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Back Row: November 2011 Archives

Congratulations to Hinsdale Central volleyball coach Sheralynn Kellough, who recently delivered twins. Her team didn't do too bad, either.

Sun-Times All-Area selection Ally Davis was selected as an Under Armour Honorable Mention All American after leading the Red Devils toi their second consecutive regional title, a three-set win over St. Ignatius.

Davis finished her career breaking both the career kills and blocks records at Hinsdale Central. The 6-foot-1 senior finished her career with 1,148 kills (2008-2011) and 170 blocks.

Also, setter Ellie VanKeirsbilck finished second on the school's list of career assists with 1,702 (2009-2011), and Davis, Meg McDowell, Katie Grabowski and Rachael Lenderman were named to all-tournament teams throughout the season for the 20-18 Red Devils.

"Davis, Grabowski, Sanne Hilbrich, VanKeirsbilck and Emily Grasso will be deeply missed next year," assistant coach Maggie Stewart said. "They provided the Red Devils with leadership and determination."

***

And now for some girls basketball news....

Kankakee McNamara coach Jeff Bennett unexpectedly resigned last week, saying he wanted to "spend more time with my family," according to Kankakee Daily Journal.

Bennett led McNamara to state final four appearances in 2008, 2010 and 2011. The Fightin' Irish finished third in Class 2A last season, going 23-9. They were 21-11 and finished fourth in 2010 and 22-10 and fourth in 2008.

"Hopefully, the record speaks for itself," Bennett said. "I had the pleasure of coaching a lot a good kids in a great conference, which got us ready for a state tournament run each and every year."

***

No surprise here. Hillcrest is off to a 4-0 start after claiming the 6th Annual Rich South Galaxy Tournament title behind MVP Shannise Heady. All the 5-foot-11 senior did was average 15 points, four rebounds, 3.5 assists and four steals in four games.

She had nine points and 11 rebounds against Homewood-Flossmoor, scored 17 points with three steals against Thornwood, got 19 points and four rebounds against Rich South, and scored 15 points with six rebounds and six steals against Lincoln-Way North.

Other contributors included Dana Gettis (14 points per game), Jahmia Phillips (12 points, seven rebounds per game), Samirah Ali (10.5 points, four assists per game), Jasmine Sanders (8.8 points per game) and Mariam Awoniyi (6.5 points, 6-.3 rebounds per game).

***

Batavia is not afraid to travel, whether it's the boys traveling to Quincy to experience the Blue Devil pre-game ritual or the girls taking the long and winding road south to downstate Morton near Peoria.

Last weekend, Batavia finished 2-2 at the Morton Thanksgiving tournament. The Bulldogs defeated Freeport (62-57) and Moline (41-39), lost to host Morton (61-36) and dropped a heartbreaker to Normal Community (42-39).

Batavia overcame a 13-point second-quarter deficit to beat Freeport.

Liza Fruendt came up huge in the tournament. She scored 22, 11, 14 and 15 points in the four tournament games. Miranda Grizaffi added 13 points in the win over Freeport.

The Bulldogs are currently 3-2 on the season.

***

St. Joseph's Briya Wilborn and Arriel Anderson were named to the all-tournament team at the Willowbrook Thanksgiving tournament. The duo led the Lady Chargers to their second straight Willowbrook championship.

Wilborn averaged 11.8 points, three rebounds and three steals for the tournament. Anderson averaged seven points, four assists and two steals.

***

Streamwood lost two key players and 25 points per game from last year's 22-6 team that finished second in the Upstate Eight River Division. But 32-year veteran coach George Rosner welcomes back three starters and an impact sophomore.

Back are point guard Amanda Patterson, a 5-foot-5 senior and four-year starter, 5-9 junior guard Jessica Cerda, who averaged better than eight points per game and bagged 47 three-pointers as a sophomore, and 5-6 junior guard Deja Moore, who averaged 7.3 points per game and is an outstanding defensive player.

Add to the mix 6-foot sophomore post Hannah McGlone, who Rosner predicts will be an impact player for the next three years.

"She is an outstanding young player who will be noticed by everyone," Roser said. "She is the real deal."

However, there is one small problem at Streamwood.

"We must play with five players on the court," Rosner said. "That missing piece is a big piece, and we are short on depth. So we will see how things develop."

