The Burlington Central girls volleyball team suffered a significant setback when returning junior all-area outside hitter Lauren Wiltsie went down with a knee injury during an early season practice.
But at least that piece of bad news actually has led to a pair of positives.
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Wiltsie had arthroscopic surgery on her meniscus about 10 days ago and coach Marv Leavitt is hopeful to have her back on the practice court by the end of the week and back playing toward the latter part of the season.
The other positive has been how the Rockets have responded in her absence. Central started the week 8-3 and 3-0 in Big Northern Conference East Division play.
"I felt a couple days after it happened that the team was basically down," said Leavitt. "Once we found it that it wasn't season-ending, it was like that old mantra, 'Next person up.'"
Leavitt said junior Emily Bozich has stepped in and done a good job in Wiltsie's absence. But the list includes much more than Bozich.
"Everybody has stepped up and done a little more," said Leavitt. "I'm really pleased with how we've played. We've received a lot of contributions from many players. What could have been a real deterrent for us, we've been able to make up with a lot of effort."
Libero Allie O'Reilly is one of those key contributors. She already has 229 digs through only 11 matches.
"She reads the game so well," said Leavitt. "She anticipates where people are going to be. She's a real leader who has great knowledge of the game."
Middle hitter Makenna Jensen has been a major presence at the net with 71 kills and 51 blocks.
Central will welcome 2012 Class 3A state runner-up Richmond-Burton to town today. Richmond is led by standout Ali Frantti, who recently was named the No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2014 by prepvolleyball.com.
In a six-match stretch earlier in the month, Frantti recorded nearly 150 kills.
"We're looking forward to playing them," said Leavitt. "(Ali Frantti) is a dominant player and they are still a very strong team. It should be a good match."
Crystal Lake South update: The Gators fared rather well at the recent AsicsPreview tournament in Chicago, going 4-1 to raise their record to 14-2 on the season. South is 4-0 in Fox Valley Conference Valley Division action heading into Tuesday's game against Huntley.
"The girls are doing a great job being offensively diverse and aggressive," South coach Jorie Fontana said. "We show many different options and feel confident setting each one of our hitters. We're adjusting well on defense. If a team attacks a space on our court, the girls are able to adapt and cover that hole before the next play. I've been impressed with some of our really scrappy plays."
Junior outside Carly Nolan leads the team in kills, while senior Nicole Slimko is tops in blocks. Junior setter Cassy Sivesind directs the offense.
"In each of our matches, we can easily say a different player steps up and leads the team," said Fontana. "At the beginning of the (Asics) tournament, Carly was a dynamic force. As the tournament went on, we saw Avalon (Nero) and Nicole step up and be more vocal leaders. And Cassy has done a great job handling all the talent on this team as well as the constant direction from the coaches."
St. Edward update: Like Central, St. Edward is receiving key contributions from a variety of sources. Coach Jaime Dovichi's squad brought a 10-4 overall mark into this week.
Senior Katie Swanson is leading the team in kills with 82 and is second on the team with 104 digs. Senior Shannon Igielski has 76 kills.
The Green Wave defense is paced by seniors Allison Kruk and Clara McDowell, who have combined to register 327 digs.
"Clara had a huge impact in our win against Montini," Dovichi noted. "Shannon has stepped up on offense. She stays very consistent for us on the outside."
Senior Cory Kelly, junior Cece Rapp and sophomore Megan Barth provide addition options for senior setter Mallory Gross (162 assists, 90 digs).
"The team is finding confidence and realizing how to play at a high level," said Dovichi. "The girls are able to play the position they are needed in most rather than being one-dimensional."
St. Edward faces St. Francis, Marian Central and Larkin in upcoming contests, plus the team will compete in the Huntley tournament.
"I have confidence in our defense," said Dovichi. "Although our offense is getting a lot of kills, we need to put the ball away in order to compete and dominate some of our upcoming matches."
Huntley update: The Red Raiders are coming off a recent loss to an improved Dundee-Crown team and will face fellow Fox Valley Conference Valley Division foe Crystal Lake South today.
The Red Raiders were 9-3 overall and 4-1 in Valley Division action through late last week.
"We had been playing very consistent up until our loss to Dundee-Crown," said Huntley coach Karen Liss. "It was a bump in the road and something we will overcome, learn from and persevere forward to a much bigger goal of ours. This was a big moment in our season and has motivated us to work that much harder."
Senior outsides Erin Lyman and Emily Westermyer lead the Huntley offense, while senior libero Rachel Shores is the team leader in digs.
Liss has been particularly pleased with the recent play of freshman Ally Dion.
"Ally has done a remarkable job of stepping into close games and delivering us the serve, or pass that we need," said Liss. "These are pressure situations that aren't any easy task and to receive this from a freshman is veryimpressive."
Dundee-Crown update: Dundee-Crown is sporting a youthful look this season. Just don't tell that to the Chargers, who were 9-7 overall and 2-2 in FVC Valley action heading into this week. D-C recently downed Huntley in 3 sets. The Chargers won 14 matches all of last year.
D-C will be plenty busy with division games against Cary-Grove today and District 300 neighbor Jacobs on Thursday.
