Volleyball preview: Attitude is important as new coach beginsSmokey Vitek takes over Irish volleyball with several players returning
By: Brian Hall, Rosemount Town Pages
Smokey Vitek was named the new coach for the Rosemount volleyball team in June.
Monday, Vitek got her first chance to actively coach her new team as fall practices began.
In between has been bit of a blur for Vitek.
“It seemed like a long time ago,” Vitek said of taking over the program from Kristin Helgeson, who stepped down citing family and travel reasons. “Summer went pretty fast. I’m really excited to get going.”
While Monday might have been the first day of fall practices, the players are no strangers to their new coach. Vitek has coached the Rosemount JV team and is involved with the Rosemount Junior Olympic program.
“I think it will be really smooth,” Vitek said of the transition between coaches. “I’ve coached them all at some point. I think coach Helgeson did a phenomenal job building the program and getting it organized. I learned a great deal from her. I’m running things pretty similar to how she ran them.
“It should be pretty easy for the girls, not too disruptive. When you have a new coach coming in, even the returning players are thrown off for a little bit while they learn how to deal with a new coach and staff. I don’t think it will be a big transition for anyone.”
Vitek will have several returning players to lean on if she needs to when the Irish open the season Aug. 30 at Faribault. Rosemount’s first home game is Sept. 13 against New Prague.
Senior captains Elaine Warner, Ali Fromme and Zoe Peterson return with varsity experience. Juniors Mikaela Sullivan, Jaclyn D’Amico and Natalie Busher are also back.
“We have a really good bunch of returning starters,” Vitek said. “And then we have some strong players coming up from JV. We should have a lot of depth this year. It will be good to have battles for position on varsity.
“They look good. Most of them have been working really hard all summer, conditioning, playing, going to camps. They look strong and ready to come in and take that next step.”
The offseason work might be the biggest demonstration the players are ready for their new coach.
Vitek brings a no-nonsense attitude to the job.
“I think I bring a competitive edge,” Vitek said. “I’m highly competitive. I bring that to every practice. I’m one of those people that nag players until they do it right. I expect them to listen, learn, adjust and get better.
“My motto is, ‘Every time you touch the ball, it’s an opportunity to get better.’ It doesn’t matter if you are warming up, doing simple drills, if you’re not taking the opportunity to get better every time you touch the ball, someone is going to pass you up.”
The Irish hope to pass some teams in the conference standings.
Rosemount’s volleyball team might benefit the most from the move to the South Suburban Conference as perennial powers Chaska and Eden Prairie are no longer conference foes, though Eastview, Eagan, Burnsville, Lakeville North and Lakeville South remain.
“It’s a huge advantage,” Vitek said of the change. “But our conference will still be extremely strong. It’s only a little bit easier. I don’t think there are any weak teams in the conference, but there won’t be as many really strong teams.”