Lady Astros stay busy in opening week.
Never let it be said Shepard is afraid to hit the ground running.
One week into the 2013 volleyball season, the Lady Astros have already done enough to earn a rest. That’s not forthcoming, of course, but there’s no disputing Shepard’s busy schedule.
Eight matches are already in the books, and although only three of them got placed on the “W” side of the ledger Lady Astros coach Dan Grunauer believes that record is deceiving. Not only was Shepard in the hunt in every one of those encounters, but a couple of the defeats — most notably against Chicago Christian and Plainfield North — were administered by highly respected clubs.
The Lady Astros beat Illiana Christian, Lockport and Evanston, while Lincoln-Way North, Lincoln-Way Central and Batavia handed out the remaining losses.
“All of our matches were pretty close, within a couple of points here or there,” Grunauer said. “We definitely battled against Plainfield North (32-30, 25-10), which is supposed to be one of the better teams in the country.
“That was pretty cool. We took them to the wire one game, and then the inexperience of our team showed in the second game. I think that’s going to be indicative of how our season is going to go.
“We’re going to look amazing and shock the world sometimes, like how we almost beat Lincoln-Way Central. But then, like against Lincoln-Way North, we’ll have some setback and our opponent will take care of us easily.”
In their season-opener, a 25-17, 20-25, 25-21 victory over Illiana last Monday, the Lady Astros received solid input from Caroline Graham (26 assists), Brianna Volpentesta (16 digs) and Kendall Yerkes (nine kills, 14 digs). Chrystal McAlpin (four kills, five blocks) led the way for Shepard the next day, as it fell 25-23, 25-21 to Chicago Christian.
Spearheading the Lady Knights’ performance were Samantha Kubik (13 assists) and Anna Kamp (six kills).
On Wednesday, Shepard dropped a hard-fought 25-19, 24-26, 27-25 verdict to Lincoln-Way Central despite strong efforts from Caroline Graham (30 assists, 10 service points, four aces), Yerkes (10 kills, 15 digs, three blocks, nine points), Abbey Graham (seven kills, 10 digs, two aces), Volpentesta (20 digs, three assists) and McAlpin (four kills, five blocks).
At the Plainfield North Invitational, Shepard bounced back after the two-game loss to the host school on Friday to beat Lockport 21-25, 25-22, 25-23. On Saturday, the Lady Astros defeated Evanston 25-12, 25-14, but lost to Lincoln-Way North (25-14, 25-20) and Batavia (25-19, 24-26, 25-17).
For all the players whose statistics stood out, Grunauer said the play of one specific individual was especially noticeable: junior right-side/outside hitter Briana Haugh.
“Briana really shined this first week,” he said. “We anticipated her having a big role with the team, but not this soon. She was lights out.
“She plays on the right side. We usually don’t think of her as a back-row defender, but she has to be [among our] top three [or] four in digs and tops in kills. She showed that she was capable of being dominant this [past] weekend, and it was really cool to see.”
Grunauer was also pleased with sophomore setter Caroline Graham’s ability to keep player morale up at difficult moments.
“Our confidence is really a testament to Caroline,” he said. “I have to commend her for the way she’s been distributing our offense. She does a great job of letting them know she has faith in them, even when they make mistakes.
“That’s what you want from a setter, and it’s great that she’s just a sophomore.”
Even with some underclassmen emerging as significant players, Grunauer said his upperclassmen are responding with a positive, team-first attitude.
“I can’t talk enough about how great my seniors, who are in difficult spots due to our sophomores that are starting, have been,” he said. “It’s sometimes easy for some teams to look toward the future, which could be tough for the seniors. But this team is not focused like that.
“And I don’t see the sophomores with the mindset that they still have a couple of years, which can happen. This team is looking to compete right now, and it’s cool to see the team chemistry, even with sophomores. It’s not a problem whatsoever.”
And to add to last week’s intense schedule, Grunauer was juggling coaching responsibilities with preparations for his wedding, which took place on Sunday.
“This week was definitely stressful, just for the wedding alone,” he said. “I put enough time into the players at school while also putting ample time into the wedding so that I get off on the right foot with my wife.
“The wedding was beautiful and a lot of the girls showed up. It was so nice to see them show up and support me on such a special day, and they were so understanding during the week.”
The Knights finished second in their own tournament Friday and Saturday as they dropped a 25-14, 22-25, 25-14 championship decision to Munster, Ind.
Seniors Emily Workman and Jessica Krygsheld were named to the All-Tournament team. Workman had 14 kills, eight aces 23 service points, five blocks, 15 digs and 60 assists. Krygsheld had 31 kills, five aces, 10 service points, six blocks, 19 digs and 37 service receptions.
Junior Anna Kamp added 31 kills and 39 digs, Leah Kamp added 21 kills and Samantha Kubik had 48 assists.
