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Volleyball: Playing to the competition's level

The Rosemount volleyball team has not eased into the 2008 season.

The Irish opened with a busy week. It wasn't going to be a game here, a practice here, and taking things easy. They wanted matches early.

Coach Kristin Helgeson believes it will pay off in the long run. With four key returning players and a bit of inexperience in the other positions, she felt playing a lot of games would be beneficial in creating a cohesive unit.

It hasn't been the start that Helgeson or the Irish wanted.

Rosemount has played to the level of the competition. In the ultra-competitive Lake Conference, that would be a good thing. It means something else among early-season, non-conference opponents.

"It's been kind of a rough start," Helgeson said. "We should not be 1-5. We have played a couple of matches against better teams and played really well. But we haven't beat the teams we need to beat. We have played well, but not beat them. We are playing to the level of our competition right now."

The season started with a disappointing 3-2 loss to Rochester Mayo. Two days later, the Irish went 1-3 at the Eden Prairie Invitational.

Against Eagan on Tuesday, it was a 3-0 loss.

"We didn't not come ready to play," Helgeson said of the Eden Prairie tournament. "We weren't mentally prepared. It's just a new crew of kids learning what it takes to focus at the varsity level.

"We have four solid returners, but we are learning that anytime you play in the state of Minnesota, you have to have all parts firing."

Rosemount is still waiting to recover after losing momentum against Rochester Mayo. The Irish won the first two games, 25-17 and 25-19. However, they lost the third game in a close 24-26 decision. The momentum was gone, and so was the possible victory after losing 25-15 and 15-11 in the final two games.

Playing against a ranked squad -- Waconia -- at Eden Prairie, Rosemount might have played its best, but the result was the same, a 19-25, 25-18, and 16-14 loss. The Irish beat St. Peter, 25-17 and 25-7, for their lone victory.

The loss to Eagan was by 25-17, 25-23, and 25-19 scores.

"We have a couple of setters who are new, and we need to get them and the hitters to click together," Helgeson said. "That has been a little slow for us. That will come, and once the setters come and get experience with the hitters, once we start to click better, it will turn around really fast."

Meanwhile, Paige Petersen currently leads the state in kills with 52. Not far behind, Paige Carter has 42 kills this season, and Jordan Hinkle has added 40, providing a balanced attack.

Paige Henke has paced the offense with 107 assists.

Helgeson praised Laura Budinger's defense at Eden Prairie, and Budinger has a team-high 43 digs.