Articles filed under Welge, Joshua

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  • ‘Friend’ Medley stands in Holloway’s way Mar 3, 2011 11:01 PM
    Whitney Holloway counts Zahna Medley among her 1,640 friends on Facebook. Montini’s star point guard has Facebooked with her All-State counterpart from Springfield a few times. Montini assistant Caprice Smith even told the two they looked like twins with their braided hair at last year’s state tournament.

  • Montini winning because stars don’t have to star Mar 1, 2011 12:24 AM
    Kasey Reaber has scored some 400 fewer points this year than she did as a junior. She’ll trade it all for one more state championship. That’s the kind of selflessness Montini coach Jason Nichols loves. It has probably given him a new appreciation for Reaber after game-planning against her for three years. “Trading individual success for team success,” Nichols said. “Every day we talk about it.” At Driscoll and then Immaculate Conception Reaber dominated the ball, facilitated the offense and did a lion’s share of the scoring. At Montini she knew that wouldn’t be the case, and that’s OK with her. Reaber will just as soon throw the skip pass for a teammate’s 3-pointer. Montini’s offense is geared around Whitney Holloway going to the basket and superb ball movement to set up open 3s. In it Reaber has found her niche. “I know what my role is,” Reaber said. “I’m not expecting to score 20 points a game. I just do what I can — get the boards, play tough down low. I’m not going to get a lot of points, so I try to drive and create for my teammates.” Reaber probably has discovered in herself a game she didn’t know she had. On the back line of Montini’s matchup zone, Reaber is a solid weakside rebounder. She had 13 boards in Montini’s first playoff game, 9 Monday to go with 5 assists. Reaber is behind only Holloway on Montini in assists and steals. “Every team needs a kid like Kasey,” Nichols said, “someone who doesn’t care if she scores. How many rebounds does she get? How many assists? Those are things that get overlooked on a team full of stars. The reality is Kasey is a star — a really good player.” The scoring line might not show it, but then maybe Reaber has grown as a player. She isn’t the only Montini senior who can say that. Nichols has pushed Whitney Adams as hard as any Montini player the last four years. He sees limitless potential waiting to burst out. Few 6-foot-2 high school forwards shoot the 3 as well as Adams. The North Carolina recruit hit 4 in the state championship game last year and leads Montini in 3-point shooting this year. But during the playoffs, Adams’ shot has been off. Every shooter goes through slumps. A lesser player’s game would go completely in the tank. Maybe in the past Adams could plead guilty to that. Not these playoffs. She’s dominated the boards, controlling the defensive glass. Adams had double-digit rebounds in three straight playoff games leading up to Monday. Against Grayslake Central, Adams had 9 points to lead a 40-24 advantage on the boards and scored 12 points. Many of those baskets came near the basket. Adams even dropped off a dandy of a pass to Tianna Brown while driving to the basket to set up a score. The shooting? Nichols has a feeling it comes around in Normal. “Her shot’s not falling — people, don’t guard her, please, because she’ll hit ‘em,” he said. “But if she doesn’t she goes inside and does a lot of good things. She’s been unbelievable.”

