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Roseville volleyball has become the hunted
A year ago, the Roseville Area High School volleyball team was coming off a "Cinderella" season that included a trip to the state tournament. Last year's team was dealing with the graduation of three key players in that tournament run and faced a number of unknowns.
This year, the Raiders are also preparing for a season following a state-tournament trip but have a much better feel of what to expect from their lineup.
"This year we know more of what we're capable of and what we're bringing to the table," said Roseville head coach Greg Ueland. "Every girl that will be playing significant time got quite a bit of time last year."
Roseville returns 11 players from last year's roster and lost just one starter to graduation. That definitely makes the Raiders the hunted team in Section 4AAA.
"There's a target on our backs and we know that everybody is going to bring their best against us," Ueland said. "That's good for this team. That's what you want your program to get to."
That target also stems from the fact that Roseville begins the season as a ranked team. The preseason state coaches poll was released earlier this month and the Raiders found themselves ranked seventh in the state in Class AAA. They are the lone ranked team from the Suburban East Conference and Section 4AAA and they are the defending champions of both.
Among Roseville's leading returning players is senior Monica Burich. She is the centerpiece of the team's offense and is closing in on the school record for career kills. At 6-foot-2, she also presents a challenge to opposing offenses, as evidenced by the fact that she holds all of the school records for blocks.
Despite her volleyball prowess, her athletic future is centered on the hardcourt. She has verbally committed to the University of Colorado to play basketball and is planning on signing her letter of intent during the early signing period in November.
Also returning are junior Haley Kauth and sophomore Bre Maloney. Despite their relative youth, they have played in two state tournaments and hold a number of school records. Kauth holds all the program's records for digs and Maloney owns the records for assists in a match and a season and should hold the career assist record soon. Maloney is within 200 of the 2,000-assist milestone.
Other players who are back after playing significant roles in last year's run to state are Nina Carmichael-Tanaka, Kat Becker, Sara Hain, Alivia Garbe and Ginger Perra. Garbe's early-season availability is up in the air as she deals with an ankle injury.
Burich, Kauth and Carmichael-Tanaka are the captains of this year's team.
"I think this team is really focused and hungry to build on the last two years' success," Ueland said. "They want to strive to win the conference and section and then go a little further in the state tournament."
In the Suburban East Conference, Roseville can expect Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge to be serious challengers and Stillwater and Forest Lake could be darkhorses. The Raiders could also face Cretin and East Ridge, along with North St. Paul, in the section playoffs.
In winning the last two Section 4AAA championships, Roseville beat Cretin-Derham Hall in the semifinals and North St. Paul in the finals both years.
"We really respect a lot of our opponents in the section," Ueland said. "We'll definitely be challenged by North St. Paul, Cretin-Derham Hall and East Ridge. We’ve had some great battles with Cretin the last couple of years and we seem to bring out the best in each other."
In preparation for the post-season, Ueland has put together a challenging schedule, that starts with a match against Champlin Park on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Hopkins High School as part of the Side Out Classic. The classic features 12 matches throughout the day with two going on at a time.
Champlin Park features sophomore setter Sidney Hilley, who has already verbally committed to play college volleyball at Wisconsin.
"We play such a tough schedule and that's a good thing," Ueland said. "We always think that's what prepares us for a great shot at the end."
Brian Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.