John’s Journal: Volleyball Is Back With A Bang
Rosemount, Prior Lake Get South Suburban Conference Play Started
Posted: Tuesday, September 13, 2022 - 3:31 PM
On the first night of the rest of their season, the volleyball teams from Prior Lake and Rosemount went at it hammer and tong inside the Rosemount gym Monday evening. With the preliminary, non-conference portion of their schedules behind them, Monday was opening night for South Suburban Conference competition.
Rosemount came out with a 3-1 win over the Lakers, holding off Prior Lake rallies time after time in the battle between two talented, well-coached teams.
“When you play in the South Suburban every night's a battle, it doesn't matter who's on the other side of the net,” said Lakers coach Mike Dean. “We all know the high level of competition and this is a great atmosphere.”
Prior Lake jumped out to a 9-5 lead in the first set before the Irish came back to win 25-20. The second set was similar, with the Lakers leading 7-4 and 15-11 before Rosemount again rallied for another 25-20 win. Prior Lake’s strongest play came in the third set; the Lakers led 8-2 and 13-4 but this time they held off the Irish. Rosemount charged back from a 16-10 deficit to make it 16-15, tied it 18-18, and Prior Lake won the set 26-24. The fourth set was equally close, with the Irish clinching the match with a 25-23 win.
“I thought Rosemont played a fantastic game,” Dean said. “They really challenged us. I was really proud of the way our girls stepped up and answered the call and kept battling back. It was a lot of fun.”
With day one of the South Suburban now in the rearview mirror, the hard slogging has begun. In what could be a sign that the conference might have more balance than usual this year, only (only!) three teams among this week’s Class 4A top 10 rankings from the coaches association are from the South Suburban: Lakeville North is No. 3, Rosemount is No. 8 and Lakeville South is No. 10, with Eagan and Burnsville among teams receiving votes.
Eagan has been traditionally atop the South Suburban, as well as big-school volleyball statewide. The Wildcats won state titles in 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2013, 2015 and 2016, while finishing second five times, including 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Prior Lake was the state runner-up in 2015 and went back to state in 2016 and 2017. Rosemount would love to return to the state tournament for the first time since its only appearance in 1988.
Irish coach Smoak Vitek has steadily built the program in her dozen years at the helm. Rosemount finished 20-10 last season and hopes for even better in 2022.
“A lot of that is confidence and just kind of believing that you can win,” Vitek said. “We probably started three or four years ago, after I had a really good group of girls graduating. I think we really started to kind of try and change our mentality, knowing that we had to approach every single one of our opponents the same way, and we struggled to do that even last year. But we made good gains last year, beating Lakeville North and Lakeville South.”
Rosemount is 6-0 against Minnesota competition in 2022, including a season-opening win over Stewartville, which is No. 4 in this week’s Class 3A rankings. They also defeated East Ridge, which is No. 4 in the latest 4A rankings. East Ridge knocked off Eagan in the Section 4 championship match last year and was the state runner-up to Wayzata, which owns the last two 4A titles. Wayzata saw its 65-match winning streak ended by Northfield in last weekend’s Southwest Minnesota Challenge tournament in Marshall. Northfield moved into the No. 1 spot in this week’s 4A poll.
While unbeaten against in-state teams, Rosemount went 2-2 at a tournament last weekend in Marion, Iowa, facing some of the top teams from that state.
“We kind of got our confidence shaken a little bit (in Iowa),” Vitek said after the Prior Lake match. “But some of those Iowa kids are big kids and there were some good teams there.
“I think confidence-wise we’re a really competent team. I wish they'd play with a little bit more intensity all the time; you could see today that our intensity kind of went up and down. But you’ve got to give Prior Like some of the credit for that. They played pretty scrappy.”
Volleyball Rankings from the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association
1. Northfield (13) - 237
2. Wayzata (3) - 225
3. Lakeville North - 204
4. East Ridge - 181
5. Champlin Park - 178
6. Rogers - 149
7. Chaska - 148
8. Rosemount - 101
9. Forest Lake - 78
10. Lakeville South - 72
Others Receiving Votes: Rochester Mayo - 46, STMA - 33, Eagan - 22
Teams only appearing on one ballot: Burnsville
1. Marshall (13) - 209
2. Kasson-Mantorville (1) - 191
3. Willmar - 174
T-4. Byron - 156
T-4. Stewartville - 156
6. Holy Angels - 135
7. Alexandria - 126
8. Benilde-St. Margaret’s - 105
9. Grand Rapids - 99
10. New Prague - 42
Others Receiving Votes: Delano - 31, Mahtomedi - 28
Teams only appearing on one ballot: Detroit Lakes, Hermantown, Rocori
1. Pequot Lakes (9) - 183
2. Nova Classical (1) - 155
3. Sauk Centre (1) - 148
4. Zumbrota-Mazeppa (2) - 146
5. Jackson County Central - 144
6. SW Christian - 134
7. Watertown-Mayer - 113
8. Cannon Falls - 99
9. Caledonia - 85
10. Annandale - 80
Others Receiving Votes: Albany - 18, Belle, Plaine - 16, New London-Spicer - 15
Teams only appearing on one ballot: Chatfield, Paynesville, Windom Area
1. Mayer-Lutheran (15) - 225
2. Minneota - 209
3. Bethlehem Academy - 176
4. Russel-Tyler-Ruthton - 169
5. Mabel-Canton - 168
6. MACCRAY - 150
7. Kenyon-Wanamingo - 143
8. Badger-Greenbush-Middle River - 120
9. Spring Grove - 70
10. Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa - 55
Others Receiving Votes: Henning - 46, Pine River-Backus - 22, Heron Lake-Okabena-Fulda - 16
Teams only appearing on one ballot: Ely
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected]