Eagles soaring through first 15 matches
With 15 matches already in the books Sandburg counts 12 victories among them.
But Eagles coach Dave Vales will tell you that exceptional teams find a way to win the close matches. And in that regard Sandburg is still feeling its way around.
Two of the Eagles' losses to date came at Saturday's Wheaton Classic, where they wound up fourth overall. Libertyville edged Sandburg 25-21, 20-25, 25-23 in the semifinals and then Downers Grove North pocketed a 27-25, 11-25, 27-25 victory in the third-place match.
“The challenge of playing Libertyville was that we were anticipating playing Marist, but they lost in three [sets] so our scouting wasn’t the best heading into that match,” Vales said. “They hit us with a huge player in the middle and took it to us early. They rocked us back on our heels and it was a dogfight all the way to the end.
“We were actually up 22-20 in the last game and we let it slip out of our hands. We had [a bit of] trouble finishing the last two matches. You have to learn to win the close matches, and right now we’ve been getting close but no cigar.”
The Eagles began last week with a pair of victories at the Wheaton Classic on Wednesday and followed that up with a win over Thornwood on Thursday.
Sami Knight dished out 34 assists as Sandburg beat Waubonsie Valley (25-18, 25-11) and host Wheaton-Warrenville South (25-11, 25-18) in tournament pool play. Leah Lane put down a total of 15 kills for the Eagles.
Emily Makina (10 assists), Allison Nagel (five kills) and Gillian Thanasouras (five kills) were Sandburg's catalysts in its 25-9, 25-9 conquest of Thornwood in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover.
After a win over Naperville North when play at the Wheaton Classic resumed on Friday, the Eagles faced a different set of challenges on Saturday, in part because it was homecoming weekend at Sandburg.
“We were a little distracted by that,” Vales said. “Minds were on the dance when they left [Wheaton] at 7:30 Friday night and homecoming was at 7. They had already missed half the dance [by the time they arrived]. However, I gave the girls credit to battle through a pair of epic three-set matches and give themselves a chance.
"They probably could have been a little more focused mentally, but given the circumstances it could have been worse. It certainly wasn’t a lack of effort on their part. Hopefully, we learn from that experience [and] next time when they continue to give it all they have, they’ll push through.”
Leading the way on Saturday for Sandburg were Knight (75 assists, seven service aces) and Lane (26 kills, eight blocks)
“Sam and Leah have been with me three to four years,” Vales said. “We knew from the get-go they would be a pivotal part of our success. They’re also great leaders because our juniors are stepping up their own games, knowing they don’t want to disappoint them.
In addition to praising Knight and Lane, Vales commended the serve-receive and defensive play of Nicole Lahey and Morgan Kmak.
"The play on [the defensive] front from Nicole and Morgan has helped us to a lot of those 12 wins,” he said. “Both of them have been trading off from the libero spot and they step up and do terrific jobs in their roles, even if the numbers don’t [always] show or translate to the stat sheet.”
After just two matches this week the load gets heavier as the Eagles will once again participate in the prestigious Asics Challenge.
“We have Bradley-[Bourbonnais] at home, Lincoln-Way Central away, and nothing for the weekend,” he said. “We have a nice restful weekend before the Asics Challenge. It’s always a big tournament and I’m so glad homecoming is not on that weekend.
“The Asics is a bounce-back to see how we fare against some of the best teams in the nation. Every year we tend to do fairly well, so hopefully we’ll be able to repeat that success.”
In the highly popular neighborhood showdown known to high school volleyball fans as the “Battle of Mount Greenwood,” the Mighty Macs got the better of rival Marist last Thursday in front of a crowd of more than 2,000. McAuley defeated the RedHawks in straight sets, 25-23, 25-20, at Marist.
Kayla Caffey and Kelsey Clark combined for 11 kills and five blocks to pace the Macs (10-2) along the net. Caffey was tops in kills with six while Clark blocked three Marist shots. Also lending a hand were Jane DeJarld (19 assists), Ryann DeJarld (three aces, eight digs, two kills) and Carla Cahill (13 digs).
Leading the RedHawks in a losing effort were Cameron Enright (11 kills, 12 digs), Lizzie Zaleski (16 assists, eight digs), Emily Graff (seven kills) and Allyssa Rizzo (13 digs).
