as every other game,” senior setter Amanda Berger said. “No matter the position we’re in.”
Lakeville North is making its first state tournament appearance since winning the 3A crown in 2012, but players have shown no signs of letting the moment be too big for them. Using their usual scrappy defense as a foundation, the Panthers took Moorhead out of its system and forced the Spuds to scramble for offense.
“They’ve got such great blockers and they got hands on a lot of balls,” Moorhead coach Char Lien said. “That just slows it down and then their defenders can run and get the balls.”
The offense builds off the Lakeville North defense, leading to a balanced attack that opponents struggle to solve. Three Panthers had double figures in kills: Macy Winter had 13, Elizabeth Juhnke 12 and Kennedy Brady 10.
“We have a very well-rounded team,” Panthers coach Jackie Richter said. “You can’t get to that point offensively without the pass, the dig and the set.”
Winter, a junior outside hitter, summed it up succinctly: “I wouldn’t want to play us.”