Notebook: Prep sports about to take off again

Coach-supervised practices begin Monday

Buckle up.

The fall high school sports season is just days from beginning in earnest, with coach-supervised practices starting Monday.

And when it starts, there will be plenty of intrigue. Among the key questions: Can Lakeville North, Rosemount and Eastview build on the success that took their football teams to the Metrodome for the state playoffs last year? Will Lakeville North win a second consecutive state volleyball championship for Walt Weaver, who describes himself as an interim coach? What are Eastview’s chances of reaching the state boys soccer championship game for the third consecutive year (and winning it for the second straight year)? Will Burnsville return to the elite in girls soccer after an injury-riddled 2012 season? Can Eagan or Lakeville South break through and win the Class AA girls cross country championship? Who will be the last high school soccer and football teams to play in the Metrodome, which is scheduled to be torn down beginning in 2014?

Several new coaches will be in place this fall. Former assistant coach Chad Clendening takes over as head coach of Apple Valley football. He’s one of two new head football coaches in the South Suburban Conference (the other is Jon Anderson at Bloomington Kennedy). Longtime Lakeville youth and high school volleyball coach Steve Willingham is head coach at Lakeville South. Kari Raymond takes over as head volleyball coach at Burnsville. Andrew Michelson is the girls swimming coach at Eagan, replacing Steve Van Dyne, who stepped down to watch his own children compete. Rob Carpentier left as Farmington’s head girls soccer coach to become activities director at Park Center High School, leaving former assistant coach Tracie Randall in charge of a Tigers program that appears to be on the rise.

Farmington High School is in the middle of some other major athletic changes. The school has interim athletic directors following Jon Summer’s recent departure for Chaska High School. Farmington also is preparing for a move to the South Suburban Conference after the Missota Conference dissolves at the end of the 2013-14 school year. By this time next year, Farmington and Shakopee will be new members of the South Suburban, replacing Bloomington Kennedy and Bloomington Jefferson, which are leaving for the new Metro West Conference.

Some tennis teams will begin competition by the end of next week. Football opens Aug. 29 with Lakeville South playing at Lakeville North, Eastview going to Burnsville and Bloomington Kennedy playing Bloomington Jefferson in South Suburban games. In non-conference games, Apple Valley travels to Hopkins and Wayzata comes to Rosemount.

Eagan goes to Prior Lake for a South Suburban football game Aug. 30.

Football shakeup?

The Minnesota State High School League board of directors on Tuesday listened to a proposal that would radically alter how regular-season high school football operates.

The plan would eliminate conference affiliations for football only in favor of groups of 14 to 16 schools, based on geography. Teams would schedule games against other schools from within their own clusters, based on enrollment and existing rivalries.

Not every state uses the conference model for football. In Florida, teams play regular-season games against other teams from their playoff districts, with records in those games determining who advances to the postseason. Section groupings wouldn’t necessarily be considered in the plan brought to the MSHSL board.

A number of issues still have to be addressed. It isn’t clear how (or if) it would affect schools in the South Suburban Conference, which already is compact geographically.

If approved, the plan would take effect in the 2015 season. Schools will be allowed to have input this fall, with action possible by January 2014.

New BV girls hockey coach

Tracy Cassano is returning to South Suburban Conference girls hockey after being named Burnsville’s head coach on Tuesday.

Cassano, a Farmington resident, led Rosemount to the state Class AA tournament in 2011. The last two years she was head coach of the Chaska/Chanhassen cooperative team, which had a 30-21-3 record in her time there.

Cassano, a member of the University of Minnesota’s 2000 national championship team, will be the third head girls hockey coach in three years at Burnsville. Longtime Burnsville coach Bruce Anderson retired after the 2011-12 season. He was replaced by Garnet Asmundson, who coached the Blaze to a 14-10-2 record in 2012-13.