Jessica Meidl and Erika Rozell are accustomed to winning. They have been part of Lakeville North’s girls’ basketball and softball programs throughout their high school careers.
“Jessica and Erika have done a great job of balancing both sports and do it the correct way,” Panthers coach Sean Hall said. “They prioritize the in-season sport and always give a 100 percent commitment to that sport whether it’s softball or basketball.
“Their outstanding experiences in the basketball program have benefited the softball program. They’ve learned how to be great leaders and know how to compete in the toughest situations.”
Meidl and Rozell just capped their prep basketball careers with a trip to the Class 4A state tournament. Now, they want to do likewise in softball.
“To play in the state tournament for basketball was an honor,” Rozell said. “None of us have ever experienced that in softball. We want to experience that, and set the standard for future Lakeville North softball teams.”
Lakeville North has made only one trip to the Class 3A softball state tournament, in 2007. Meidl and Rozell would like nothing better than to end the drought in their No. 1 sport.
“It would mean so much to me to get to the state tournament in the sport I love,” the speedy Meidl said. “That would be incredible.”
It’s not as if the Panthers haven’t been on the cusp of advancing to North Mankato. They just haven’t been able to get out of section play.
A year ago, the Panthers were the No. 1 seed in the Section 3 tournament. They were upset by Park of Cottage Grove 4-1 in the quarterfinals, and eventually lost to Eastview by the identical score in the losers’ bracket. They finished the season with a record of 20-4.
“Last year was very disappointing,” Meidl said. “We were ranked No. 1 in the state, and everybody had such high hopes for us. It was heartbreaking.”
Two years ago, the Panthers fell to Burnsville 3-2 in the final four, and Eastview 8-4 in the losers’ bracket. They wound up 17-6 that season.
“At that time, we were thankful to get that far,” the power-hitting Rozell said. “It enlightened us to how successful we could be in the future.”
Lakeville North is the defending South Suburban Conference champion. It has six seniors — led by catcher Rozell and center fielder Meidl — back to defend that crown. They have both been members of the varsity since eighth grade. Rozell is closing in on 100 career RBI while Meidl has eclipsed 100 career stolen bases.
“I felt bad for our seniors last year the way the season ended,” Rozell said. “It was pretty frustrating, but now we know what it takes to win those games.”
Rozell and Meidl will continue their softball careers in college. Rozell with the Gophers and Meidl with Minnesota State Mankato. Two other senior starters, pitcher Michaela Zins (North Dakota) and outfielder Katie Parker (Augustana), also will play in college.
“Softball is a game that I’ve made my life,” Meidl said. “I want to succeed in it. It makes me want to get to the state tournament even more in my final year.”
A goal set for the foreseeable future. However, first comes regular season and section tournament play.
“We want to make it to the state championship, but don’t want to look ahead too much,” Rozell said. “We need to focus on the game ahead, but also want to go out with a bang.”