***

Zion-Benton is posed for another run at the Class 4A state tournament between its dynamic 1-2 punch of 5-11 senior Octavia Crump and 5-10 sophomore Samantha Rodriguez. Both were starters on the Zee-Bees' state runner-up last season.

Stepping into starting roles off the bench will be former sixth man Morgan Franklin, a 5-9 senior forward, and 5-6 junior guard Kaitlyn Stabenow, Slated to see minutes in the frontcourt are 6-1 senior Aaliyah Smith and North Chicago transfer Lakanesha Robinson, a 6-foot senior forward.

Also expected to contribute are sophomore guards Shania Thompson and Carly Fernandez.

"Defense will dictate how well we do this season," coach Tanya Johnson said. "We are working hard and improving every day. I'm really looking forward to watching the development of this team this season and know we have a great deal of potential."

No. 13 Zion-Benton is off to a 4-1 start and has a key date at Libertyville Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

***

Marian Catholic graduated six seniors including three starters, and lost senior Sarafina Handy and freshman Kauai Bradley to knee injuries over the summer. Bradley is expected to return after the Christmas holidays, but Handy has been lost for the season.

"Sarafina is a wonderful young lady that has given so much to the Marian Catholic program over the past four years and will continue to do so," coach Annie Byrne said. "Unfortunately, it will be from the sideline this year."

Despite those losses, don't expect much of a drop-off, if any, from last year's 30-5 record, including a 9-0 mark in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. Marian Catholic will rely on 5-5 senior guard Alanna Ferry, 5-9 forward Amber Williams and 6-1 forward Megan Walsh.

"Alana can do it all," Byrne said. "She is an extremely hard worker who brings the best out of her teammates on a regular basis. She is expecting and demanding big things out of herself and her teammates in her senior campaign."

Williams is a coach's dream...a player who hustle baseline to baseline on every possession.

"Amber is an excellent Leader and communicator on and off the floor," Byrne said. "She is our defensive expert. She has greatly improved her offensive confidence and ability in the offseason. Amber is one of our intangible pieces that makes our puzzle go together."

Walsh will be counted on to provide an inside presence.

"She has worked very hard for the past two years and knows what will be expected out of her this season as she steps on the floor as an upperclassman," Byrne said. "Her foot speed has improved tremendously and her touch around the basket will help us a lot."

Youngsters who Byrne expects big things from include 5-5 sophomore guard Brianna Morrison, 5-7 freshman guard Teniya Page and 5-9 sophomore guard Ashton Millender.

"We have had a lot of adjustments to make, but the girls never cease to amaze me," Byrne said. "They have come so far and are ready for the challenges ahead. We look forward to another fun year of basketball."

Marian Catholic is 3-1 and ranked No. 21.

***

No. 19 Romeoville is off to a 5-0 start on the heels of a 21-7 season one year ago that included a championship of the Oak Lawn Holiday Tournament and a second place finish in the Southwest Prairie Conference.

Back from that team are junior center/forward Kiera Currie (17 points, 11 rebounds per game in 2010), junior point guard Abby Smith (11 points, four assists per game), junior Brianna Harris, senior Hillary Van Meerten, junior Angelica Osusky and senior guard Precious Williams, who is sidelined until January with an Achilles injury.

Newcomers include junior forward Rosalinda Vasquez, senior forward Nicole Ramaglia and junior forward Ceara Floyd.

***

Waubonsie Valley 6-foot-3 post Rachael Ross verbally committed to Radford University last week. Radford is an NCAA Division I program that competes in the Big South Conference.

Ross also visited Memphis, UIC, Bradley, Chicago State and Roosevelt. Ross was sold on the school, size, academics and overall feel, and her family liked the connection and vibe from the coach and team, according to coach Kim Connell.

***

Keep an eye on T.F. North this winter. Although the Meteors lack depth, there is no lack of talent led by Alabama-Birmingham recruit Schneia Battle and Morgan State-bound Sabrina Montgomery.

Other key returners include Sharee Greenlee, Chardae Greenlee and Raven Winburn. The Greenlees are back at T.F. North after playing at Homewood-Flossmoor in 2010.

"This year's team will be challenged by moving up into the Class 4A," coach Tim Zasada said. "We will use a very competitive schedule to get us ready for the state playoffs. We lack depth, but will try to make up for that by getting in shape and playing hard."

