Roseville’s Maloney a double national champion

Having an eighth-grader in the starting lineup in a high school varsity team sport is relatively rare, especially at bigger metro-area schools. Breanna Maloney did just that two years ago on the volleyball team at Roseville Area High School.

After seeing the success Maloney had over the summer with her club volleyball team, her quick rise to the varsity ranks in high school shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise.

Maloney, who is entering her sophomore year at Roseville this fall, helped her Northern Lights 15-1 team win a pair of national championships this summer. Northern Lights won an AAU championship in Florida in late June and a USA Volleyball Junior National title in Minneapolis right after that.

“I think it was really awesome to win either one, let alone both,” Maloney said. “We would’ve been happy with either one.”

PrepVolleyball.com had Northern Lights rated No. 1 in the nation in its preseason rankings, and the team went out and proved it on the court.

The whirlwind eight-day stretch began on June 20 in Orlando, Florida, as Northern Lights opened the AAU tournament with three victories. Three days later, they were in the finals, playing their 11th match in four days. Northern Lights wrapped up the championship with a three-set victory over the Munciana Ninjas, a team from Indiana.

Northern Lights went 11-0 and lost just one set in Orlando.

After flying home the same day as the AAU final, Northern Lights opened the junior national tournament the next day at 8 a.m. at the Minneapolis Convention Center. They won three matches that day, went 2-1 the next day and finished pool play with a 6-1 record. A victory in the challenge round sent Northern Lights to the championship semifinals, where they beat a team from Dallas, Texas, to advance to the title match.

In the finals, Northern Lights squared off against a team from Arizona and claimed the championship with a three-set victory. All matches in both tournaments were played in a best-of-three format.

There was no qualifying that needed to be done to play in the AAU tournament, but qualifying is required for the junior nationals. Northern Lights actually won two qualifying tournaments earlier in the year.

“The (junior nationals) is a little more competitive but they’re both nationals,” Maloney said.

Northern Lights was established in 1993 and operates 33 teams at eight different age levels. There are six teams at the 15-year-old age and Maloney plays on the highest-level team. The team consists of 10 players from throughout the metro area. The high schools represented on the team are Cambridge-Isanti, Concordia Academy, Eagan, Farmington, Hopkins, Lakeville South, Minneapolis Southwest, Roseville and Waconia. Longtime former Apple Valley High School coach Walt Weaver is the head coach.

Maloney’s volleyball road to this point has been long and marked with success. She first played in fourth grade on a parks and rec team in Roseville. From there, she played in Roseville’s Junior Olympic program and switched to Northern Lights in 2012.

She entered the Roseville high school program in 2011 as a seventh grader and played junior varsity. As an eighth grader, Maloney moved up to the varsity squad as the starting setter. Being that young and stepping in as the quarterback of the offense on the varsity team wasn’t intimidating for Maloney.

“It was super easy to take a leadership role as a setter and move people around,” Maloney said. “No one was like, ‘A middle-schooler is talking to us.’”

Roseville head coach Greg Ueland said Maloney was able to move right into the starting spot and immediately made the offense better.

“The older players embraced her,” Ueland said. “With her at setter, we could do more things in our offense than we did before.”

Maloney enters the upcoming high school season just shy of 2,000 assists and should leave Roseville as the program’s record-holder in that statistic.

She got her start as a setter while playing in the Roseville Junior Olympic program and it happened almost by accident.

“I had the biggest hands, so they said, ‘All right, you’re the setter,’” Maloney said. “I was the setter from then on.”

In addition to two national titles this summer, Maloney has enjoyed success at other levels of volleyball. In her two years as the starting setter for the high school team, she has played in two state tournaments and is looking forward to doing that again.

“We’re working on a third this year,” said Maloney. “State’s addicting. Once you go there once, you just have to go back.”

Maloney and her Roseville teammates began captain’s practice earlier this week and tryouts are Aug. 11, the first official day of practice. Roseville plays its first match of the season on Saturday, Aug. 23, at 9 a.m. against Champlin Park at the Breakdown Sideout Classic at Hopkins High School.

Brian Meyers can be reached at bmeyers@lillienews.com.

 

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