OAK PARK HEIGHTS — It was a gratifying Suburban East Conference opener for the Stillwater volleyball team, which defeated Roseville 3-1 on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at Stillwater Area High School.

The Ponies (1-0 SEC, 3-3) split the first two games but finished strong while winning by scores of 25-21, 20-25, 25-20 and 25-20.

“It was a good game,” Stillwater coach Sara Biermaier said. “Roseville is solid and we were happy with the win.”

Stillwater went nearly two weeks between matches, but started the week with a 3-0 nonconference victory over Tartan on Sept. 20. After shaking off some rust in that one, the Ponies were sharper the following night against Roseville (0-1, 7-3).

Tori Liljegren led a balanced attack for the Ponies with 12 kills. Sophie Hoheisel followed with eight kills and junior middle hitter Caroline Brekke added six kills.

Olivia Foss finished with 13 set assists and Adison Benpard added 12 assists. Lucy Zollar led the Ponies defensively with 18 digs.

After dropping the second set, Stillwater cleaned up its play while winning the next two to secure the victory.

“We limited our unforced errors,” Biermaier said. “Sometimes we make silly mistakes, but we also started picking up their middle donut shot and once we started picking up their shots it was a lot better. Roseville will always fight to the end and their defense is constantly good, so we knew we had to be able to limit their runs.”

Stillwater was also able to avoid Roseville libero Sophia Gondek for the most part.

“Their libero was really good so we knew we had to stay away from her,” Biermaier said.

The coach said it was important to get off to a strong start in what is expected to be a competitive conference.

“It was just what we needed,” Biermaier said. “The girls needed that confidence going into conference play. Roseville is a solid team and will end up in the top half of the conference, so to beat them for our first conference win feels even better. We worked really hard to play well and it was a good match.”

The Ponies are scheduled to compete in the Eagle Invitational at Apple Valley High School on Sept. 24-25.

It is an impressive field that includes nine of the top 10 ranked teams in Class AAAA, including top-ranked Wayzata, Shakopee (2nd), Champlin Park (3rd), Eagan (4th), Chaska (6th), Eden Prairie (7th), East Ridge (8th), Lakeville North (9th) and Northfield (10th).

Marshall, which is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, is also scheduled to participate.

Stillwater 3, Tartan 0

At Oakdale, after nearly two weeks between matches, the Ponies returned for a three-game sweep over the Titans on Monday, Sept. 20 at Tartan High School.

Stillwater overcame a sluggish start to win by scores of 25-22, 25-15 and 25-17, snapping a three-match losing streak in the process.

“To be honest, we did not play that great at the beginning,” Ponies coach Sara Biermaier said. “It was definitely a game where we hadn’t been playing for more than a week and it showed, but once we got those kinks out I felt like we were playing loose and confident and were able to carry that energy into (the Roseville match).”

Senior Sydney Shaffer delivered a team-high nine kills for the Ponies. Caroline Brekke took advantage of increased time on the court and contributed six kills while Emily Elletson added five kills.

Olivia Foss finished with 12 set assists and Tori Liljegren notched 23 digs.

“It was a good game and everybody played, so that was awesome to see, as a coach, the girls utilize those moments when they do get up there.”

Contact Stuart Groskreutz at stuart.groskreutz@apgecm.com

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