The RedHawks fared a little better the rest of the week as they placed fifth at the Wheaton Classic.
Marist began tournament action by bagging pool-play wins over Plainfield Central (25-20, 25-22) and Lemont (25-20, 25-15) last Wednesday. Colleen Reilly (15 kills, four blocks), Graff (13 kills), Enright (10 kills, 21 digs) and Rizzo (20 digs, three aces) all played pivotal roles for the RedHawks.
Perhaps feeling a bit of a letdown following the loss to McAuley, Marist was unable to handle Libertyville on Saturday as the latter collected a 13-25, 25-18, 25-16 win to knock the RedHawks (7-3) out of championship contention. However, Marist rebounded nicely as it beat Naperville North (25-12, 25-23) and Wheaton North (25-15, 25-27, 25-13) in ensuing matches.
Saturday's standouts for the RedHawks included Enright (26 kills, 30 digs, six aces), Anne Marie Stifter (19 kills, 11 blocks, 15 digs) and Zaleski (51 assists, 11 kills, eight aces).
The Mustangs split a pair of midweek matches before going 2-3 at last weekend's Oak Lawn Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
Maddie Vojacek (six kills, three aces), Vivica Price (five kills, three aces) and Nicole Larkin (four aces) were the ringleaders as Evergreen Park beat Hillcrest 25-11, 25-22 in a South Suburban Conference crossover last Tuesday. Vojacek (four kills, eight digs) and Price (four kills, two blocks) performed well again on Thursday, as did Emma Przeslicke (seven kills, 11 assists), but it wasn't enough to spare the Mustangs from a 21-25, 25-15, 25-21 SSC Red loss to Oak Lawn.
Simona Tomczak (nine kills, 15 digs) and Alli Yacko (eight kills, eight digs) spearheaded the Spartans' winning effort.
All-tourney selection Przeslicke (22 kills, 21 assists, 12 digs) and Vojacek (18 kills, 23 digs, six blocks) were Evergreen's stalwarts over the weekend. The Mustangs topped Portage, Ind. (22-25, 27-25, 15-9) and Thornwood (25-10, 25-18) while falling to Providence Catholic (25-22, 25-16), Stagg (25-13, 26-24) and Lincoln-Way West (25-19, 25-20).
In addition to last week's victory over Evergreen the Spartans bested Bremen (25-20, 25-23) on Tuesday behind strong play from Tomczak (13 kills, nine digs) and Becca Suarez (21 assists).
Kendall Yerkes and Abbey Graham combined for 18 kills to lead the Astros past TF South (25-8, 25-22) in an SSC crossover last Tuesday.
In addition to her 10 kills, Yerkes also supplied Shepard with four aces. Graham complemented her net work with 10 digs and Caroline Graham distributed a team-high 16 assists versus the Rebels.
The Astros (10-2, 5-0) also swept past Argo, 25-14, 25-4, in an SSC Red encounter on Thursday. Contributors to that triumph included Briana Haugh (five kills, three aces) and Jessica Ferguson (three solo blocks, two kills).
After dropping a 33-31, 25-18 verdict to Lincoln-Way North in an SWSC crossover last Monday, the Chargers rebounded to defeat District 230 sister school Andrew (25-14, 20-25, 25-21) in a Thursday crossover.
Lexi Mantas played well for Stagg (4-6) in both outings as she totaled 17 kills and 16 digs versus the Phoenix, then followed up with a 15-kill, 12-dig stat line opposite the Thunderbolts. Ari Mantas pitched in with nine kills and 12 digs in the first match before hitting Andrew with nine kills, nine points and eight digs.
Also making their presences felt were Maddie Duffner (23 assists versus Lincoln-Way North, 18 against the T'bolts) and Amanda Collins (16 digs versus the Phoenix).
QUEEN OF PEACE
The Pride captured a 19-25, 29-27, 27-21 victory over DePaul Prep in a Girls Catholic Athletic Conference crossover last Monday. Bethany Kingsley passed out 25 assists, Samantha Stirn put down eight kills and Colleen Corbett had 12 digs to power host Queen of Peace (5-9).
The Bulldogs lost twice last week, including 25-22, 25-14 to Eisenhower in an SSC Red match on Thursday.