Assistant, former player takes reins for Lakeville North girls basketball

Shelly Soule will replace Andy Berkvam as head coach

New Lakeville North girls basketball head coach Shelly Soule was a senior captain for the Panthers in 2004. (File photo by Rick Orndorf)
New Lakeville North girls basketball head coach Shelly Soule was a senior captain for the Panthers in 2004. (File photo by Rick Orndorf)

For the first time in 23 seasons, the person pacing the sideline, barking orders and negotiating with officials for the Lakeville North girls basketball team will be someone other than Andy Berkvam.

The new head coach isn’t coming from far away. Shelly Soule is taking the final step to the head coaching role after being a player and assistant coach for the Panthers.

Soule, who has been a Lakeville North assistant for the last four years and a coach at youth camps for the past 11, is taking over as head coach for Berkvam, who took the Northfield boys basketball head coaching job in April.

“When Berkvam was leaving for Northfield, I had to apply,” Soule said. “It came a little earlier than I planned but I’m very excited about it. It’s a great opportunity. I’m just excited for the season.”

It’s been her dream job for years.

“I’ve had other people approach me about different opportunities,” Soule said. “Last year I was looking into the college game, but I just passed on it. I love where I am. My heart has always been with Lakeville. My dream was always to take over for him.”

Not only did Soule coach under Berkvam for the past four years, she was also coached by Berkvam. As a graduate of Lakeville High School in 2004, she was a member of the girls basketball team that was runner-up at state in 2004. She led the team in assists and scored 11.5 points per game that season.

She was also a member of the 2002 and 2003 state championship teams. Soule is 12th on the school’s career scoring list and sixth in assists.

She said her experience with the Panthers changed her life and she’s anxious to repay the program.

“The biggest thing Berkvam teaches is self-motivation and discipline,” Soule said. “I could have gone down a different path in life, but he really set me on to the right path. It’s such a bond and unity with this program. It’s about being a part of a team and something bigger than yourself, and how to be part of a team and set goals.”

She went on to play for Minnesota State University Moorhead on scholarship where she graduated with a degree in physical education and continued to help with summer camps. When she graduated, Soule came back to Lakeville, where Berkvam put her with the traveling seventh-graders, who are now juniors. She also became junior varsity head coach and took over as director of the program’s summer youth basketball camps. For a daytime job, Soule is a special education teacher in Farmington.

It should be a smooth transition.

“Every single girl in the program I’ve known since they signed up for camp in the second grade,” Soule said.

There won’t be many changes in the program.

“Following him was scary at first, but we’re keeping all the same traditions and we’ve been like a family,” Soule said. “When (Lakeville North principal Marne Berkvam, Andy Berkvam’s wife) hired me she said she wanted to keep it in the family.”

Lakeville North girls basketball is known for playing a lot of girls and emphasizing defense and rebounding. Soule doesn’t plan on changing that philosophy.

“Defense is key,” Soule said. “I won’t say I have one specific philosophy. I’m flexible and I will adapt to the players I have. We’re going to be a lot smaller this year, but we’re going to get after people. Offensively you’ll see some different looks. We won’t have that big center, but the girls will have a little more freedom on offense.”

Soule is bringing back assistant coach Brian Blascziek and bringing in Angie Craven, another former Panthers player. Craven will run the Red Shoelace Program, which is a weekly meeting with the players to “hold them accountable for decisions they make off the court,” Soule said.

Tom Robinson will also join the staff as a varsity assistant.