Veteran outside hitter Britta Baarstad suddenly finds herself the elder statesman of the Downers Grove North volleyball team.
"Yeah, it's scary," said Baarstad, who had 10 kills Tuesday to lead the Trojans (2-0) to a 25-22, 27-25 victory over visiting Naperville Central. "But we work really well together on the court. If we continue to do the things were supposed to do, the sky's the limit."
Four of Downers North's top eight players are either sophomores or juniors including junior middle hitters Alexa Loufman (four kills) and Gina Gammonley and sophomore outsides Jessie Tulacka (five kills, two blocks, ace) and Taylor Kasal.
The only seniors other than the 6-foot Baarstad to play extensively Tuesday were defensive specialist Maureen Eggert, libero Robyn Eggert and setter Sam Marek.
"We were young last year," said Downers Grove North coach Mark Wasik. "We're young again this year. But we're also a year older."
Tulacka lived up to her billing as one of the best sophomores in the state with her performance against Naperville Central. This came on the heels of her effort Monday against Marian Catholic when Wasik called her "the best player on the court."
"Jessie's very good," Baarstad said. "She's got a lot of potential. She's actually a setter, but having her play outside really helps. She's unbelievable."
Still, it was Baarstad who rallied the Trojans from a 23-19 deficit in the second set against Central with a pair of kills down the line that forced a tie at 24-all.
Meanwhile, Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson learned a lot about her young team, which returns only one starter (middle hitter Nicole Sarby) from last year's 33-5 sectional runner-up.
"We played so many balls that were out," Isaacson said. "We made it a lot harder on ourselves. Not playing yesterday hurt. We struggled working out the kinks that you usually work out in your first match.
"But we played some good defense," she added. "All of our pin hitters are juniors. Only Chloe (Lupina) was on varsity last year and she did not play a lot. We have a week off now. We'll go back in the gym. We need a little more time to work it out."
Central's future may be in its freshman class, led by opposite Alysia Baznik, who is up on varsity but did not play Tuesday. Five freshman are up on Central's junior varsity team.
Another player to watch for the Redhawks is 6-foot-2 sophomore middle Emma Donahue, who gave Central a lift defensively in the second set.