  • Montini keeps shooting the 3, and the shots keep dropping Feb 18, 2011 12:30 AM
    As much as you’d think otherwise, Whitney Adams didn’t arrive at Montini with a reputation as a 3-point shooter. “Middle school, I was mostly a 5 (center) — I had some post moves,” Adams said. Her freshman year, the then 6-foot Adams made a grand total of zero 3s. Fast forward two years. In the Class 3A championship game, Adams hit four of Montini’s state finals record 12 3-pointers. Spring came, and Adams heated up even more. At the AAU Deep South Classic last April, Adams hit more than 30 3-pointers in six games. Days later, North Carolina offered Adams. “That’s what colleges like to see — a big girl who can shoot,” said the 6-2 Adams. “He made me a shooter.” He is Montini coach Jason Nichols, and nobody shoots the 3 better than his Broncos. Last season Montini made 235 3-point shots, capped off by the record dozen against Hillcrest. Live by the 3, die by the 3. Life couldn’t get any better. With the Broncos’ top two snipers, Mallory Sosnovich and Alison Seberger, graduating, that mantra figured to take a slight backseat. Think again. Montini made 217 3-pointers this regular season and 12 more in the regional opener Wednesday against Wheaton Academy. Three Broncos — Adams, Whitney Holloway and Kiki Wilson — could end up topping 50 makes. Sophomore Nikia Edom is already over 30. Who would have thought they’d shoot it even better this year? Assuming Montini makes it back to state, the Broncos should pass Prairie Ridge’s total of 260 from 2000 — the second-highest since the IHSA introduced the 3-point shot in the 1987-88 season. Galesburg set the record 365 last year, but attempted 1,382 — about double the number Montini has put up. Many are the opponents snowed under by an avalanche of Montini 3s. Wilson hit 7 in a blowout of Edwardsville, the second-ranked team in 4A. Montini made 7 straight in routing 3A-ranked Peoria Richwoods. “When we’re knocking them down,” Holloway said, “we’re pretty hard to beat.” Big understatement, Whitney. Like Adams, Holloway has made herself into a 3-point threat. Last summer she shot about 500 a week. Adams also frequented open gym and shot on her own. Then there is Montini’s practices. Every day the Broncos do a “Follow the Leader” drill, rotating around the 3-point arc. Nichols said each kid can get in 45 shots over a 3½-minute span. Shooting goes on for about 45 minutes. By that time they’re dead tired. Legs gone. Arms probably ready to be iced down. But the focus is still there. Just like in games. Repetition, repetition, repetition. “We do so much shooting,” Nichols said, “and we do it all on the move. The kids have really embraced it. I think shooting is consistency in your fundamentals and repetition. Not everybody is going to have the same shot, but we want them comfortable in their shot.” Footwork is critical and, Nichols said, key in Adams’ and Wilson’s development. Adams came to Montini with a terrific midrange jumper but gradually progressed outward through drill work. “We are on them all the time about getting into shots quickly,” Nichols said. “Now they can get their shot off in a split second.” As a team, Montini shoots the 3 a shade under 34 percent. Not a bad number, when you consider the NBA average last year was 35.5. Wheaton Academy coach Beth Mitchell has a good idea why that percentage is so good. “They move the ball so well,” she said. “I don’t know that I’ve seen anybody that moves the ball as well as they do. They’re fun to watch.” It’s no accident. Nichols preaches the skip pass as a zone-buster. “I have a saying, why would you take a good shot when you can set up a teammate for a great shot,” he said. “We stretch (zones) and then we move ‘em.” Nichols made a point in mentioning that Montini’s philosophy is “not just jacking 3s.” And with superior quickness to last year, the Broncos indeed do not live and die by the 3. But Adams knows the next time she passes up an open look could mean a familiar yell to “shoot the ball!” A seat on the bench could follow. She’ll never get yanked for shooting. It’s a fun, and winning, offense. “He wants us to keep shooting,” Adams said. “He knows eventually they’ll fall.”

  • IHSA offers less-than-best tournament Feb 3, 2011 9:16 PM
    Josh Welge column

  • Basketball helped ease Markovic’s adjustment to U.S. Jan 21, 2011 12:20 AM
    Branka Markovic’s love for her daughter Nevena is clear in conversation, not lost in the Serbian accent. That love for Nevena and her sister, Ivana, is what led the Markovics to leave their homeland seven years ago, seeking a better future for their children.

