BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Rockford made it look easy in the first round of the Section 5AA volleyball tournament with a three-game sweep of Providence Academy.
However, the road got rougher in the second round when losing to No. 2 section seed Zimmerman 3-0 last week to end the season at 7-19.
“We knew what we were up against with Zimmerman, so we worked hard in practice on blocking, hitting hard and allowing no free balls,” said Coach Cindi Simonson. “I was happy to see a lot of good things happening on the court against Zimmerman.”
Simonson said the team played well against Zimmerman in the first two sets, losing 25-20 and 25-21. However, she adds how some mistakes made in the third set gave Zimmerman some easy points on way to a 25-12 victory.
Junior hitter Jordan Weeding led the Rocket offense with eight kills, seven digs and four ace serves. Senior Katelynn Pedersen had four kills, while junior Ellen Paatela added three kills, eight digs and three ace serves.
Looking ahead to next season, Simonson said the team will have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of seniors Lexi Majeski and Pedersen as middle hitters.
“I have four juniors and one sophomore returning next year,” adds the coach. “These girls have played varsity together for the last two years, which is always a plus when a team has experience playing together.”
Simonson adds how some of the girls will play in the Junior Olympic summer program to get them ready for next fall.
Paatela and Weeding will return to power the offense as proven leaders. Senior setter Jaclyn Bagaason will graduate, but junior Kaylee Schumacher returns to set. Against Zimmerman, Schumacher provided nine set assists.
Others returning with experience are junior defensive specialist Nicole Friedlein and sophomore hitter Emily Ebespacher.
Senior varsity reserves Erin Gerard and Nicole Buenger will graduate, but top players from the junior varsity include Hannah Carlson, Sam Bagaason, Rhiannon Monsessen and Lauren Engen.