Chicago Christian beat Reavis, Bishop Noll, St. Edward and Illiana Christian en route to the title match.
The Mighty Macs proved the preseason press clippings listing them as the nation’s No. 2 volleyball team were accurate by posting a convincing 25-11, 25-15 victory over Joliet Catholic Academy in Chicago last Wednesday.
Kelsey Clark led the way for Mother McAuley with seven kills and two blocks, but Gabrielle Ennis (three kills, four blocks), Courtney Joyce (16 assists, five digs, three blocks), Carla Cahill (10 digs) and Ryann DeJarld (seven digs, three kills, two aces) also contributed. The Macs’ defense, paced by Cahill, limited the Angels to just 12 team kills.
The Macs continued operating in high gear as they upended Wheaton-St. Francis 25-20, 25-23 on Friday behind big performances from DeJarld (12 kills, nine digs) and Joyce (23 assists, eight digs, three kills). Also lending a hand were Clark (seven kills) and Cahill (12 digs).
The Lady RedHawks were in fine form against Hinsdale South last Tuesday, rolling to a 25-12, 25-12 triumph in Darien.
Colleen Reilly, a 6-foot middle hitter, was an aggressive force with eight kills and four blocks. Cameron Enright added six kills, Molly Mayo distributed 21 assists and Carolyn Yerkes had 10 digs. Yerkes was Marist’s starting libero a year ago and is one of its most experienced athletes this fall.
The Lady RedHawks held a 15-12 first-set advantage before closing out the game with a 10-0 run, which was sparked by kills from Lizzie Zaleski and Enright, plus a point from Mayo. In the second set, Marist used a series of small runs to gain the upper hand and, eventually, the match win.
Marist defeated De La Salle 25-14 18-25, 15-12 on Saturday at the Chicago Christian Tournament.
The Lady Bulldogs defeated Thornwood 25-17, 25-9 in their season-opener last Monday. Shannon Gardner and Megan Albon put down six kills apiece to lead visiting Richards.
The team then notched its second win on Wednesday, topping Argo 25-18, 25-21 in a South Suburban Conference Red match. Kate Sullivan (13 assists) and Shannon Gardner (five kills) were the Lady Bulldogs’ headliners.
At Saturday’s Bremen Invitational, Richards lost to Chicago Latin (25-18, 25-18), but rebounded to secure wins over Chicago Agricultural Science (25-18, 25-13) and Hillcrest (25-17, 25-15).
The Lady Chargers opened their campaign with a 25-18, 26-24 setback against Joliet Catholic Academy last Monday.
Hannah Yandel (nine assists), Kelly Runyon (10 digs), Lexi Mantas (four kills, four blocks) and Megan Hearne (four kills) paced Stagg in the losing effort. Mantas then registered 15 kills during last Wednesday’s opening portion of the Wheaton North Invitational, where the Lady Chargers earned a split.
Stagg beat Larkin 17-25, 25-21, 25-22 before suffering a 25-14, 25-14 setback versus Montini. Besides Mantas, Gianna Petrelli (12 assists, 11 points) and Kelly Runyon (11 points, 25 digs) were key players for the Lady Chargers in the two matches.
Stagg went 1-2 on Saturday at that same event, falling to Kaneland (25-21, 25-19) and the host school (26-24, 25-19) while slipping past fellow SouthWest Suburban Conference member Andrew (25-18, 27-25).
The Screeching Eagles dropped a season-opening verdict to Oak Lawn last Tuesday, 25-14, 23-25, 21-25. Kelly Magliano finished with nine kills for Mt. Assisi.
The Eagles then finished sixth at the Springfield Lutheran Tournament over the weekend. Wins were recorded over Christ Our Rock (25-10, 25-16) and North Mac (25-16, 25-13), while Metro East Lutheran (25-23, 22-25, 15-10), Springfield Lutheran (25-16, 25-17) and Lutheran Missouri (25-22, 25-16) all got the better of Mt. Assisi.
Magliano was again a big gun for the Eagles as she amassed a total of 37 kills in the tourney. Anna Broadhurst pitched in with 21 kills and MaryKate Wetzel dished out 89 assists.
Strong outings by Emma Przeslicke and Maddie Vojacek propelled the Lady Mustangs to a season-opening 25-17, 26-24 triumph over Queen of Peace last Tuesday.
Przeslicke supplied Evergreen Park with eight kills and six digs, while Vojacek contributed five kills and 10 digs.
QUEEN OF PEACE
After losing their opener, the Pride absorbed another tough setback on Wednesday as they came up short against neighboring Reavis by a 25-23, 16-25, 25-18 count.
Michelle Frederick chalked up eight kills and seven digs and Becca Huerta added 12 digs for Queen of Peace in the latter match.
The Lady Eagles captured a 30-28, 25-22 victory over Providence Catholic at Saturday’s Plainfield North Invitational.