Prior Lake is mad about chance for redemption

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 23, 2012 - 4:55 PM

The Lakers have used last year's loss to Rosemount in the section finals as motivation to make this season special; they enter the 2A tournament 17-1.

The last time Prior Lake coach Kris Schneider was part of a team playing in the girls' tennis state tournament, Edina was just another good team.

Schneider. then known at Kris Roseborough, was a sophomore on Bloomington Jefferson's 1996 Class 2A championship team.

"I was on the last team to beat Edina," Schneider said.

Edina has won 15 consecutive championships since then. Schneider hopes that her return to the tournament as coach of Prior Lake, a rising power in girls' tennis, is a harbinger of good things to come.

"We're young, but we've really improved," Schneider said. "And our depth is very good."

Young, perhaps, but Prior Lake has a history to build upon.

In 2011, the Lakers were one match from a tournament berth when they played their worst match of season at the most inopportune time. They lost to Rosemount -- a team they had defeated during the season -- 4-3 in the Section 3, 2A final. It was a loss that lingered, in a good way.

"I noticed as soon as that match was over that the team was going to come back strong," Schneider said. "We were mad that we had lost that match. And we play better when we're mad."

An offseason of playing in just about any tournament they could find prepared the Lakers for their chance at redemption. Led by a blossoming singles lineup of freshman Chloe Hall, eighth-grader Savanna Crowell, sophomore Dani Keller and junior Sarah Henderson, the Lakers rolled undefeated through the South Suburban Conference. Their only loss was to perennial power Wayzata in mid-September.

They avenged the 2011 loss to Rosemount when they faced the Irish again with a state tournament berth on the line.

Schneider pushed the right motivational buttons, making sure her team remembered the disappointment of the previous season.

"We didn't want to be in that situation again," Schneider said. "We were determined. We were mad."

They crushed Rosemount 7-0 to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1991. So convincing was their season that the Lakers (17-1) earned the No. 3 seed.

"It's just a matter of believing in ourselves," Schneider said. "Now, after that match, we know we can play with anyone."

Tournament notes

• A new Class 2A singles champion is assured. Rochester Century's Jessie Aney, the 2011 champion who was ranked No. 1 all season, declined to defend her title, preferring instead to play doubles with her sister Katie. The duo will play their first-round match Thursday against another sister tandem, Laura and Cassy Finn of Delano.

• Speaking of Rochester Century, the Panthers ended Rochester Mayo's streak of 15 consecutive tournament appearances when they beat the Spartans 4-3 in the Section 1, 2A championship.

• This is the first year that the tennis tournament has been seeded. Not surprisingly, Edina earned the No. 1-seed in Class 2A. In the singles field, Mounds View's Summer Brills was seeded No. 1 in Class 2A while Breck's Patty Zhao earned the top seed in Class 1A.

The coaches declined to seed the Class 1A team tournament and the two doubles tournaments.

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