"We have said we expect a lot from our players even though they are young," D-C coach Christine Hopkins-Muehl said. "We are hoping the win against Huntley will springboard us to be a more competitive team. We are looking for the girls to continue to believe in themselves and hteir abilities and for them to become more consistent."
Hopkins-Muehl likes the team's recent improvements in serve-receive and with its block.
"They are young and they are willing to try anything we throw at them," she said. "They absorb so much information and are doing a good job of applying corrections they are given."
Sophomore setter-right side Frankie Cavallaro and junior setter Mandy Mosher were key contributors in that Huntley win.
"Frankie has kept our offense going with her setting and hits on the right side," said Hopkins-Muehl. "Her enthusiasm and love of the game is contagious. Mandy did a great job against Huntley. It was her first full varsity match and she did a terrific job setting and on defense."
D-C's offense also is led by sophomores Breanna Novak (OH) and Ashley Raby (OH), as well as junior Lauren Lococo (OH). Defensive leaders include seniors Emily Michalski (MB), Kaylee Sommers (libero) and Franki Scarpelli (DS) along with sophomore Kailey Moll (MB).
Elgin update: Elgin went into the Westminster Christian tournament with a 3-9-1 mark and then proceeded to go 4-1 in the tournament--it's only loss was to the host school. Elgin also won 2 matches in the recent Rockford East tournament.
Elgin won 2 matches all of last year.
Senior outside hitter Melanie Berg leads the offense, while junior outside Abby Pierre-Louis and sophomore middle Emma Sirridge are targets of senior setter Tanya Welch. Senior libero Taylor Hedl keys the Elgin defense.
"When we play with energy and confidence, we're a very good team and can play with anyone," said Elgin coach Scott Stewart. "As of late, we've been playing very well as a team. We're looking forward to seeing what we can do in these next few weeks."
Larkin update: The Royals were 10-7 through their first 17 matches and one key reason for the team's success has been on the service line.
"We rarely miss serves," said Royals coach Henry Graack, who noted his team is serving at a 90 percent clip.
Larkin had 120 aces against only 80 serving errors through late last week.
"Tough serves force the other team to pass," said Graack.
Senior middle-outside Olivia Kofie was leading the team with 30 aces (and 131 kills). Senior right side Brianna Stewart had 12 aces (126 kills), while senior setter Alyssa McGhee had 9 aces (173 assists) and freshman setter Natalie Kofie (119 assists) had 7 aces.
Junior libero Mia Gill was leading the team in digs. Stewart ranked second in that category. Paige Grantham (25 blocks) has been a presence at the net.
"We have been inconsistent with our play," said Graack. "We have seen glimpses of what it will look like playing a complete game. We are hard to stop when it is happening."
Bartlett update: Senior outside hitter Katie Hrbacek and setter Danielle Santucci have been major bright spots for the Hawks in recent matches.
"Katie has taken a huge leadership role on the team with her play recently," said Bartlett coach Michele Bickus. "She is hitting the ball great and she always has been a solid defensive player. Danielle has stepped up her game the past few weeks. She is putting up good balls for the hitters to hit and is playing great defense."
Senior middle Elizabeth Arco (.345 hitting), senior outside Rachel Hartford and sophomore libero Jenna Kummerer also have been key contributors.
"If we continue to play how we have been playing the past week--with intensity and a will to win--we will see some wins," said Bickus.
South Elgin update: Storm coach Joni Plach has a trio of players who have opened some eyes of late.
Plach said junior outside Renee Rush has been a "very pleasant surprise" thus far.
"I thought Renee was going to come in this season more as a player who adds some depth to our team," she said. "She has played so well in practice and matches that I had to make sure I had her on the court."
Adrianna Loiacono has proven to be a valuable asset around the court for the Storm.
"I knew that I could have Adrianna hit from almost all the positions on the court and she would fit in well," said Plach. "As it turns out, we needed her to step in and be our setter. She never had really done that before, but she has been doing a great job. She works hard and listens to adjustments."
Senior outside Ashley Oandasan is in her fourth season on the varsity.
"Ashley is a great leader and sets the standard for the rest of the team and program for how to be a student-athlete in this program," said Plach. "She is our rock on the court. Her experience helps the rest of the team to calm down and stay focused."
Junior libero Katie Innis is a team leader on the defense.
Streamwood update: Senior middle hitter and captain Hannah McGlone continues to be a key presence for the Sabres. She had 15 kills in a match against Northside Prep and also registered 7 blocks in a contest against Lake Park.
Coach Lisa Vazzana is also receiving contributions from seniors Lexi Engram(middle), Kaitlyn Hedger (outside hitter and captain), Mercedes Olmos (setter), Andrea Prytulak (outside hitter, captain) and Sarah Cimino (defensive specialist, 13 digs against Morton). Junior right side Lauren Schiferl and freshman outside Jennifer Gonzalez have developed into important parts of the Sabres' player rotation.
"We have put some nice wins on the board this season against teams we haven't beaten in many years," said Vazzana, whose team was 8-12 to start the week. "The girls are getting more confident as the season goes on."