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Brozynski: Volleyball notebook

08/04/2014, 12:45pm CDT
By Phil Brozynski

News and notes from around the girls volleyball world.


Hinsdale Central celebrates after winning the title of the 40-team Tuesday Varsity Summer League at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora. The Red Devils defeated St. Francis White 25-21, 25-16 in the finals. | Supplied Photo

Nearly everybody was missing somebody last week during the finals of the 40-team Tuesday Varsity Summer League at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora. Championship finalists Hinsdale Central and St. Francis were among the short-handed teams.

Hinsdale Central played without 6-2 outside hitter Lauren Fuller, defensive specialist Nora Stack and middle hitter Nikki Hilbrich. St. Francis was minus Molly Haggerty, middle Mary Boken and outside hitter Kamryn Malloy.

But Hinsdale Central’s players were determined not to let the opportunity to win the summer league title pass them by.

“The seniors came up to me during our camp and told me that the team decided they wanted to go all out to win regardless of who was on the court,” Hinsdale Central coach Kelly Moran said. “We (the coaches) talked to the team and that was their decision.”

So Moran shortened her rotation – she had been playing 12-15 players regularly during pool play – and the move resulted in a 25-21, 25-16 victory over the White squad from St. Francis. The summer league title was the first for the Red Devils in at least four years.

“The last time we were in a championship was four years ago and we finished second,” Moran said. 

One of the players who saw a lot of time for Hinsdale Central last Tuesday was 5-9 setter Brooke Istvan. The Red Devils abandoned the 6-2 they had been playing most of the summer in favor of a 5-1 with Istvan playing all the way around. 

“We changed what we had been doing,” Moran said. “We went with a 5-1 with Brooke playing all the way around and Ashley (Pelton) in the back row. Ashley played great defense. Normally, she’s a setter for us, but she played great in the back row.”

Hinsdale Central also got contributions from libero Alex Davis, junior outside hitter Meg Irvin, outside hitter Emily Sulik, middle hitter Claire Connell and outside hitter Regan Serwat.

“I thought Meg was really consistent on the outside,” Moran said. “Alex came up with some great digs and saves for us when we really needed them, our middles were effective when we got them the ball, and Claire did a great job establishing the block and made it a little easier for our defense to stay in those long rallies.”

Hinsdale Central, which finished the summer league 7-1 with four ties (teams only play two games during pool play and split sets count as a tie), overcame deficits of 10-3 and 17-12 in Game 1 before winning on an ace by Serwat. The Red Devils jumped out to an early lead in Game 2 and were never threatened.    

“I was very impressed with the group we had out there,” Moran said. “The overall effort from them was awesome.”

***

St. Francis coach Peg Kopec is something of a perfectionist.

So even with her team playing a split-squad schedule, Kopec expected a little more defense from her White team in the championship match against Hinsdale Central last week.

“Their (Hinsdale Central’s) defense was better,” Kopec said. “They were more fluid than we were, in the second game in particular. I don’t know if we got nervous or what. Who knows? But in the second game we weren’t passing as well as we did in that first game.

“I said to the girls, ‘That’s (Hinsdale Central) what we have to look like.’ I know teams after they’ve been together for a while get a feeling of what each other is capable of and which balls are whose and whatever. I don’t know if Hinsdale Central is in our boat where we haven’t played together.

“But that fluidity is what we’re going to be looking for on defense.”

St. Francis White, which finished 6-2-4, featured rising seniors Danielle Messa and Lisa Mordell, rising juniors Emily Larson, Taylor Konchel and Olivia Sauls, and sophomore-to-be Alexia Byrnes-Hosey. 

“We had an awful lot of kids playing out of position,” Kopec said. “We had a lot of defensive specialists playing outside and we had no middles.”

But the match did give Kopec an extended look at Messa, her talented setter.

“Her hand was bothering her a little bit after (club) nationals, so she took three weeks off, which is fine,” Kopec said. “I thought she looked very good. That was my first chance to see her tonight. I thought she looked very good.”

Kopec said her players aren’t the only ones who need a break before the Spartans take aim at the school’s 10th state title.

“I may need a break,” she said.

“The kids today have a lot of problems with overuse,” Kopec said. “It’s a tricky gray area where to draw that line. I told them I wouldn’t mind them jogging a little bit … jogging. Jogging. I told them to give their legs a rest. Do something to keep in condition. Do some yoga. But they need to rest.”

***

Glenbard West completed the first three weeks in Aurora unscathed. 

But with outside hitters Natalie Schilling and Alison Burelbach unavailable last week, the Hilltoppers got scathed by St. Francis White 25-19, 25-20 in the Bracket A semifinals. Glenbard West (11-1) had to settle for third place after defeating Geneva 25-20, 27-25.

Serve-receive and passing proved to be Glenbard West’s Achilles’ heel against St. Francis.

“I was very nervous (entering the match),” Glenbard West coach Pete Mastandrea said. “Serve-receive and defense, that’s their (St. Francis’) mantra. They play good defense. They see through the net and that’s a good team. We didn’t serve-receive-pass at all.”

Mastandrea tried to shore up his team’s serve-receive by toying with his lineup.

“I like what Emily McLoughlin did,” he said. “She’s my second setter. I was using her in the front row and putting Kate (Wagner) in serve-receive. That’s what we did last year. I didn’t want to do that this year, but McLoughlin got in there, got some great sets and Kate stuck the passes. 