***

Providence went 2-3 at Geneva last weekend and came within a point of going 3-2 following a 53-52 loss to Morgan Park. The Celtics led the Mustangs 19-3 early, but fell behind in the third quarter and was forced to play catch-up.

Providence is led by 6-foot senior guard Cassidy Glenn, who is coming back from an ACL injury suffered near the end of her junior season.

Other players to watch include 5-11 junior Alex Shermulis, 6-foot sophomore Anna Novak, 5-10 guard Sam Rohrer, 5-7 freshman guard Alyssa Jurges and 5-10 freshman forward Mary Fashingbaurer.

"Last year our record suffered but our young players earned a lot of playing time and have prepared well to compete this season," coach Eileen Copenhaver said. "We are a little bit older and seem to be more competitive."

***

After losing to St. Edward in the Class 2A regional finals last year, (Elgin) Westminster Christian is happy to be back in Class 1A.

Back from last year's 14-12 team are senior guard Whitney VandenBos, sophomore forward Claire Speweik, sophomore guard McKaila Hays, and senior guard Haley Flickinger.

***

Johnsburg, which has won seven consecutive regional titles and six conference titles in the past seven years, is trying to rebound from the loss of first-team Associated Press and Illinois Basketball Coaches Association all-state selection Melissa Dixon (24 points per game in 2010).

But all is not lost.

"We return our starting point guard and center, and the senior class has won at least 20 games each of their three previous seasons," said first-year head coach Brad Frey, who was the sophomore coach the previous 11 years.

Top returning players include 5-9 senior point guard Morgan Berge, 6-1 senior center Ashley Schuld and 5-10 senior forward Stephanie Cherwin.

Newcomers include 5-5 senior guard Tayelor Neiss, 5-9 junior forward Kallie DiTusa, and 5-4 sophomore guard Kayla Toussaint, the daughter of Johnsburg boys coach Mike Toussaint.

***

With just about everybody back from last year's 25-4 team, Peotone figures to be one of the top teams in the Interstate Eight this winter.

Top returnees include 5-4 senior Caitlin Cann, 5-10 senior Kayce Nagel, 5-6 junior Brittney Campione, 5-7 senior Sophia Ruffino and 5-4 senior Julia Perri. Sophomore Skyler Hall and juniors Claire O'Neill, Shelby Maupin and Kayla Paeth provide depth.

***

Homewood-Flossmoor is off to a 4-2 start while trying to improve upon last year's 22-win season, which included a 10-4 record in the Southwest Suburban Conference Blue Division.

Charnelle Reed, a 5-10 senior guard who averaged 13.2 points per game in 2010, has committed to Western Illinois University. Also back are 5-10 junior guard Sydni Johnson, 5-8 junior Lauren Parker and senior forward Amena Brent.

***

Elk Grove coach Ryan Kirkorsky is excited to start the season, and with good reason - two of them. One of them is 5-10 junior forward Diamond Boyd, one of the top players in the Mid-Suburban East. The other is 6-4 freshman Amber Lindfors.

"We had a strong summer and we feel good about the developing identity of our team," he said. "Boyd and Kelly Naughton are growing into special players and exceptional leaders, and Lindfors is extremely skilled and has fit in well with this group."

***

Montini's 6-foot-4 junior Diamond Thompson has committed to Notre Dame. Thompson sat out Montini's 55-52 loss to Geneva in the finals of the Vikings' Thanksgiving Tournament with a minor injury.

***

Fenwick's Meredith Boardman, a three-year varsity player and one of the area's top 50 players, recently committed to Yale University.

***

Bolingbrook and Niles West will meet at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, January 16 in the headline game of the 22nd Annual McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook High School.

Other games of note include Proviso East vs. Hillcrest at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 14; Lincoln-Way East vs. Geneva at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 14; Trinity vs. Marist at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, January 16; and Montini vs. Young at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, January 16

benet title.jpg

Benet moved up to No. 12 in the most recent national poll of high school volleyball teams released by Prepvolleyball.com.

Newly-crowned Class 4A state champion Benet rose to No. 12 from No. 18 in the latest 2011 Century Club National High School Rankings released by Prepvolleyball.com. Cary-Grove made the biggest leap, however, rising to No. 44 from No. 67 in the previous week's poll.

