Good fortune for Cyclones in postseason openers
The time off was worth it.
If any doubts about the readiness of Moraine Valley College’s women’s soccer team to handle postseason challenges existed following a layoff of nearly three weeks, the Cyclones dispelled them last Tuesday. After spotting Elgin College an early 1-0 lead, Moraine fought back to grab a 2-1 victory in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference playoffs and advance into the semifinal round.
Cyclones keeper Diana Lozano made 10 saves after allowing Elgin to score within the first eight minutes. Leti Diaz brought Moraine even 23 minutes before halftime after receiving a pass from Maria Gabino, then Stephanie Aimone snapped the tie 22 minutes after the break with an unassisted marker.
Yesinia Galvan, Ines Tepepa, Roxanne Milan and Janelle Walters were also instrumental in keeping the Cyclones’ attack humming, while Patricia Tuxford, Jill Kossifos, Kathleen Gribbon and Samantha Reyes all supplied solid defense in front of Lozano.
Moraine’s good fortune ended on Saturday, however, as a four-goal outburst in the second half carried the College of Lake County to a 6-0 win over the Cyclones in the quarterfinal round.
Moraine coach Jim Knawa was happy with his players’ performance in defeat, saying they “fought every step” of the 90-minute match. Knawa did some shifting around of personnel in an attempt to generate some additional offense, but it was to no avail.
Another group of Cyclones also prospered in the opening round of the postseason, as the volleyball team swept past the College of Lake County, 25-13, 25-9, 25-13, last Tuesday.
Taylor Serrano and Autumn Seiler paced Moraine with 10 kills apiece. Each player also provided an assisted block and ace serve. Kara Kentner backed them with nine kills, three aces and a block.
Also contributing for the Cyclones were Gina Ryan (six kills, three aces) and Joanna Curtis (22 assists).
Moraine won twice more on Saturday, with its 25-19, 25-20, 25-23 verdict over Waubonsee College securing for it the conference tournament title. That triumph was preceded by a 25-13, 25-10, 25-19 win over Prairie State in a semifinal matchup.
Kentner’s 10 kills, 14 assists and three aces were key elements for the Cyclones in their victory over Prairie State, but Moraine also benefited from solid play by Seiler (eight kills, seven digs, five aces), Ryan (eight kills, seven digs) and Serrano (seven kills, three blocks, four aces) along the net.
Curtis (22 assists) and libero Kayla Manthei (17 digs) were other Cyclones notables.
Kentner was at it again versus Waubonsee, as she upped her game to finish with 21 kills and 20 assists. She also served two aces and had a block. Ryan (nine kills), Serrano (eight kills, two blocks, one ace), Curtis (30 assists) and Manthei (16 digs, 22 good receptions) did their part for Moraine as well.
Afterward, Kentner — who ranks first nationally in NJCAA Division II with her .440 hitting percentage — Ryan and Serrano were chosen for both the all-tournament and All-Region IV teams, while Seiler and Curtis joined the trio on the all-tourney squad.
It’s not often that college athletes hit major milestones, but three Cyclones reached the 1,000 mark in a career category this fall.
Curtis, Kentner and Ryan all managed the feat, Curtis and Kentner in assists and Ryan in digs. Curtis was the first member of the trio to hit 1,000, doing so on Sept. 11. Kentner and Ryan then joined her on Oct. 5 and 19, respectively.
According to head coach Gloria Coughlin, the combined 2,000-plus assists passed out by Curtis and Kentner are a reflection of how efficient Moraine’s attack has been the past two seasons. Assistant coach Donna Zidek echoed that sentiment.
“This shows the strength and balance of the team, that two setters have reached the 1,000-assist mark,” Zidek said. “They have teammates who consistently pass and dig the ball. Kara and Joanna make good decisions with their set distribution to get the ball to the right attacker to hit for a kill.”
As for Ryan, her high digs total is a product of her relentless pursuit of the ball on defense. The sophomore established herself as a solid all-around player early on last season, and teams try to keep the ball away from her, but Ryan has the quickness and keen court sense to get to balls that would be out of many defenders’ range.
“The box score doesn’t tell the whole story after a match — stats that lead to points, mainly hitting and blocking, hold a higher value than those that don’t,” Zidek said. “However, you can’t have one without the other. We would not be as successful as we are this season without the solid foundation of setting and digging that our offense relies on.”
Five Cyclones extended their 2013 season at last Saturday’s Region IV Division I Championship and will now toe the starting line at this Saturday’s NJCAA Championship in Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Dawid Palac, Brandon Ceh (Evergreen Park), Thomas Cira (Brother Rice), Aileen Gorman (Marist) and Jessica Flores all qualified for the national meet. This will be a repeat appearance for Cira.
