By Phil Brozynski
Sandburg coach David Vales may never let Kelly Mendoza have her job back.
Vales took over the girls program this fall for Mendoza, who wanted to spend more time with her young family. After watching his team finish third at the DuPage Area Tournament in a field that included Wheaton Warrenville South, Naperville North, Naperville Central, Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Neuqua Valley and Prairie Ridge, he may never rescind the reigns.
"I'm very pleased," Vales said. "This is what I wanted the end of the season to look like. I didn't expect it to happen this quickly. Now we have more time to set up our offense and to find out how much deeper we can go on our bench."
Vales was particularly impressed with 5-foot-8 sophomore Mary Kate Imrie.
"I don't think she came out of the lineup one time the entire weekend," Vales said. "She did tremendous...defense, blocking. She had a nice tournament."
Sandburg finished the weekend with a memorable, if not rather lengthy, 25-20, 35-37, 25-15 victory over Downers Grove North in the third-place match.
"I'm very happy to finish third, especially since we're not from the DuPage area," he said.
Another happy coach was Naperville Central's Brie Isaacson, whose team finished fifth despite losing setter Megan McMahon earlier in the week. McMahon is out three-to-four weeks after having surgery Monday to remove her appendix.
"We have a different look right now," Isaacson said. "We have different weaknesses. But we also have different strengths. It's just going to take us awhile to start playing more consistently."
Neuqua Valley, the only team to beat Naperville North this season, lost to Naperville Central and Wheaton Warrenville South at the DuPage Area tournament. But the Wildcats took the Tigers to 29-27 in the third game of their match and took down Prairie Ridge in their tournament finale to place seventh.
"We started slow this week," Neuqua Valley's Paige Stevens said. "But I think we're finally clicking as a team. I'm glad we finished the tournament with a win."
Finally, there were two matches this week that demonstrated the foolishness of asking teams to play two sectional matches in one night.
Last Tuesday, Naperville North and Naperville Central locked up in a taut, grueling three-game match won by North 25-22, 19-25, 25-22. The match took more than 90 minutes. Can anyone imagine asking the winner to come back and play for a sectional title 15 minutes later?
And in the third-place match at the DuPage Area tournament, Sandburg and Downers Grove North locked up in a three-game match won by the Eagles 25-20, 35-37, 25-15. The second game alone took more than a half-hour to finish.
Could anyone have come back from that match and play again 15 minutes later for a sectional title?
Naperville North athletic director Doug Smith, one of the true good guys in high school athletics, said following the North vs. Central showdown, "The IHSA argues that in some tournaments teams play five matches in one day. But the thing is during the regular season, there's always next Saturday. There's no tomorrow in the sectional."