Upstart Cougars shedding ‘underdog’ status

Two starters out, Lakeville South gives Blaze a run

Lakeville South head coach Steve Willingham had mixed feelings after a 3-1 loss to Burnsville on Tuesday.

With two of the team’s top players, Jazzmyn Tingelhoff and Ashley Pratt, out with an injury, the Cougars were running with underclassmen against one of the top teams in the conference. They were the underdog in many respects.

Still, Willingham couldn’t help but wonder what could have happened. After forcing a fourth game, the Cougars took an early lead and had it tied up at 21.

“Before the match if we said we’d play four games and we’d have it tied up 21-21, we’d have been tickled,” Willingham said. “But to see the way the match was going, there were a couple places there where we might have made a difference. A couple players really came through, but we were in position to win that last game.

“I’ve got to be pleased where we ended up, but I’m so competitive. I would have liked to see that fifth game and see what would have happened.”

Players such as Ciara Nervick and Samantha Kremer stepped up on the outside. Megan Barta and Madeline Johnston kept the ball moving, and Jade Tingelhoff and Claire Ritchie kept the flow moving.

“We knew it was going to be a hard game to begin with,” Kremer said, “with two of our players out, but I felt we adjusted well. They were greatly missed off the court, but I thought we played well.”

Most of the Cougars’ losses have come against programs ranked in the top 10 in the state such as Eagan, Eden Prairie, Lakeville North and Chaska.

Burnsville has gotten respect this season as well, after getting votes for the top 10 in the past few weeks.

Despite a high amount of turnover during the offseason losing most of its team to graduation, the Cougars haven’t missed much of a beat record wise.

“We’ve been the underdogs and I think we’ve done really well,” Kremer said. “I think we’ve met our goals so far. Our whole team is new to varsity except for our two captains. At first we came out super nervous, but we’re over that part now. We’re ready to win and show people we’re not the underdog anymore.”

The girls have 16 victories with one game left against Eastview on Tuesday.

Last weekend Lakeville South finished second at the Cretin-Derham Hall Tournament losing to the home team in the final. In the process, the Cougars defeated East Ridge, St. Agnes and St. Peter.

The Section 3AAA playoffs are scheduled to begin on Oct. 23. Willingham expects the team to be full strength by then.

Panthers’ dominance continues

Lakeville North won its own Todd Bachman Invitational last weekend defeating Marshall, the top-ranked team in Class AA, in the final 2-0.

The girls followed it up with a 3-0 sweep over Chanhassen on Monday and 3-0 against Rosemount on Tuesday.

The girls haven’t lost a match in the traditional way this season with few teams having any kind of success against them. The last time the Panthers lost a set was at the Eagle Invitational on Sept. 21 against last year’s state champion Eden Prairie, but the girls went on to win 2-1.

The Panthers do technically have a loss, rather a forfeit, on the record, which came on Sept. 20 against Burnsville. The team violated Bylaw 502 in the Minnesota State High School League rule book.

A player who participated on both North’s junior varsity and varsity matches went in to serve after Burnsville forced a fourth set. She had already played two games of junior varsity and four on varsity that day. The Panthers self-reported the incident to the MSHSL immediately following the match.

The girls can still earn at least a share of the South Suburban Conference title with a victory against Eagan on Oct. 16. The Wildcats are 8-0 in conference play and ranked No. 6 in the latest coaches association poll in Class AAA.

The Wildcats have just two losses on the season. Both came at the Eagle Invitational in late September to Wayzata and Shakopee.