Coach Kris Schneider laid the groundwork. Chloe Hall and Savanna Crowell are the foundation.
Schneider has turned Prior Lake’s girls’ tennis program into a state power quickly with the help of her two young standouts. Hall is a sophomore and Crowell is a freshman.
“When I first came to Prior Lake I saw a lot of potential in all of the girls,” said Schneider, who is in her fourth season at the helm of the Lakers. “I knew what they could do if they worked hard. I was also lucky to have a lot of young kids who were very eager to learn.”
Learn they did, and quickly. The Lakers are coming off a third-place finish in the Class 2A state tournament a year ago. It was their first appearance in the eight-team field since 1991.
“It was great just going to state,” Crowell said. “Taking third place was absolutely amazing.”
Prior Lake beat St. Cloud Tech 5-2 before dropping a tough 4-3 decision to Minnetonka in the semifinals. It bounced back to top Rochester Century 4-3 in the third-place match.
“We accomplished a lot of firsts last year,” Hall said. “Making it to state was a big accomplishment. Taking third place wasn’t a huge shock. We had a good team.”
The Lakers had a good team the previous year, too. However, they dropped a disappointing 4-3 decision to Rosemount in the Section 2 finals. They had beaten the Irish during the South Suburban Conference regular season.
Prior Lake was more than happy to see the Irish in the finals again in 2012. It rolled to a 7-0 victory.
“We were hoping to get them again,” Hall said. “We had a little more fire this time around.”
Intensity is one of the many attributes their mentor brings to the court on a daily basis.
“Kris really cares about the team,” Hall said. “She is always positive, and willing to spend extra time on the court to make us all better players.”
Hall and Crowell have been the Lakers’ top two singles players the past three seasons. Hall holds down the top spot while Crowell is at No. 2.
“Our team doesn’t really care about the age of each other on the team,” Hall said. “We’re really close. We’re like a family.”
The Lakers return 13 players from last year’s roster. They only graduated one player, and that was half of their No. 1 doubles team.
“We should be very strong again,” Schneider said. “We are also still very young as well.”
The Lakers are ranked No. 2 in the state preseason poll by the coaches association. Hall is ranked No. 10 in among individuals.
“We just can’t expect to win,” Hall said. “We can’t be overconfident. We have to treat this year the same way we did last year, wanting to get to the state tournament.”
Hall and Crowell teamed up for the individual tournament last year. They won their opening round match before falling in the quarterfinals.
“Everybody is working really hard to do better than last year,” Crowell said. “We want to keep improving.”
They have to if they want to catch No. 1 Edina. The Hornets have won 16 consecutive state championships.
“Edina has been winning for so many years,” Crowell said. “To beat them would be unreal. It would be the greatest thing ever.”
The last team to knock off the Hornets in the state finals was Bloomington Jefferson in 1996. The Jaguars had a sophomore on that team named Kris Roseborough, now Schneider.
“Edina has been winning state championships long enough,” Hall said. “Somebody needs to take their place.
“Beating Edina would mean the world to all of us. I think that’s the goal of every team in the state.”