A former standout player at St. Charles now in her ninth year as St. Charles North coach, Lindsey Hawkins knows the St. Charles volleyball scene like few others.
When there's a talented player coming up in town, it's not going to slip past Hawkins.
Take Katie Lanz.
A junior at St. Charles North, Lanz did a little of everything for the North Stars during their 32-3 regular season and current 4 straight wins in the postseason. She set, she hit, she blocked and she blasted a jump serve that even the best passers struggled to control. She's this year's captain of the Daily Herald Fox Valley All-Area Girls Volleyball Team.
Committed to the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Hawkins has been looking forward to coaching Lanz for awhile.
"We've known since she was in sixth grade she was going to be phenomenal," Hawkins said. "I coached her sister and brother and was just kind of biding my time waiting for her to come."
Emily Lanz played right side for Hawkins, and Drew Lanz was in the boys program for four years. He now plays club volleyball at Bradley, and Emily coaches high school volleyball in Decatur.
With older siblings so involved in the sport, it's no surprise Katie Lanz also took to it -- or is so good at it.
"My sister started in eighth grade and my brother and I would watch on the sidelines and just fell in love with it," said Katie, a lifelong South Elgin resident other than living in Germany for two years because of a job transfer for her parents Doug and Mary Jo.
"She (Emily) kind of taught us by peppering us in our family room and got us to learn the basics. I love the team aspect and how fast it is. When I used to play soccer I got bored because it was too slow for me."
There's nothing boring about watching Lanz on the court. Through the North Stars' regional championship win over DeKalb, Lanz had 79 aces, 256 kills (.314 hitting percentage), 158 digs, 22 blocks and 209 assists.
Her versatility allowed Hawkins to keep three setters on the court and keep opponents guessing about where the ball was going.
Those other two setters, Amanda Parker and CJ Johnson, both said Lanz makes their job easier.
"As a setter she is my outlet on the outside," Johnson said. "I'm always looking for Katie Lanz on a hard hit. She's always killing it in the front row."
"Katie is awesome," Parker said. "We've played beach since we were itty-bitty, 10 or 11. She's an awesome teammate, she knows how to get us pumped up. Great leader as well. All-around great player, great teammate."
Lanz couldn't be much happier with how the season has gone.
An early season sweep of St. Charles East propelled the North Stars to the Upstate Eight Conference River title. Her 8 aces in the championship game against DeKalb netted a regional crown.
Lanz said the success isn't a surprise given how hard she and her teammates have worked for it.
"We knew it was going to be a good season, we had a feeling," Lanz said. "We just became really close with everyone. A lot of us weren't on the same team before but I think we did a good job of adjusting right away. We just became really good friends. And we have so many hard workers on the team we just push ourselves to get better."
Joined in the lineup by Parker, Johnson, Abby Graham, GiGi Crescenzo and Lauren Caprini, the North Stars worked together on the court to bring the most out of their collective abilities.
While Lanz will set in college, she is excelling at a variety of roles for the North Stars.
"She's an awesome teammate," Graham said. "We feed off her energy and obviously her skill. She is such a big part of this team and is so humble about it."
After playing JV as a freshman -- "Honestly she would have been on varsity if I didn't have two other stud setters," Hawkins said -- Lanz moved into the varsity lineup last year.
The improvement she's made from her sophomore to junior season has caught everybody's eye.
"She's an incredible athlete," Hawkins said. "That's part of the reason she made such a big jump."
"The biggest thing that's improved is my setting," Lanz said. "I've learned to run a quicker offense and be more consistent with the placement of my sets. And I've got more aggressive with my serving."
Lanz made her college decision in June, picking UNC-Wilmington over Oakland, Kent State and Western Kentucky.
"I just loved everything about it," Lanz said. "I loved the campus and I loved the area. I want to go into nursing and it is the No. 3 nursing school in North Carolina. I loved the coaching and the environment."
That's an environment Lanz should fit in perfectly at say the people who know her best.
"Katie Lanz is one of the most humble players I've played with," Johnson said. "She doesn't know how good she is to us. She is the glue that keeps us all together."