One of the best players in the state is listed as a manager for the Stevenson's girls volleyball team this fall.
Unfortunately, the Patriots have to manage without Rachel Baader, who suffered a knee injury in a national AAU tournament in July while playing for Sky High.
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But when the Pats opened their season without their standout on the court, Baader hardly felt she was standing alone.
The Stevenson players wore wrist bands with the No. "2" written on them for Baader, a Pennsylvania recruit.
"She started to cry when she saw us start putting them on," said senior outside hitter Liza Pflugradt, a Jacksonville State recruit and one of six 6-footers on the Pats' roster. "Then we all started hugging her. We played the match for Rachel. It was good motivation for us."
That was evident, as the Pats came out strong and never looked back while posting a 25-13, 25-15 triumph over host Barrington, the defending Mid-Suburban League champion.
Pflugradt led the Pats with 5 kills, while Julia Osmond and Anne Geocaris each added 3.
The Pats did not miss a serve in Game 1.
Jenna Radtke recorded a match-high 3 aces while Khalia Donaldson (12 attempts) had 2 and Alexa Bykowski (15 attempts) had 1 in the match.
"Kayla and Alexa served for a big bulk of our points," said Stevenson coach Tim Crow, who did not call a timeout in the match. "The girls gained control in each game. We had four girls who played in a supersectional last year, so they are used to this environment.
"I thought our net play was good. We are tall. Good length makes up for a lot at the net."
Bykowski (26-of-27, 8 assists) and Geocaris (8-of-9, 2 assists) handled the setting chores.
"We have two new setters who are getting varsity experience," Crow said. "This was a good win, but we have a lot of improvement to go. "
Julia Thompson, an all-area selection as a junior, paced the Fillies' attack with 4 kills while also recording an ace and 2 blocks.
"We had some first-match jitters and for a lot of girls it was their first time on the varsity," said Thompson, who had not practiced for a week with a sprained ankle suffered in practice.
"Stevenson is always a good team. We are used to playing them but we had a slow start and they came out strong. They played a really good match. We have a ton of potential. I think it will come along eventually. Hopefully soon."
Junior Christy Roney and senior Lauren Schectman (also all-area a year ago) each added a pair of kills for Barrington while Claire Waliczek (8 setting assists) had 6 digs and Emily Watkins 5.
"Stevenson played great for a first match of the season," said Fillies coach Rob Ridenour. "They have a lot of kids back.
"Our approach was kind of passive and that must change quickly. We've been having good practices so the that approach was surprising to me. That's not our personality."
Libertyville d Conant: The Cougars dropped their opener to the visiting Wildcats 25-18, 25-11.
Conant was led on attack by junior Jenn Donnell (6 kills). Taylor Levitt led the Cougars' back row with 15 digs while Donnell had 8 and DeeDee Durr (5) against the Lake County powerhouse.
Hoffman Estates d Larkin: The visiting Hawks won their opener in Elgin 20-25, 25-15, 25-10.
Leading the attack for the Royals was Brianna Stewart (9 kills), who also had 6 digs, 2 blocks, 2 aces.