Waliczek extends Barrington's fine setting tradition
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With Claire Waliczek setting things up for Barrington this fall, the Fillies earned a Mid-Suburban League championship and advanced to a Class 4A regional final.
JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer
With three setters being named Daily Herald all-area girls volleyball captains from 1999 to 2012, Barrington has built quite a tradition at that position.
When she entered Barrington as a freshman, setter Claire Waliczek didn't plan on joining those three Fillies — Victoria Zimmerman, Lexi Zimmerman and Nellie Spicer.
"I've always been used to setters not getting a lot of recognition," she said. "It's the big hitters who get that. And I guess I never thought I was good enough. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd join them."
Dreams do come true.
So do chances of playing at the Division I level.
Waliczek will arrive on the Mercer College campus in Macon, Ga., to play volleyball late next summer as the 2013 Cook County Daily Herald all-area girls volleyball honorary captain.
She earned the title by leading the Fillies to their second Mid-Suburban League championship in three years.
Waliczek led her team in aces (37), blocks (26), assists (604) and was second in digs (287) and fourth in kills (81).
"Coach 'R' (Rob Ridenour) always told me to look up Nellie Spicer and Lexi Zimmerman and see if I could see how they set," Waliczek said. "I did that and it just pushed me more to work harder."
Obviously, Waliczek's work ethic was up to par and she put her name among the top setters in Barrington history.
Waliczek even chose to wear jersey No. 1, the same number Spicer sported in her standout career which led to a career at UCLA and with the U.S. Women's National Team.
"Nellie and Lexi (who starred at Michigan) are great players and their accomplishments are incredible," Ridenour said.
"The amazing thing about Claire is that she is not intimidated by their accomplishments and is willing to say, 'I want to be like them'. By simply setting the goal to play like them, Claire is striving for greatness."
Waliczek's versatility in all facets of the game makes her a special player.
"Claire can impact a match in so many ways beyond her talents as a setter ranging from an incredible dig to a timely kill," Ridenour added. "She is truly a complete volleyball player and we are really going to miss her next year."
Next year, Waliczek will study at Mercer where she is considering a major in biology.
"I fell in love with the school, the players, their workouts, facilities and the coaching staff's goals for the program," she said. "Another part that attracted me was that it was one of only about 15 D-1 schools with sand volleyball teams. So that, and the fact that it's in the south and with warm weather, clinched it for me."
Waliczek and teammate Christy Roney (outside hitter) qualified for the AAU Jr. Olympics of sand volleyball in Hermosa Beach this summer.
"For beach, Claire's really intriguing," Ridenour said. "Because her overall volleyball skill set is so good, the beach game fits her really well.
"Claire is going to be successful in college. For indoor, she is the type of player that is going to make the team better and compete at a high level."
Waliczek's high level of play means getting everyone involved.
"My favorite part is setting up my teammates for kills,' she said. "I like helping make other people look good and be the best they can be."
Waliczek sure became the best she could be.
"When Claire was a freshman, we saw a great athlete but the most important part of her personality was that she was highly motivated," Ridenour said. "Even at a young age, Claire hated to lose and was eager to improve."
And that's all she did for four years.
"Claire's best attribute as a setter is her willingness to contribute in so many other ways," Ridenour said. "Sometimes setters get so focused on setting, they struggle with defense, blocking, serving, etc."
"Claire is a great defensive player," Ridenour said. "We actually experimented with her playing some libero last season because her defensive instincts are so good.
"She leads our team in blocks. As a server, she can do a variety of things to put pressure on the opposing team. Claire is just a complete volleyball player."
And now, the fourth setter from Barrington to be named a Daily Herald all-area honorary captain in 14 years.
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