The volleyball dominance of the South Suburban Conference was on display at the 39th Eagle Invitational on Sept. 23-24 at Apple Valley.
Eagan won the event, defeating Prior Lake in four sets. Lakeville South took third and Shakopee sixth.
The tournament field is a harbinger of state volleyball champions. In 37 of the invite’s first 38 years, the eventual state champion played in the invite. It is widely regarded as the top high school volleyball tournament in the state.
Eagan (16-0) dropped one set in the four matches it won. Led by senior Brie Orr, who has committed to Iowa, and McKenna Melville, who has committed to Central Florida, the Wildcats solidified their No. 1 ranking in Class 3A.
Eagan has played in the past three state championships, winning in 2013 and last season.
But Prior Lake has found ways to score against Eagan this season. It won a set against the Wildcats on Sept. 22 and won the first set of the Eagle Invitational final.
“[The Lakers] serve-receive with C.C. McGraw is tough to penetrate,” said Jeff Groves, an assistant coach at Apple Valley and director of the Minnesota High School Volleyball Hall of Fame.
“They also have a taller and physical setter in Ellie Veldman, and their two middles cause matchup problems for most teams.”
In semifinal play, No. 4-ranked Prior Lake defeated No. 3 Lakeville South in two sets before falling to Eagan.
“Winning the invite doesn’t ensure you’ll win the [state] tournament,” Groves said. “But we’ll see if this will make it 38 of 39 years.”
Ellis L. Williams