A new coach, and one goal: Make it to the state tournament.
Prior Lake’s softball team accomplished its mission under first-year coach Matt Haefner with an 8-4 victory over Mankato West in the Class 3A, Section 2 finals. It last appeared in the state tournament in 2010.
The Lakers were in the same position a year ago and saw Mankato East come out of the losers’ bracket to beat them twice.
“We are led by the three seniors [Libby Bingham, Sam Buhmann and Morgan Rykken] on this team, and they remember what it was like last year,” Haefner said. “The kids worked so hard this year, and that is what has made this year so rewarding for us.”
The Lakers (15-3) are averaging 9.4 runs per game and have three starters hitting above .500. They are junior catcher Kara Lattery, sophomore outfielder Isabelle Gates and freshman first baseman Justus Perry, who has a team-high 33 RBI.
“The weather this spring was a huge challenge for us, but we spent many hours in the gym learning how to become better hitters,” Haefner said.
“This team can hit better than most teams. We can’t wait for the state tournament to begin.”
Still seeking a home
New Prague was first shunned by the Big Nine Conference, and now has been turned down by the newly formed Metro West Conference. Both have rejected the Trojans’ application for membership.
The school’s conference, the Missota, voted to disband after the 2013-14 school year. The school also has applied to join the Wright County Conference, which consists of Annandale, Dassel-Cokato, Delano, Glencoe-Silver Lake, Holy Family, Hutchinson, Litchfield, Mound-Westonka, New London-Spicer, Orono and Waconia.
If New Prague is rejected again, the Minnesota State High School League could decide the school’s fate.
• Eagan junior Zach Ekstein (22-1) downed Burnsville junior Thomas McCallie 6-3, 6-1 to win the Class 2A, Section 3 boys’ singles tennis championship at Life Time Fitness in Lakeville. Ekstein is seeded fourth entering the state individual tournament, which begins Thursday at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.
• Prior Lake junior Kasie Vollmer swept the shot put and discus competition in the Class 2A, Section 3 girls’ track and field meet at the University of St. Thomas. She won the shot put with a throw of 40 feet, 2 inches and the discus with a toss of 144 feet, 10 inches.