Class 3A champion Breese Mater Dei checked in at No. 48, followed by No. 50 St. Charles East, No. 53. Marist, No. 62 St. Francis, No. 67 York, No. 68 Edwardsville, No. 70 Joliet Catholic, and No. 71 Mother McAuley.

Illinois teams that finished on the bubble included Hersey, Huntley, Lyons Township, Marian Central, Minooka, New Trier, Quincy, Providence, Sandburg, Stevenson and Whitney Young.

Note: Prepvolleyball.com released a new list just before Thanksgiving. Benet moved up to No. 11 and York, Edwardsville, Joliet Catholic and Mother McAuley each moved up one spot. There were no other changes.


***

The 2011 High School Volleyball All Star Game sponsored by SportsTownChicago.com will be played at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 3 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills. Proceeds benefit A Silver Lining Foundation for breast cancer awareness.

***

And is it too soon to talk boys volleyball?

Tommy Leonard, a 6-foot-8 middle hitter from Barrington, recently committed to the University of Southern California.

"It's incredible how far he's come in a few years because of his hard work and passion for the sport," Barrington coach Rob Ridenour said.


2011 all-area.jpg

Members of the Chicago Sun-Times All-Area Girls Volleyball Team lived up to their plaudits during a remarkable and memorable 2011 season.


NORMAL - Perhaps the reason St. Francis came out firing in Saturday's third-place 3A match against Marian Catholic, a 25-20, 25-11 win, had more to do with some of the things the Spartans do between games that have nothing at all to do with volleyball.

"We do a lot of traditional things at St. Francis that some people might look at and say, 'Are you playing volleyball?' because we do a lot of other stuff," Kopec said. "We have a little tradition downstate. We choose words and talking about different things and what those words mean to each of us.

"Words like 'commitment,'" she said. "A person will talk about what that means to them. 'Trust.' We'll choose 20 different words. It puts the season in perspective, hearing from every team member what some of the different words mean to them."

"Happiness" might be the word that best describes Kopec and the Spartans following Saturday's third-place match.

"I am very happy for this team that they can go out as the winners they really are," Kopec said.

That's "Winners," with a capital "W."

***

Some observers said that the 2011 season may have been Cary-Grove's coach Patty Langanis' best coaching job, considering what she lost from the state championship team in 2009 and state runner-up team in 2010.

But Langanis said that Cary-Grove's success was a team effort by not only coaches, but former players and teammates .

"A lot of people have made comments, but you have kids who have been trained by me, by Ray (assistant coach Rugebregt), and also by Abbey Heredia, by Colleen Smith, by Kelly Lamberti, they have been trained by the best teammates," Langanis said.

"We know what to do every day in practice to try to get them ready, and they believe I us and we believe in them, and right now we have an incredible culture of volleyball and positive behavior at Cary-Grove, so I don't know (about the individual praise)," she added.

Langanis gave the example of junior outside Alex Larsen, who was a junior varsity player early in the year and became a starter at midseason when a senior decided to quit the team at the Asics tournament.

"She was a benchwarmer, and when our starting rightside quit, we were like, 'OK, you (Larsen) have to start,'" Langanis said. "Look at her tonight, every time she touched the ball. These players played out of their minds to get here and they believed it."

Langanis said her players will be able to look back in a couple of weeks at what they accomplished and the hurt will dissipate.

"This is a true team," she said. "Cary-Grove always prides itself that all 16 players are a part of this team and are equal. We needed every single person to get here. We didn't have a (Kelly) Lamberti to go to every single time, and a (Colleen) Smith, a Big Ten setter, to run the offense.

"Looking at Benet, at their size and their speed, and us out there on that court, for us to battle like we did, I'm really proud of them," Langanis added. "I think that with reflection in a couple of weeks, realizing what we accomplished, the sting will go away."

***

Saturday's state championship may have taken a little heat off Benet and coach Brad Baker and it certainly helped to lessen the pain of the Redwings' 2008 title match loss, at least for awhile.

"I don't know why, but it seems like there's been more pressure on us to win a state title than anybody else in the state," Baker said. "Maybe because we've had so much success over the last five years? But it feels great. I feel great for these kids because of how hard they worked.

"I don't just say that," he added. "We were running doubles at the end of the year because these girls want this."

Baker credited some advice he got from other coaches for helping the Redwings win their first state volleyball title.