  • Despite difficult season, McKenna feeling rejuvenated Jan 6, 2011 9:54 PM
    Tom McKenna does not sound like the coach of a 1-15 team. His bouncy tone of voice belies that of a 63-year-old basketball lifer. All McKenna has known is winning. He won 407 games in 23 years at St. Ignatius, winning records in all but two of them. All Hinsdale Central has known is winning. Twenty consecutive seasons above .500, in fact, and the winningest program in DuPage County the last decade. Neither coach nor school has experienced a season like this. “It’s like a perfect storm — whatever can go wrong has gone wrong,” said McKenna, in his first season on the Hinsdale Central sidelines. McKenna knew he’d be starting almost from scratch. Graduated off last year’s team was Daily Herald All-Area captain Toni Kokenis, the school’s all-time leading scorer now at Stanford. Gone also was Adabelle Ekechukwu, Hinsdale Central’s career rebounding leader. McKenna did not expect to lose his top returning scorer Maggie Brennan to a badly broken finger the season’s second game. Misfortune has continued to shadow Hinsdale Central. Proviso West beat the Red Devils on a last-second 3-pointer by a kid who missed her other 12 shots. Against Willowbrook second-leading scorer Avery Anderson fouled out with four minutes left, whistled for the foul despite being 10 feet away from the play. Christine Rush was a breakout star at the Wheaton North tournament, averaging 25.8 points in four games, but with 15 minutes left in practice Monday she dislocated her knee. Rush missed the next day’s New Trier game. Another girl had a sprained ankle and a third the flu. Hinsdale Central dressed eight healthy players. “It’s kind of like a black cloud is following us around,” McKenna said. “We are a lot better than our record indicates.” Nothing, though, can wipe the smile off McKenna’s face. He is unshakeable in finding the silver lining. Perhaps it is his players, whom he calls “fantastic.” Maybe it’s a season away from the sidelines. McKenna knew about 2-3 months after he called it quits at St. Ignatius after the 2008-09 season that he made a mistake. A second chance came to him when Lindsey Montgomery, his former assistant at St. Ignatius, resigned at Hinsdale Central for personal reasons last spring. McKenna coached against Montgomery when she played at Hinsdale Central and went to Notre Dame with Lindsey’s dad. “It’s given me a whole new appreciation for a second act that you don’t often get,” said McKenna, still teaching English at St. Ignatius in his 31st year. “Stuff like this losing would bother me when I was younger. It gives you a better perspective. The kids are great and working as a team.” McKenna also draws energy from his assistants. Volunteer Morgan Kasperek starred for Hinsdale Central’s 2002 state champions and coached the team two years ago when Steve Gross resigned. Gia Navarra played for Hinsdale Central in 2004-05, then at North Central for four years. McKenna needed only a short chat at the Corner Bakery last summer to know he had a perfect assistant in the 23-year-old Navarra. McKenna is old enough to be her grandfather, but their synergy is spot-on. “Two great role models for our girls,” McKenna said. “You can’t ask for better.” McKenna doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. He hopes to coach 5-7 more years. He does not think it will be long before Hinsdale Central returns to the high standards already set. Feeding that belief is the Hinsdale Inferno youth program. “We want to keep all the good Hinsdale players in Hinsdale,” he said. McKenna still thinks this group can do some damage. Brennan has seen an orthopedic surgeon and hopes to return soon. Rush is riding a bike in practice and could be back Saturday, worst-case scenario two weeks. “We haven’t lost faith,” McKenna said. “These kids want to leave their own legacy, that they did not give up.”

  • If there’s snow on the ground, it must be tournament time again Dec 10, 2010 10:14 AM
    It’s that time of year again. For most folks out there, the holiday season signifies last-minute shopping, putting up the Christmas tree or maybe drinking a little egg nog.

  • Out of pain and heartbreak, a bond is formed Nov 26, 2010 10:36 PM
    The bond between Annie Shain and Hannah Credille is unlike any other on the basketball court this year. It was formed as the only freshmen three years ago on a senior-laden Wheaton Warrenville South team. They have shared ups and downs on the court since then. Time has tested them with tragedy and heartbreak that no teenage girl should experience. It has revealed their strength and character. It was Nov. 19, 2007, two days after Shain’s first high school game, that her mom, Joanne, was killed in a two-car collision at an intersection just south of Hubble Middle School. The wake was four days later; WW South played that morning. Shain returned to the team the next week. “It was hard to know what to say,” Credille said. “Annie is a strong person who won’t talk about her problems unless you ask her. No one had advice to make it better. I give her all the props in the world for making it through that season.” Shain didn’t think of quitting. She was motivated to accomplish something for her mom. Shain’s brother, Brian, and sister, Jessica, were away at college, but her basketball family was there. Annie’s teammates were regulars at the Shain house to keep company and offer support. WW South won the DuPage Valley Conference that year, but that might not be the lingering memory for the girls or their coach. “Our girls took Annie under their wing that season,” WW South coach Rob Kroehnke said. “That season wasn’t about wins and losses.” Credille was expected to be a big part of the team as a sophomore. Injury curtailed those hopes. In June 2008 at the Glenbard South summer league Credille tore the ACL in her right knee. She returned for her sophomore year. But in a cruel twist of fate, almost a year to the day and one court over Credille blew out the ACL in her left knee. Junior year was the hardest for Credille. Every tentative move was controlled by the cautions in her head. The knee healed. Credille ran. But more than anything, Credille needed to rehabilitate mentally. WW South rebounded from a six-win season her sophomore year to go 20-10, but Credille played a reduced role. “Realizing that I lost my starting spot junior year hit me pretty hard,” Credille said. “Viewing from the bench was a mental struggle.” Credille wasn’t certain she wanted to play again. Summer ball, injury-free, restored her confidence. Health-wise, she figures she has nothing to lose. Why not go for it? Similarly, Kroehnke calls Shain “a different player” this year. Shain feels she has matured. She feels more mentally prepared than other years. Credille said Shain is “still the same Annie.” Down-to-earth. Cool. But she is a stronger person. The seniors who helped Shain through that freshman year set a good example for being a leader. Just the same, Shain and Credille are now there for young Sierra Bisso. The WW South sophomore tore her ACL during tryouts. Now it is Shain and Credille there for Bisso, not forgetting about her and making her feel like a part of the team. “They are the ones supporting the younger ones now,” Kroehnke said. “It’s neat how it has come full circle.” The girls have been through a lot. It is a different story than they could have ever envisioned after that first basketball game freshman year. “I’m glad it was with Annie,” Credille said. “She has been a good person to lean on. It’s nice to have one person that’s been a constant during change.”

