Gathering his volleyball troops after practice last week, Roseville coach Greg Ueland shared some good, if confusing, news.
The Raiders had moved to No. 1 in Class 3A in the QRF, a mathematical formula used to rank and seed teams. One player admitted not knowing what that really meant. Another, junior Bre Maloney, enjoyed the notoriety of reaching the top spot for the first time.
“That’s awesome because I think sometimes we’re seen as the underdog, so it’s nice to be No. 1,” Maloney said. “I’m ready for us to be that.”
State tournament appearances the past three years have put Rose-ville in the upper-middle echelon of the state’s largest programs. The next step: playing deeper into the tournament. The Raiders reached the semifinals last year for the first time in program history.
Such a run will require what Roseville does well — defense, passing and serving — plus a more dynamic offense. The Raiders believe they possess both this fall.
Starting the season with a 3-0 sweep at Minnetonka, senior Haley Kauth said, “pushed our confidence to where we feel like we can do anything this year.”
After sweeping North St. Paul and Hopkins, the Raiders were tested throughout a 3-2 victory at Rosemount. In all, Roseville started the season 7-0 and did not drop a game in five of those matches. Per usual, the defense, passing and serving were strong.
“We don’t give up on a point,” said Kauth, a six-year varsity veteran and the state’s career leader with more than 2,300 digs. “We chase balls down and sometimes, I don’t think the other teams expect some of those balls to come back over.”
Now in his eighth year as coach, Ueland said emphasizing defense helped his early teams remain competitive. Better hitters have come through of late, giving Roseville “more balanced offensive firepower,” Ueland said.
Junior Alivia Garbe leads the way. She began last week as the team’s leader with 110 kills, almost double the amount of teammate Sara Hain. Playing Sept. 15 at Waconia, Garbe struck for 13 kills. She added 22 kills and two service aces against Forest Lake two days later.
“Sometimes we start slow but this year we’ve really got going from the start,” said Maloney, a setter whose 220 assists represent 95 percent of the team’s total. “This year there’s a lot less getting to know each other. It’s a lot more about building on what we have.”
The progression has pleased Ueland, who likens this group to another successful team he’s coached. Ueland was an assistant coach when the Roseville girls’ basketball team made three consecutive state trips from 2005-07.
“These girls expect a lot from themselves,” Ueland said. “It doesn’t even necessarily come from us as coaches. The key is that they realize they have to work hard and work together.”