"I got some great advice from some other coaches and it helped this year," he said. "The best advice was that we needed to pass forever, and I think we put a new meaning to that. If you ask our group, we just passed for hours and hours, and in the third game (against Cary-Grove) that was the difference.

"We knew we had big middles and we knew we had rightsides, but our ability to get those kids the ball in clutch situations was the difference," Baker said.

Baker added that he wasn't surprised Meghan Haggerty, who rarely string more than a few good serves together during the regular season, was able to put 12 consecutive balls in play during the pivotal third-game run.

"In the national championship for club, she went on a long serving run," he said. "She gets in that zone. She's got a great serve, it moves a lot, it's a hard floater. She was just hitting the same spot, it's her favorite spot, and they were just having trouble with it.

"But our front row was doing a great job, we were getting digs," he added. "It's not like she was getting aces. They were getting swings on the ball. You have to give credit to everybody out there, but you also have to give credit to Meghan. She was playing some defense out there, too."

Benet loses 10 seniors from the 2011 team -Meghan Haggerty, Jenna Jendryk, Gabby Pethokoukis, Nora Young, Mackenzie Kuhn, Mary Kate Whelan, Shannon O'Brien, Annie Ferlmann, Emily Thron and Sarah Jane Pavlik - but don't look for the Redwings to avoid the spotlight next season.

"We lose 10 seniors and we won't be favored to win it all next year," Baker said. "We'll be extremely young. But our goal is going to be the same to start the year. We're going to put the same pressure on ourselves that we do every year.

"We want to be back here in this same match and we're going to work to make sure we're there," he added. "We're going to be young next year, there's no doubt, but we're still going to be good."

Benet will rebuild around a solid core of experienced youngsters in sophomore outside hitter Maddie Haggerty, sophomore middle Brittany Pavich, junior setter Hannah Kaminsky, junior libero Sheila Doyle and junior defensive specialist Brittany Kmieciak.

***

Nobody seems to enjoy themselves more at the state tournament than St. Charles East coach Jenni Kull.

Saturday's win over Marist in the third-place game was just icing on the cake.

"It's always fun to win, always fun to win,' she said. "I saw our team do things (Saturday) that we haven't done in awhile. Our offense... they (Marist) are a great team. I think we battled. Our defense was better than I've ever seen it. I'm so happy, so happy.

"I'm so proud of these girls," she added. "This is a dream to come here. But we didn't know if we'd make it. To finish third and to end our season with a win is the greatest feeling in the world. I'm so proud of these eight seniors. They battled and they got it done."

St. Charles East loses Meghan Niski, Kathleen Dailey, Maisey Mulvey, Kadie Brooks, Sarah Dugan, Allison Manely, Stephanie Camper and Nichole Lambert to graduation.

Kull, who won state titles in 2001 and 2008, put the state tournament into perspective.

"This is a bonus, this is the bonus," she said. "The girls seized the moment and they took advantage of it. They did everything they could this season. I think that we had a great time."

***

Statistic of the weekend:

SIxteen appearances. Forty-four matches. Only once (a fourth-place finish in 1995) has a Peg Kopec-coached St. Francis team lost two consecutive matches at the state tournament. Overall, Kopec's state final tournament record is 35-9.

***

Quote of the weekend:

Cary-Grove coach Patty Langanis, talking about her team's 35-33, 25-19 victory over Marist in Friday's 4A semifinals.

"Winning that first game says something about the girls," Langanis said. "The experience of being in Redbird Arena before, the great joys we've had and the horrible pains we've suffered. The girls are not governed by fear like some teams I've had before.

"Other teams might be afraid to miss a serve or afraid to take that full swing," she added. "These guys have been through it all and they survived everything. They know at the end of the game they're going to survive. In a match like that, that experience came out and they were not going to give up."

***

Five-foot-11 sophomore Sarah Thompson is an oddity among her Dakota teammates. Other than a brief foray into track as a freshman, Thompson focuses exclusively on volleyball.

"Í did track last year, but I choked in the sectional otherwise I would have gone downstate in the high jump," she said. "Now, I'm just sticking with volleyball. No more track. I'm a volleyball player."

But how does one get good in volleyball playing in the northernmost corner of the state at least 40 miles from the nearest population center?

"You have to play club all year round," Thompson said.

