A year of success, overshadowed by tragedy

Before her death, Ettl helped North girls soccer team to 2nd place

Alyssa Ettl (2) died in a traffic accident near Lakeville North High School about one month after helping the Panthers' soccer team reach the state Class AA championship game. Photo by Rick Orndorf
Alyssa Ettl (2) died in a traffic accident near Lakeville North High School about one month after helping the Panthers’ soccer team reach the state Class AA championship game. Photo by Rick Orndorf

Numerous triumphs – and a tragedy that shook the community – were part of the 2013 year in sports at Lakeville North High School.

Following is a look back at some of those events:

Sense of loss

Lakeville North had one of most successful girls soccer seasons in school history when the Panthers finished second at the state Class AA tournament.

That was overshadowed a few weeks later when one of the Panthers’ players, junior Alyssa Ettl, died in a traffic accident Dec. 4 near the high school. Ettl had been named a captain of next year’s girls soccer team, although she was involved in much more than just sports. Her death had classmates vowing to try to live their lives as she had lived hers.

Ettl helped North reach the state girls soccer championship game, where the Panthers lost 1-0 to Minnetonka. North, which had a midseason slump, recovered in time to post six consecutive shutouts before the state final.

Numbers tell the story

In November, approximately 20 Lakeville North High School students signed National Letters of Intent for college athletics. One of them was basketball player J.P. Macura, who signed with Xavier University. He is the first boys basketball player at North to sign with a Division I program.

Although much of the local recruiting discussion centered on three other players – Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones, De La Salle’s Reid Travis and former Robbinsdale Cooper player Rashad Vaughn – Macura has done some amazing things as a junior and senior. He was the leading scorer for a North team that reached the 2013 state Class 4A tournament.

Although North coach John Oxton emphasizes that Macura is more than just a scorer, his offensive numbers are hard to ignore. He averaged 38.5 points through the Panthers’ first six games and scored a career-high 55 in an overtime victory over Farmington.

Skating into history

Lakeville North made history at the state Class AA girls hockey tournament, although the Panthers would have preferred if it had been for winning the championship.

Instead, they were part of the longest game in state tournament history. Their semifinal game against Minnetonka started shortly after 8 p.m. on a Friday and didn’t end until after 1 a.m. on a Saturday. Minnetonka scored at 4:29 of the sixth overtime to win 4-3.

Perhaps surprisingly, the lengthy game didn’t keep either team from winning the next day. North defeated Eden Prairie 3-2 in the third-place game while Minnetonka beat Hill-Murray 3-1 to win its third consecutive Class AA championship.

“I knew it was going to come down to a lucky bounce, a lucky hit,” said North goalie Cassie Alexander, whose 59 saves set a single-game state tournament record. “Both teams were gassed.”

Every race sets a record

On Sept. 17, Zoya Wahlstrom had a day no swimmer at North – and probably few swimmers anywhere –  could match. She was involved in breaking four Kenwood Trail Middle School pool records in a 100-85 victory over Rosemount. She set pool records in the 50-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly, anchored a 400 freestyle relay that set a pool record, and swam on a medley relay team that set school and pool records.

Rosemount also broke two pool records in the meet. It’s almost unheard of for that many pool records to be broken that early in the season, North coach Dan Schneider said.

Lakeville North went on to tie for the South Suburban Conference championship and finish eighth at the state meet.

Worth noting

• Lakeville North senior Ben Krynski won the shot put at the Class AA boys track and field meet with a throw of 57 feet. • One season after playing in the Prep Bowl, the Lakeville North football team returned to the state playoffs. The Panthers went 8-3, with their season ending with a loss to eventual champion Eden Prairie in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

• Longtime girls basketball coach Andy Berkvam resigned to become head boys basketball coach at Northfield, his alma mater. Shelly Soule, who played for Berkvam and later joined his staff as an assistant coach, was named the Panthers’ new head coach.

• The girls lacrosse team upset heavily favored Eden Prairie 13-12 in overtime in the state semifinals. That earned the Panthers a match against four-time defending state champion Blake. North gave the Bears a tough time before losing 14-12 in the championship game.

• The baseball team defeated Burnsville for the Class 3A, Section 3 championship. After losing to Rocori 3-2 in the state quarterfinals, North beat Rochester Mayo 6-3 and Forest Lake 9-1 to win the consolation championship.

• North junior Freddy Thomas tied for second at the state Class 3A boys golf tournament with a two-day total of 146 (2 over par).