Led by all-region selections Palac and Ceh, the Cyclones men finished fourth in a seven-team event. Palac wound up fifth overall among 63 individuals by completing the 8K race at Community Park in Channahon in 27 minutes, 22 seconds. Ceh was 10 spots behind Palac after clocking a 28:36, while Cira occupied the No. 17 position by posting a time of 28:42.
Also scoring for Moraine were Zach Butera (27th in 29:34) and Anton Thauer (31st, 29:54). Other participating Cyclones were Anthony Briante (33rd, 29:59), Justin Briante (35th, 30:16), Ryan Dovgin (49th, 31:58), Larry Byrd (53rd, 32:37), Alejandro Montes (54th, 32:58) and Jesus Rojas (62nd, 34:50).
“Congratulations to Dawid, Brandon and Thomas for their achievement,” Moraine coach Mark Horstmeyer said. “We’re really proud of them. There were a lot of top runners in the field, and they had to be close to their best to qualify for the national championship.
“Thomas came on strong at the finish — he really wanted to qualify again, and his late charge showed his determination. Brandon has been battling illness and a nagging injury, but he just ignored all of the distractions for the past few weeks and just gutted it out. Dawid ran his fastest race of the season, and his focus was evident throughout the race.”
As for the women, Gorman was the fourth runner down the chute in 20:15, which got her named to the All-Region IV squad. Flores took 21st (22:24) in the 51-person race as the Cyclones matched their male counterparts by putting Moraine fourth in the team standings.
Completing the 5K course behind Gorman and Flores and supplying the Cyclones with their remaining points were Amy Johnson (29th in 23:01), Miranda Reyes (34th, 23:15) and Lex Mindock (36th, 23:26). Also representing Moraine were Maritza Najera (41st, 24:50), Amanda Gerzon (45th, 27:42) and Sury Rosete (50th, 32:13).
“We are really proud of Aileen and Jessica,” Horstmeyer said. “I know Aileen was disappointed with her race, but this was a learning experience for her, and she still finished in the top five. I’m looking forward to watching her mix it up at nationals.
“Jessica just plain gutted it out. She has been dealing with shin splints most of the season, and she has been sick this past week; in fact, the first time she ran all week was on Saturday. It really shows the type of character she has that she just refused to let anything distract her.
“I know she’ll have a lot of confidence going into Saturday’s championship, and I expect a strong showing from her.”
Horstmeyer admitted both his teams endured a few rough patches through the course of the season, but his athletes never stopped working.
“The past two weeks or so, when the team should have been peaking, most of them have had to deal with injuries,” he said. “We all have been frustrated that it has hampered them at the worst possible time. Before the start of the race, we simply told them to just forget about all of the distractions, and just go out and compete.
“They gave it their all, and I’m proud of their effort. I know for some of the guys it was not the finish they wanted, but I can’t fault their effort.
“We’re a young team, so the first-year runners gained a lot of experience, not only at regionals but also throughout the season. They now know what they have to do during the long layoff to prepare for the 2014 season. I’m really looking forward to seeing their progress come Aug. 1.”
In their first scrimmage of the 2013-14 season, the Cyclones faced Trinity Christian College’s JV squad and squeezed out a 63-62 win.
Maggie Yandel scored 21 points in only 19 minutes of action for Moraine, while Nariman Jaber had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. Nicole Maloney added six points for the Cyclones, who trailed early but took control of the game with strong work on the glass.
Moraine then went on to earn a split in the Lincoln Classic Tournament last weekend. The Cyclones lost 73-68 to Lincoln Land College on Friday before rolling over Lincoln College 71-57 on Saturday.
The opener was a back-and-forth affair, as the Cyclones and Lincoln Land swapped the lead 11 times. The largest margin was six points, which Moraine held seven minutes into the second half. But foul trouble began plaguing the Cyclones and their 49-43 edge quickly disappeared.
Freshman Nariman Jaber (10 rebounds, six blocks) and Sam Holler both fouled out, while three other Moraine starters were whistled for four infractions during the contest.
Yandel almost single-handedly kept the Cyclones in the hunt as she tossed in 33 points, grabbed eight rebounds and made five steals. Diamond Taylor’s 10-of-10 display at the free-throw line was another highlight for Moraine.
After four early lead changes on Saturday, the Cyclones went ahead of Lincoln College to stay. Moraine was up by double digits much of the way.
Holler drilled four 3s and topped the Cyclones with 16 points, to go along with six rebounds. Yandel was hampered by a twisted ankle and played just 20 minutes, but she still managed to produce 13 points and four boards.
The Cyclones dropped a 109-64 decision to Kishwaukee College on Saturday.