For the past few years, Thompson has made the long trek to Freeport to play with Club Fusion. This winter, she will be moving to the Fusion club in Rockford. Her club team won a tournament at the Wisconsin Dells last year. But that accomplishment pales to playing for a state championship.

"OMG," she said. "This has been our goal all year long. We kept checking off the goals we have on a list in (coach Shannon Williams') office. It just seems unreal.

"We always want it more (than the other team)," she added. "Sometimes skill maybe won't be in our favor. We played Winnebago (a 21-25, 28-26, 30-28 victory early in the season), but we put our whole heart on the court. That's why we won that game."

Thompson, who led Dakota (41-1) to the Class 1A state championship with 13 kills (hitting .423) and eight digs against Mt. Pulaski Saturday at Redbird Arena, hopes to earn a scholarship to play volleyball in college. But financial assistance probably will not drive her decision.

"Hopefully I'll get a scholarship," she said. "We'll see. I don't even know if I'd play because I got a scholarship. I'd play because I love it. I LOVE this sport."

***

Mt. Pulaski is no stranger to the state tournament. The Lady Toppers have made 14 appearances under veteran coach Donna Dulle, winning two state titles (1989, 2007) and finishing second seven times (1988, 1996, 2002-2004, 2009 and 2011).

But few expected the Toppers to reach the state finals in 2011, especially without a single senior on the roster.

"We had a couple of kids who played in the past," Dulle said. "A couple played with us this summer. I think they realized they weren't going to play because these kids were a little bit stronger than they were. I don't beg kids to play."

Among the Mt. Pulaski youngsters who made the seniors see the handwriting on the wall were 5-7 sophomore Cady Lowery and 5-7 junior Allie Hickey.

"Cady played last year for us and we had her playing outside before she hurt her wrist," Dulle said. "Allie came on and played with some fire. Cady is quiet. Cade might be a little stronger player, but Allie brings that enthusiasm. Cady has been playing backrow and it's working, so I won't change it now."

Mt. Pulaski, which went 1-4 at the Autumnfest tournament hosted by Glenbard East and 0-5 at the Belleville East Metro Classic, had the worst record (25-15) of any of the four semifinalists coming into the 1A tournament. But don't expect Dulle to lighten the schedule anytime soon.

"Every year, I ask myself if I'm doing the right thing," she said. "But every year, the postseason seems to go pretty good. I think we had a turning point in the middle of the season at Belleville East. Although we went 0-5, we played every team tough.

"Then we played Pleasant Plains," Dulle said. "We were behind most of the match, but we won 27-25 in the third game. I think that was the turning point confidence-wise for the kids. After that, they knew they could do it."

***

Look for Dakota and Mt. Pulaski to meet a few more times at Redbird Arena during the next few years. In addition to Thompson, Dakota also started 5-11 sophomore middle hitter Cora Fiene, 5-7 freshman outside hitter Jaycee Cleaver (three kills, nine digs against Mt. Pulaski), and 5-10 freshman outside hitter Eden Meier.

***

Chicago Christian had everyone scratching their heads and scrambling for the record books after it dismantled Breese Central 25-23, 25-12 in Friday's Class 2A semifinal.

The most common question was, "How did this team lose 18 times?"

Simple arithmetic. Six loses came at the hands of teams who reached the 3A semifinals (St. Francis, Marian Central and Marian Catholic), six more were to Class 4A regional champions (York, Lyons, Mother McAuley, Lockport and Plainfield Central), and 3A sectional finalist Payton, and four more were against Class 4A teams.

But don't expect Chicago Christian coach James Garcia to soften his schedule. Not after three consecutive trips to the Class 2A championship match.

"I think realistically as a team returning your second year, third year, you need to harness that experience," Garcia said. "When you come out and you're nervous, is doesn't matter who you are. I think that's why we do what we do with our schedule.

"During the season, we want to work on getting better, and the only way we're going to get better is to play against tougher competition," he added. "You have to use that experience to calm those nerves and not focus on the pressure. You want to come out here and have fun and just play."

Garcia said that the state tournament is a time when he can actually watch his team and enjoy the moment.

"I harp on the girls all season, I come down on them, I get frustrated," he said. "This is my time to relax. I don't want to get up and yell or do anything because this is what they've worked so hard for. This is what I've put them through, to get here. Now it's their time to shine."

