Defending champion Panthers are more than one-star volleyball team

  • Article by: AARON PAITICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 21, 2013 - 3:41 PM

Defending state champion Lakeville North wields a loaded lineup

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Lakeville North’s Abby Monson celebrated a point with her teammates in a home match against Apple Valley on Tuesday. The Panthers swept the Eagles in three sets.

Photo: KYNDELL HARKNESS • kyndell.harkness@startribune.com,

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Alyssa Goehner garners lots of the attention when it comes to Lakeville North volleyball. But the defending Class 3A champions have an all-star lineup that makes the phrase “supporting cast” seem like a major understatement.

As shown by their preseason No. 1 ranking and 8-1 start to the season, these girls can play.

All of them.

Aside from Goehner, last year’s Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, those returning to the lineup from last year’s title team include senior hitter Sami Flattum, senior libero Abby Monson and junior hitter Janae Neuenschwander.

Monson is the best at her position, locally and beyond, coach Walt Weaver said.

“She’s an exceptional, exceptional, exceptional defensive player,” Weaver said. “I don’t like using qualitative terms like ‘best’ and ‘most’ and all of that, but she is at the top of the state when it comes to liberos, without question.”

Monson is committed to Marquette, as is her teammate Goehner. Many colleges are hesitant to reward scholarships to liberos, but Monson’s talent superseded that practice.

Flattum will play volleyball for Kansas State next season. She’s a unique talent when it comes to volleyball. There aren’t many 6-3 lefthanded, right-side hitters who possess her abilities. She’s an exceptional hitter and blocker who earned all-state honors last year.

Neuenschwander is a dynamic player who can contribute from a variety of different areas on the floor. She’s mainly played in the front row and has been one of the most consistent hitters for the Panthers so far this year.

The Panthers have added two new setters to their lineup. Sophomores Maddy Wolff and Anna Michaels, without any varsity experience before this year, have performed well in a difficult environment.

“To walk in and do what they’re doing — what that attests to is their effort and hard work to get themselves into a position where they can play at this level,” Weaver said.

Wolff and Michaels aren’t the only inexperienced players showing a veteran presence. Senior outside hitter Megan Neher has been strong on the left and right side this year. Seniors Lexi Romo and Maddy Kanne have proved to be more than reliable defensive specialists.

Senior middle hitter Christy Nizzari has walked into her position and performed exceptionally well. Junior middle hitters Maddie Konopa and Hailey Lake have stepped up without any experience.

Life is good to have a player such as Goehner on your team, but the Panthers have an embarrassment of riches. As any player or coach or parent knows, it takes more than one all-star to make a team.

“And Alyssa would be the first one to tell you that,” Weaver said. “We haven’t been winning with just Alyssa. There’s no way that any team in Minnesota today is going to do that. The kids out there and the teams are just too good.”

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