BY DAVE PEDERSEN
Both Rockford and Delano earned first-round victories to open section volleyball tournaments last week. Second round play was Tuesday after this issue went to press.
Rockford defeated Providence Academy 3-0 in the Section 5AA tournament. A win over No. 2 seed DeLaSalle would put the No. 3 Rockets in the sub-section title game at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31 at St. Michael-Albertville against either No. 1 Maple Lake or No. 4 St. Anthony Village. The section title match is 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2 at STMA.
No. 2 Delano took down Mankato West 3-0 in the Class 3A, Section 2 tournament to earn a re-match Tuesday against No. 6 Waconia, a Wright County Conference foe who upset No. 3 Prior Lake. Delano beat Waconia earlier this season. The winner advances to play at No. 1 Chaska or No. 4 Buffalo Lake 6 p.m. Saturday at the higher seed. Chaska is ranked No. 1 in the state.
Tiger coach Rebecca Rue said a balanced offensive attack broke down the Mankato West defense little more than it expected. Plus, the blockers stepped it up in this match.
Kill leaders were Shelby Seurer 11, Bria Barfnecht 10 and Alex Wittinger 9. Elle Heinonen and Tori Hanson both had nine digs, Kristin Kreklow had 26 set assists and the team had 11 blocks.
Rockford was paced by senior Ellen Paatela who had a stellar game against PA with a personal record of 18 kills in a match. Senior Jordan Weeding added 12 kills and senior Kaylee Schumacher contributed 25 set assists.
“What stood out in the PA match was that we were able to finish strong in all three games,” said coach Jen Stoa. “Keeping our mental focus and toughness from start to finish is something we have been working on all season long.”
Along with the senior leaders, Rockford has had contributions from younger players. Stoa says ninth-grader Emili Cain has a lot of talent and a lot of potential who brings height and quickness to the team. She is second in blocking to Weeding.
Other younger players who have stepped up their play are sophomores Hannah Carlson and Lauren Enge, plus juniors Emily Eberspacher and Sam Bagaason.