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Volleyball: Rosemount on a roll heading into section

After working through some early-season struggles, the Rosemount volleyball team is hitting its stride at just the right time.

The Irish closed out the regular season with a 3-1 victory over Prior Lake last Tuesday night, giving them sole possession of sixth place in the tough South Suburban Conference. The team has won nine out of its last 10 matches since its record dropped to 8-9 with a loss at the St. Michael-Albertville tournament less than three weeks ago.

"I think that we are a young team with limited varsity experience, so we struggled with consistency and discipline at the beginning of the season. However, as we gained experience and confidence our play got much better," Rosemount coach Smokey Vitek said. "The team is ready to compete for a top section finish."

The Irish finished the regular season with an overall record of 17-10, which earned them the No. 6 seed in Section 3AAA and a first-round home game against Bloomington Jefferson Tuesday night. The winner takes on third-seeded Burnsville tonight in Burnsville.

"Jefferson is a young team, but a school with a solid volleyball tradition of winning," Vitek said. "It will not be an easy match."

A fast start keyed the win over Prior Lake. The Irish used strong passing to set up their attack in taking the first two games, 25-13 and 25-18.

"Whether it was off of their serve or a ball coming back over the net, we were passing to target and giving our setter options," Vitek said. "When the setter has options it keeps the other team guessing, so we had a lot of 1-on-1 hitter to blocker situations rather than going up against two blockers. We have some very strong, smart hitters that can really leverage that situation to get the kill."

The strong passing paved the way for season-best performances from several hitters. Senior Katie Duff celebrated Senior Night with a team-high 21 kills, Brittany McLean drilled 16 while committing just one error, Erin Slinde knocked down eight and senior Meghan Schuster added six kills and tied Justine Buckmister for the team lead with four blocks.

Kim Correll put up 23 set assists and Slinde added 17.

Vitek credited Prior Lake with picking up its play to win a back-and-forth Game 3 25-23 before the Irish closed out the match with a 25-14 win.

"I was happy with our response in Game 4. We started to apply the adjustments and pick up our focus and intensity," she said. "We went out in Game 4 for the win, playing aggressively and taking control back."

Senior Haley Zweber led the defense with 29 serve receptions and 17 digs. Brittany Morrison added 10 receptions and 10 digs.