Volleyball: Coach Smokey Vitek talks about the upcoming seasonDuff, McLean and Slinde are back to lead the Irish volleyball team in 2012
By: Matt Steichen, Rosemount Town Pages
You were in Marshall last week for the Southwest Minnesota State team camp. How did that go?
It is one of the best team camps in the region and it was our first year attending. It ran from (last) Monday through Thursday. There were over 30 high school teams from Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota at the camp. Many of the teams were very strong so the competition was great.
We played a lot of volleyball in four days and really worked hard in some pretty hot, humid environments. It really tests not only your volleyball skills, but physical condition and mental toughness.
Were there surprises or any positives that emerged? Or any specific areas where you saw need for improvement?
Overall we had a great team camp. Both the players and myself got a better understanding of our overall talent and how well we can compete. On the positive side we showed tremendous offensive talent and blocking. This is the first year in a while where we have had good height. Some of the improvement areas that we saw include defensive discipline and our off the ball play. These were not surprises but it is always good to verify where you sit prior to the start of the season.
Looking at last year's roster, seven of the top 10 players in your rotation were seniors. What's it like trying to rebuild a varsity roster with such little experience?
We did have a lot of seniors last year that play key spots within the rotation. However, we also have a pretty good core of returning players and some strong players coming from JV, 10, 9 teams. A lot of the younger players have been lined up in back of that large group of seniors so they have been working hard to earn spots. They are ready and pretty eager to prove themselves. I really do not see 2012 as a rebuilding year but more as a year of change.
Most of your varsity experience now lies with Katie Duff and freshmen Brittany McLean and Erin Slinde. Tell me about their individual games and what they bring to the team.
Duff was our starting middle hitter and set a school record for serving aces last season. Katie is an extremely versatile player. She can hit and block well from any position in the front row. She has a quiet personality but she can really pound the ball. Katie and Meghan Schuster are our program captains for 2012.
McLean has worked in the off-season to improve her hitting consistency and ball control. She will be a dominant offensive player for our team this season. She has a year of additional experience and growth. She had a tremendous team camp and is playing with confidence and passion right now.
Slinde has also gained confidence and experience in the off-season as well as improvement in her hitting, setting and overall game. She provides us with a solid block against the very strong South Suburban Conference left-side attackers and is a very smart and consistent hitter. She also set for us during team camp and really did a nice job. Both McLean and Slinde have been chosen to participate in the USA Volleyball High Performance Program.
Other players who saw limited varsity time included Meghan Schuster, Haley Zweber, and Kim Correll. Where do you see each of them fitting into the picture this season?
Schuster was injured for almost all of the 2011 season with a high ankle sprain and it is great to have her back. She is strong blocker and brings strong leadership to the court. As a three-sport athlete she has lots of experience and will be a key contributor to our success.
Zweber is an exceptional athlete. She is quick and strong, making for a great back row player. She has worked very hard to continuously improve her game. She had a great team camp.
Kim Correll has been unavailable most of the summer due to other commitments, but I am sure she will come into the season ready to play.
Were there any other players who stood out at the camp or who played well at the JV level last season who you think could emerge to help the varsity this fall?
Bri Glaus had a strong showing at the camp with solid blocking and hitting. Molly Gruenke, Sarah Jacobs, Melissa Seldon, Nikita Valentini and Keturah Marxhausen also showed they are ready to battle for starting positions.
Other key players include Justine Buckmister, Katie Kalinowski, Brittany Morrison, and Maddie Phyle to name a few.
What are your goals and expectations for the team in the upcoming season?
2012 should be a breakthrough season for Rosemount volleyball. We have the talent and depth to finish in or near the top of the South Suburban Conference. Now we simply have to leverage that talent, work hard and play like a team. This requires some changes in our program that I believe this group of players is capable of doing. One of our biggest challenges will be team confidence. The South Suburban Conference is so strong that none of the matches are easy wins, and when you are playing strong teams with winning traditions in many instances the team with the confidence pulls out the wins. We have to develop the confidence in ourselves, and play every point to win.