On the Main court at the Breakdown's Side Out Classic, the host team (Hopkins) shoud get quite a test from Osseo in the final match of a great day of volleyball. The Royals already opened their season with a five-set victory over New Prague, so they're battle-tested while the Orioles look to get their season off right. Both teams are ranked in the Breakdown's preseason poll, with Hopkins slotted in at No. 6 and Osseo at No. 4.
Osseo returns four terrific hitters (Hannah Pekarek, Emily Carman, Tina Boe, and Shiah Sanders) from last year's 30-victory team that advanced to the state tournament for the first time in five years. Coach Bill Quan expects them to be the leaders of a new group of Orioles that have their sights set on a return visit.
"They will provide offense and leadership," agreed Quan. "Keys to a successful 2014 will be replacing the setting and ball control that we lost to graduation and to continue to play as a team with good communication and energy."
After competing with young teams in recent years, Hopkins will be a senior-led team in 2014. The Royals return six of their top seven players from last year's 21-victory squad and will look for that senior leadership to carry the team deep into the season.
That group starts with senior All-State setter Sam Seliger Swenson, arguably the favorite for the Miss Volleyball award as the season begins. The Minnesota commit — and daughter of head coach Vicki Swenson — is a true floor general with a well-rounded game. In addition to setting, Seliger Swenson can hit with her 6-foot frame and has a great serve that netted 108 aces last fall.
Along with libero (and sometimes hitter) Ingrid Werner, right-side hitter Audrey Erickson, middle Ruby Moreland and other seniors, the Royals are a veteran team. But they also have youth in imposing 6-foot-3 outside hiter Jasmyn Martin and freshman setter Tara Lee.
"The Royals have the talent and depth to make a successful run in the Lake Conference as well as the section tournament," said coach Vicki Swenson. "One of the biggest challenges for the Royals will be finding the right player-combinations to create positive team chemistry. This is a special senior class that could do great things for the Royals. Add in a couple of younger players and the Royals will be a team that will battle in the top-ranked Lake Conference."
Why Osseo will win:
Why Hopkins will win:
Our pick: Hopkins in four.