“That gives us another option when we need to fix our serve-receive. Obviously, Burelbach and Schilling fix it. Then again, everybody’s missing somebody today.”

Glenbard West did get some long runs from its unheralded corps of middle hitters against St. Francis.

“Those are very optimistic runs for us,” Mastandrea said. “Middle runs off serve-receive is something we’ve never done at this point of the year. We had to play out of our minds to hang with them, but we scored points. They didn’t have an answer for our middles, so I’m excited about that.”

***

Geneva’s loss to Glenbard West in the third-place match and a surprising coaching change at the end of the school year notwithstanding, Grace Loberg is looking forward to the fall.

“I’m excited for this year,” Geneva’s 6-2 sophomore hitter said. “It’s going to be fun. We should have a successful year, we have a new coach (Annie Seitelman) who’s really good and a lot of talent, so we should be able to do good things this year.”

The conclusion of the summer league at Great Lakes will give Loberg some much needed time off after a whirlwind summer schedule of volleyball, basketball and visits to potential college destinations. 

“It’s hard,” she said about her two-sport schedule. “It keeps me busy. But I enjoy doing it. If I didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Geneva finished 29-10 last year and reached the Class 4A supersectional behind Loberg, fellow sophomore Ally Barrett and rising senior Hannah Lanassa. 

“We might have snuck up on people last year,” Loberg said. “It will be different this year, I think.”

***

Yorkville (7-0-5) and its dynamic outside hitter Jordan Albarran won Bracket B at the Great Lakes Center by defeating Waubonsie Valley (6-3-3) 19-25, 25-13, 15-12 on Tuesday. LaSalle-Peru (6-1-5), which lost to Yorkville 25-20, 25-23 in the semifinals, defeated Batavia 25-20, 25-21 for 11th place. 

LaSalle-Peru returns four starters from last year’s Class 3A runner-up including 5-11 junior outside hitter Taylor Gibson, an AAU All-American who played for the Illini Elite 16 Black team that finished second in the Club division at AAUs. 

The Cavaliers travel nearly three hours to compete in the summer league at the Great Lakes Center.

“It’s not so bad getting here,” LaSalle-Peru coach Mark Haverkorn said. “But we’re getting home about 11 o’clock most of the time. Nevertheless, it’s a great opportunity to improve our program in the summer. We’re looking to play best competition we can to get to that next level.”

LaSalle-Peru travelled well. Haverkorn brought 15 players to Tuesday’s playoffs. He expects to have more on his varsity roster when the season begins.

“This is a small crowd tonight,” he said. “Our kids are really committed. They come in the summer and work hard. They come to summer league; that’s what makes the program successful. We have a lot of competition, a lot of good players coming back. I’m expecting to have 19 on our varsity this year.”

***

Prepvolleyball.com announced its final club rankings for 2014, and to no one’s surprise, Sports Performance finished on top the 18s age division. SPVB 18 Elite finished the season 85-3 and was 39-0 after Maddie Haggerty returned from shoulder surgery.

Sports Performance started the season ranked eighth with both Brittany Pavich (shoulder injury) and Haggerty out early, but the local girls won AAUs without dropping a game behind an MVP performance from setter Rachel Minarick.

SPVB nudged out USAV champion Coast from California, which opened the season at No. 6 but went 10-0 in Minneapolis, Munciana Samurai (Indiana), which handed Sports Performance one of its three losses, and Circle City (Indiana) to claim the top spot.

Rounding out the top 10 were Northern Lights (Minnesota), Vision (California), KIVA (Kentucky), WAVE (California) and A5 (Georgia). Wildcat Juniors finished 17th, Ultimate was 24th, Club Fusion finished 25th, Sky High was 43rd and Sports Performance Red was ranked 56th.

1st Alliance 18 Silver came in at No. 57 while 1st Alliance 18 Black was ranked among the honorable mentions.

The locals did not have as great an impact in the 17s age division with 1st Alliance checking in at No. 17 behind top-ranked Texas Advantage. Club Fusion was No. 18, while Michio Chicago was 32nd. Illini Elite from Bloomington was the top Illinois selection at No. 7. 

AZ Storm (Arizona) finished 88-3 to top the 16s age division, going wire-to-wire at No. 1. Sports Performance finished 14th after beginning the season at No. 5. 1st Alliance checked in at No. 47 while Michio Chicago and Sports Performance Red were among the honorable mention selections.

Northern Lights started the season at No. 1 among the 15s and finished No. 1 despite slipping to No. 8 in the post-qualifier rankings. Losses to Fusion South and K2 at AAUs dropped Sports Performance to No. 8 in the final rankings, while Fusion South came in at No. 36.

***

Meghan Weber, a 5-10 setter/opposite hitter from Benet who plays club for 1st Alliance Volleyball Club in West Springs, has verbally committed to play Division I volleyball for Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

“I loved the biomedical engineering program and I feel that their advancement of the new neuroscience building will really give me a great learning opportunity,” Weber said. “The coaches will help me develop tremendously and I really loved the competitive atmosphere from the players in the gym. “

Weber recently won Benet’s “Top Gun” competition, which measures a player’s ability in such skills as serve-receive, hitting, defense, serving and fitness.

“Meghan is an extremely skilled player who can set and hit at a high level,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “Meghan has worked extremely hard to become such a good player. Her work ethic is the main reason I know she will continue to get better and will find a way to be a difference-maker at Wright State.

“Meghan is also a great teammate and a great person. Wright State is lucky to have her.”

***

Next week, a look at the finals at Palos Courts.

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