***

Could Chicago Christian have played a more flawless semifinal against Breese Central, the team that it needed three games to overcome in last year's championship match?

'I don't think so," Garcia said. "I knew they were going to be a tough team. I didn't think that second game was going to go the way it did. The momentum was on our side and the girls tasted blood in the water. They executed very well...our blocking, our passing, we were able to execute on our sets and they started making too many mistakes."

Two of the players who shone brightest included one who did not even see the floor in 2010.

"We have a lot young girls on the team, and I thought (sophomore Workman) Emily our setter did a great job spreading out the offense," Garcia said. "But I was more surprised with Jess Krygsheld, our sophomore outside hitter, who at times has struggled throughout the season.

"This is a big stage for her and her first year being here and to play the way she did, I thought she did a great job," he added.

Krygsheld had five kills while hitting .417 against Breese Central, and Workman had 24 assists and three kills.

***

Graduation losses by the four semifinalists could change the landscape of the 2A tournament in 2012. The most likely pair to return downstate are Decatur St. Teresa and Chicago Christian, although Timothy Christian could stand in the way of a Knights' fourth straight downstate trip.

St. Teresa returns leading attacker Marie Less, a 5-9 sophomore, 5-9 junior Amber Grubbs and 5-7 junior do-it-all Courtney Huck. The Knights will welcome back setter Annika Evenhouse, 5-10 junior middle Emily Lindemulder, 5-9 sophomore outside Jessica Krygsheld and 5-8 sophomore Emily Workman.

***

Looking for a preseason top 10 for 2012?

It might look something like this: 1. Marist; 2. Joliet Catholic; 3. Sandburg; 4. Benet; 5. Barrington; 6. Glenbard West; 7. Mother McAuley; 8. St. Francis; 9. St. Ignatius; and 10. Naperville Central.

Wild cards could include DeLaSalle, Libertyville, Marian Catholic, Lyons and Stevenson.

Some of the top players will include West Aurora's Lauren Carlini, Hinsdale South's Jessica Brezwyn, Marist's Mallory Salis and Kelly Marcinek, Joliet Catholic's Morgan Reardon, McAuley's Gabrielle Ennis and Courtney Joyce; Sandburg's Dakota Hampton; and Barrington's Peyton Lang and Julia Thompson.

Also, St. Francis' McKenna Kelsay, Marian Central's Meredith Patterson and Tara Blake, Marian Catholic's Amber Clay, Benet's Maddie Haggerty and Brittany Pavich, St. Charles East's Erienne Barry and Glenbard West's Caleigh Ryan.


benet.jpg

Never on Saturday. Benet capped a perfect season of Saturdays by defeating Cary-Grove in the Class 4A championship game.

gallagher and rose.jpg

The 2011 season came to an early end for York's Katie Gallagher (left) and Caroline Rose, but there is a lot of volleyball ahead for the two seniors.


Bowling?

Six-foot-2 senior outside hitter Maggie Kamp has developed into a six-rotation player for Chicago Christian, and her defense was almost as important for the Knights in their 21-25, 25-14, 25-21 win over Timothy Christian in the Class 2A supersectional Saturday at Lisle as her nine kills.

"Last year, I would sub her out in the back row," Chicago Christian coach James Garcia said. "And this is a girl who didn't play club in the offseason. She decided to bowl for the high school team.

"So there were a lot of question marks for her, especially with her passing and defense," he added. "Again, that's a senior and leader. She really stepped into that role this year and did a phenomenal job for us."

Another player who stepped up for the Knights is 5-8 sophomore setter Emily Workman, who had 20 assists and two big blocks in the victory.

"When she plays club, she is more of a rightside hitter and blocker," Garcia said. "She never really got to set a lot. She hasn't done a lot of hitting and blocking this year because she's been setting.

"But whenever I have a chance to run a 6-2, she gets that opportunity and I think it's that killer instinct in her," he added. "She wants to try to do good at whatever position she's playing."

***

Most Chicago Public Schools still have a way to go to become competitive with their suburban counterparts. But that is not true for the city's elite teams, as Whitney Young proved by extending Lyons to three sets in their sectional championship match.

A big reason for Young's success was 5-11 senior outside hitter Madison Lenzini, who was named the MVP of the city's top league.