  • Some questions about playoff volleyba Oct 29, 2010 12:51 AM
    Is Cary-Grove the best girls volleyball team in IHSA history? I actually heard a writer suggest that opinion. And it is hard to argue with a 51-match winning streak, second-longest ever, and No. 1 ranking in the country. Personally I find it hard to believe that any program will ever match the great Mother McAuley teams that won 135 straight from 1979-83. That number is downright ridiculous. Volleyball fans can argue Cary-Grove’s place among the state’s best after the season. Here are five questions that will be answered the next two weeks. Will DuPage County return to Normal?: Last year was the first time since 1978 that DuPage County was not represented by at least one school at the state volleyball tournament. Will 2010 bring a return to normalcy? The chances are good. The winner of the Class 4A Bartlett sectional, where West Chicago and York are the top two seeds, looks like a good bet to advance to Redbird Arena. Whatever team gets out of the 4A Romeoville sectional likely Benet, Hinsdale Central or Hinsdale South will be tested by the winner of a tough downstate sectional that includes Quincy, Moline and Edwardsville. But Benet and both Hinsdales are playing their best volleyball late in the season, so you have to like their chances. And in 3A? Just like the last three years, if St. Francis can clear the Joliet Catholic hurdle it can book its hotel plans. Can anyone beat Cary-Grove?: No one has solved the riddle yet. Marist is the best team I have seen in person this season, and Cary-Grove handled the RedHawks with ease at the Asics Challenge. The team probably best-equipped to knock off Cary-Grove is the team the Trojans beat in last year’s 4A final Lyons Twp. The Lions have lost just once this season to Marist at the Rich East tournament and that was without standout junior setter Alexis Viliunas. With Viliunas back after missing the season’s first 20 matches with a broken wrist, combined with Illinois-bound outside Jocelyn Birks, Lyons looked sharp in the season’s last week in beating Hinsdale Central and Mother McAuley. Lyons and Marist figure to meet again in a 4A supersectional, the winner potentially getting a second crack at Cary. Benet or the Hinsdales could get first shot at the defending champs in the state semifinals. It probably would require the perfect game for either to spring the upset. But as Benet can personally attest to (see the 2008 state final), on a given night anything can happen. Will 3A be won at Rosary?: When Joliet Catholic escaped Wheaton last year with a barnburner of a sectional final win over St. Francis, the rest of the 3A tournament was a formality. Not so this year. Don’t be confused, the winner of the Rosary sectional (likely Joliet Catholic or St. Francis) will be a strong contender at 3A state. This could be the fifth straight year the two hook up in the playoffs, after splitting four matches from 2006-2009. But Breese Mater Dei, ranked 30th nationally, is considered by many to be the odds-on favorite in 3A to win its fourth state championship since 1996. Also don’t overlook Marian Central, who split two three-game matches with St. Francis this season. Can West Chicago recapture its mojo?: No girls volleyball story in DuPage County this season was better than West Chicago, which won its first 26 matches after going 0-35 three years ago and won the DVC for the first time since 1979. But the Wildcats seemed to lose their swagger the last couple weeks. Dropping seven of your last nine matches will do that, but at the same time playing the likes of Joliet Catholic, Mother McAuley and Marist right before regionals lets a team know what weaknesses need addressed. The Wildcats are seeded No. 1 at the Bartlett sectional, but to even win their first regional since 1997 they will have to beat St. Charles North. That could set up an intriguing sectional match with two-time champion St. Charles East next Tuesday. West Chicago has never won a sectional before. If the Wildcats are to do it, this is the year. Who are the dark horses to watch?: It’s hard to call a No. 3 sectional seed and a two-time state champion “dark horses,” but that’s as close to one I can see in my crystal ball. Hinsdale South, which is No. 3 at the Romeoville sectional, has played as difficult a schedule as any team. It already has beaten Hinsdale Central once, also knocked off York, and with star outside Danielle Romeo and middles Melissa Nava and Morgan Howard the Hornets have the firepower to match Benet. At the Bartlett sectional you never can discount St. Charles East. Yes, the Saints will have to do it without setter Erienne Barry, lost with an ACL injury. Yes, York looks primed for a long playoff run with few if any glaring weaknesses. But you never can count out Jennie Kull’s Saints this time of year.

