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Volleyball: Irish battle injuries and inconsistency in first half of season

Senior Lauren Van Sickle receives an Eastview serve. Head coach Smokey Vitek praised Rosemount's first touches this season. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 4
Senior middle hitter Olivia Furnstahl delivers the spike in the second set against the Eastview Lightning that the Irish went on to win 25-16. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 4
Senior outside hitter Jenna Grutzmacher goes up to get a set Thursday night. Grutzmacher is one of several experienced hitters who return for the Irish this season. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Senior Marissa Hinkle digs out a Lightning hit during Rosemount's 3-1 loss. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

The Rosemount Irish volleyball team has had an up-and-down first half of their season as they fight injuries and inconsistent play. They started the season with a loss to Osseo but bounced back against Bloomington Jefferson. Rosemount then dropped two matches on the road to Tartan and East Ridge before beating Burnsville in their first home and South Suburban Conference match of the season last Tuesday. The Irish dropped a matchup at Lakeville South last Thursday before competing in the Farmington Invite last Saturday.

At the Farmington tournament, the Irish started off by beating Owatonna and Andover. Then then dropped a rematch against Osseo and the next match against Hutchinson. Head coach Smokey Vitek said her team faded down the stretch in Farmington.

"I think we played a couple of really good matches and then I felt like when we got pushed we kind of just fell over, we didn't push back, we seemed kind of tired by the end of the day," she said. "And some of that again, that was the first four matches we didn't have Katie (McLean). So we made some changes and whenever you throw changes in I think it exhausts the kids because they have to work so hard to adjust to the changes."

Thursday night Rosemount had their second home match of the season as they hosted the Eastview Lightning. They struggled in the first set, which they lost 25-17, but then seemed to find a groove in the second and cruised to a 25-16 victory to tie the match. However, the Irish then dropped two close sets (25-22 and 25-23) to lose 3-1 to the Lightning.

"We're dealing with a lot of injuries right now," Vitek said. "We have Katie McLean out and she's one of our best passers and probably one of our most consistent hitters, so that doesn't help us. We just weren't real consistent. We'd get going on a roll and we're playing clean and then we'd make five errors in a roll."

Tonight's up-and-down play for Rosemount is somewhat representative of their season so far in general.

"We've been a little on a roller-coaster and I think some of that is that we haven't had our starting line-up for one match" Vitek said. "A lot of it is that and then a lot of it is that we have pretty young and inexperienced setters. So that causes us to be a little bit inconsistent."

Part of Rosemount's struggles against Eastview was their serving, but that is an area that Vitek said has been part of a strength for the Irish so far this season.

"Besides tonight, our strength has been in our serving, our first contact whether it's serving, passing or the dig, that first contact is where our strength has been," she said. "Tonight we definitely struggled with that first contact in that first set and then through the whole match we struggled with our serves."

Vitek said they have worked on their setting with their young setters. Another area she said they are trying to improve is having their experienced hitters be smarter when they receive a set, and knowing what they can or cannot do with the set they have been given.

One player who's play Vitek praised so far this season is junior Gabriella Scott.

"I think Gabby Scott has made huge strides from last year to this year, just with her confidence on the court and her passing and stuff, she said. "She's just come a long way."

Vitek also said that senior Jenna Grutzmacher has adjusted very well to a position change.

"We moved Jenna to right (from the left) which is a big change," she said. "She (Grutzmacher) swings really well from the right side so that's kind of fun to watch. We had expected to put someone else there but she just really helps our lineup, our lineup is so much smoother when she's there."

Looking ahead to the second half of the season, Vitek said she just wants her team healthy.

"I'm looking forward to getting all of our starting players on the court at one time, I think that will be really nice for us," she said. "Our approach has always been improve. Improve, improve, improve, and then when we get to sections we deliver."

Rosemount currently is 4-7 overall and 1-2 in the SSC, which puts them in the middle of the conference. They host Apple Valley next Tuesday, Sept. 25, and then goes to Farmington and September 27.

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a RiverTown Multimedia sports reporter covering Hastings, Farmington and Rosemount athletics. He graduated from Drake University with a journalism degree in 2014. 

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