"Lenzini has been incredible from start to finish and has carried that team consistently in all aspects," Payton coach Joel Anderson said. "She dismantled Downers Grove North with 16 kills and a ton of digs, and against Lyons she had more than 20 kills...and she does that when everyone knows who's getting the ball."

Another outstanding city product was Payton's 5-9 senior Michelle Schultz, who finished with just under 1,000 kills for her career and helped lead Payton to two state semifinal appearances, the first by any city team since CPS forfeited its automatic berth.

"Michelle did what she was expected this year and led us in just about every statistical category after returning to the outside hitter position," Anderson said.

Schultz finished had 353 kills this season while hitting .382. She also had 60 aces, 255 digs and 33 blocks in 80 sets. Her career marks include 998 kills and more than 860 assists and 880 digs.

***

York's Caroline Rose and Katie Gallagher expected to be heading south to Normal this weekend to try to improve upon last year's fourth-place finish. Instead, they will be watching the state tournament from the sidelines.

"It's very disappointing," Gallagher said. "We had a big goal for ourselves this season and it wasn't accomplished. I am so proud of how we played throughout this season, but when it came time to do what we needed to, we didn't execute and the other team did."

Gallagher will head to Iowa State next fall to play for the Cyclones, who were 17-4 and had the third-best RPI in the nation as of October 30.

"I'm really excited to be playing for them," Gallagher said. (Head coach) Christy (Johnson-Lynch) has a great background in setting. I think I can learn a lot from her. It's a five-and-a-half hour drive. I will be able to come home when I need to, but probably not very much."

Rose will take her all-around talents to Western Michigan, which is 23-5 overall and 12-2 in the MAC and has won 10 straight matches.

"We had a really good season," Rose said about her final high school campaign. "We had a lot of fun and were really successful. It was tough to lose at the end, but we have a good season.

"I have a lot of volleyball ahead of me still, so it's good," she added.

***

Neuqua Valley did not have the season it had hoped for, finishing 21-17 and losing 25-21, 25-20 to Plainfield Central in the regional final. But the Wildcats will send three players on to Division I schools in the fall.

Callie Huebener, Leighanne Novak and Kaitlynn Novak were all unanimous All-Upstate Eight Conference selections. Huebener is headed to DePaul, while the Novaks will take their talents to Western Illinois University in Macomb.

"These three young ladies are three of the top athletes I have coached in nearly 20 years as a varsity volleyball coach," Neuqua Valley's Kelly Simon said. "Their support casting was not as strong as in the past and we played a much tougher schedule this season than ever before."

***

Longtime Lockport volleyball coach Julia Hudson wrapped up her 32nd and final season as head coach in the sectional semifinals at Aurora West last week.

"It has been a great trip," Hudson said. "The relationships you get with coaches, with reporters, with everything that revolves around this. Sometimes the work with everything that comes around, I won't miss. But I'll miss the relationships."

Hudson, who is also retiring from teaching, is not sure whether she will relocate. But she is leaning toward moving closer to her family.

"I'm originally from Evansville, so I'm a Hoosier," she said. "I'll probably head back that way. But the best of both worlds would be six months here and six months there because my family is still there."

Hudson said she may not completely severe her ties to coaching.

"I always told my sister and anybody that wants to listen that I wish someone would just pay me to work out eight hours a day," she said. "That would be the perfect job for me. We'll see what things are open. Now that volleyball season is over, I'll investigate it a little more."

Hudson finished her career with more than 700 wins and a state title in 1993 when the Porters finished 40-3 behind Nicole and Jennifer Peterson.

"That is my fondest memory," she said. "The twins were very, very special. All the kids are very special. They really are, each in their own way. But any time you win a state championship, that's the ultimate."

***

No. 28 Marist is the top-rated Chicago-area team in the most recent Prepvolleyball.com Century Club national rankings, down from last week's 26th. Other nationally-ranked teams include No. 29 Benet, No. 32 York, No. 56 St. Charles East, No. 64 Joliet Catholic, No. 66 St. Francis and No. 72 Cary-Grove.

***

niski and conard.jpg

St. Charles East's Meghan Niski (left), pictured with Julia Conard of West Chicago, will lead her Saints into Friday's 7:30 p.m. IHSA Class 4A state semifinal against Benet at Redbird Arena in Normal. It will mark the teams' fourth meeting this season.

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This page is a archive of recent entries written by Back Row in November 2011.

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