  • West Chicago's storybook finish hasn't been written — yet Oct 15, 2010 6:16 PM
    Kathy Fletcher calls West Chicago girls volleyball coach Kris Hasty one of the best storytellers she's ever met. As stories go, they don't get much better than these Wildcats. Two volleyball teams are still undefeated in the Chicago area. One is defending Class 4A champion Cary-Grove, the No. 1-ranked team in the country. The other team went 0-35 just three years ago. I'm sure West Chicago folks hate to be reminded of that but really, Hollywood couldn't script this kind of turnaround any better. “If you even told me last year that we'd be undefeated right now I don't think I would have believed you, Fletcher said. “I knew we would have a good team, but I didn't know if this was possible. Volleyball players like these Wildcats don't walk through the doors at West Chicago every day. The seeds were planted at Benjamin Middle School, where Fletcher and future Wildcats Julia Conard, Jen Konchar and Payton Bayless grew up and won conference championships every year. They would be joined in high school by lanky middle hitter Emily Paschke from West Chicago Middle School. “High school volleyball is a totally different game, Conard said, “but we got to know each other and liked each other. Going into high school we were excited to see what damage we could do. It was a fresh start for West Chicago volleyball. Fletcher started playing club for the Kane County Juniors following her freshman year, joined by Paschke. Illinois recruit Conard got early notoriety as an AAU All-America with Club Fusion. For a change the girls from Naperville and Wheaton aren't the only ones from the DuPage Valley Conference playing volleyball year-round. You want the reason why West Chicago is DVC champions for the first time since 1979? Look no further. “We started playing club early I think that's what helped us and made us that much stronger, Fletcher said. This group has had West Chicago on the periphery of the volleyball radar. Fletcher, Conard, Paschke and Bayless are in their third year playing together. Last year West Chicago finished 22-15. They challenged the Napervilles for DVC volleyball supremacy. It wasn't quite their time yet. It is now. “Obviously, everybody has another year of experience, Fletcher said, “and everybody has improved so much from last year. We added a few key players to the mix. It helps to have a core group of people who trust each other and work well. It adds up to one exciting year on the volleyball court in West Chicago. And it comes on the heels of a conference championship and long playoff run by West Chicago's softball team last spring. Fans have noticed and are packing Bishop Gym. Perhaps not overly spoiled by success, West Chicago's fans know a winner when they see one. “We have a great group of fans behind us and appreciate what the school does for us, Conard said. “Every game we win the crowds get even better and we can always use a few more out there. Hopefully, people realize we have a pretty good team this year. If an undefeated record this late in the season makes a team press, it doesn't show here. Great friends on and off the court have fun, Fletcher said, cracking jokes “until their cheeks hurt. No cliques on this team. Nobody at West Chicago seems uptight or anxious. Even Hasty is known to crack jokes on occasion in the halls or at practice. Nobody gets caught up in the 0 in the loss column, either. The Wildcats know the undefeated record could get broken up this weekend at Autumnfest, where West Chicago will be challenged by the likes of Mother McAuley, Benet and Joliet Catholic. Nobody ever said going undefeated was the goal in West Chicago. Advancing to the state tournament, now that would be a storybook finish. No West Chicago volleyball team has ever even won a sectional championship; no regional titles since 1997. This could be the year. “We don't necessarily expect to go to state, Conard said, “but it would be the best. It's definitely in all of our best interests to just take it one match at a time. We need to keep it embedded in our minds that there are teams out there that can beat us.

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