Glenbard West seeking spot on map of elite teams

It's not that Pete Mastandrea isn't pleased with his Glenbard West volleyball team's fast start.

Just check back with him in 24 hours.

The 11-2 Hilltoppers, winners of nine straight matches since the season's first weekend, get their stiffest test to date tonight. No. 11 Hinsdale Central pays a visit to Glen Ellyn.

"If we knock them off," Mastandrea said, "then maybe it's time to start looking at us. We've been playing well. Hopefully we can pull off an upset. We have an opportunity for the first time since I've been here to put ourselves on the map."

An experienced Hinsdale Central team comes into tonight's action with just a 5-4 record. Don't be fooled. Three of those losses came at the hands of No. 2 York - 2 of those defeats in three games.

Glenbard West's lone 2 losses of the season came to a good Marian Central team that plays at No. 3 St. Francis on Wednesday. Since those 2 losses at the Wheaton North tournament Glenbard West hasn't lost a game - let alone a match - winning the Joliet Tournament this past weekend.

The Hilltoppers are playing solid defense, keyed by libero Tori Clifford. Mastandrea said senior outside Laura Luczak, who missed six weeks last season, has "been the senior we wanted her to be" and "our main go-to kid." And athletic sophomore Caleigh Ryan has been a difference-maker in her first season at setter.

"Are we the team that could move into that upper tier of volleyball teams?" Mastandrea asked hypothetically. "It's right on us now."

Special night at St. Francis: St. Francis' home match Wednesday with Marian Central will be a special night. Spartans players have invited grandparents or very important older persons to the match. The Spartans have penned letters to these people of significance on why they've chosen to invite them.

"People in general sometimes forget to tell people that they are important to them, or why they mean something to them," St. Francis coach Peg Kopec said. "It's a good opportunity for our kids to do that and a good opportunity for these people to come out and see some volleyball."

St. Francis has been a bit banged up in the early going. But injuries haven't derailed the Spartans from an 11-1 start. Back-row standout Gina Madonia missed the championship match of the Early Bird tournament with a head injury, and middle Sarah Dubiel is dealing with an abdominal injury.

But senior setter Kelly Reinke seems fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered in tryouts last year.

"She's becoming a real leader, very confident and talking a lot out there," Kopec said. "She wears no brace and she is doing quite well."

Practice makes perfect for Redhawks: A five-day break between matches allowed Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson to get in more practice time, which is right up Isaacson's alley. The Redhawks practiced once Friday and put in a double Saturday.

"Game days for me are not nearly as exciting as practice days," Isaacson said, "becuase I think teams truly get better in practices. We set up practices so they are tougher than any match we play."

That said, the progress of a young group of Redhawks can't completely be ascertained until they're in the heat of battle.

"The match is almost a test to how much they're learning in practice," Isaacson said. "The more matches we play, the more comfortable we get. In practice everybody looks good because there is no pressure in practice."

Isaacson saw a marked improvement in her team's ballhandling in Wednesday's win over Wheaton Warrenville South. With big hitters at a premium this year, ballhandling could be crucial to the Redhawks' success.

"I'm going to continue to challenge them to control the ball in broken plays," Isaacson said. "We're running a lot of drills where it is broken. It forces them to make smarter decisions when the game isn't going the way it should."

Tournament time in Wheaton: Many of the top teams from DuPage County, and around the Chicago area, will once again be competing in the Wheaton Classic at WW South this weekend.

Hinsdale Central has drawn the No. 1 seed, followed by defending tournament champion Benet, Marist and Sandburg. Other teams to watch include Evanston, Waubonsie Valley, Downers Grove North, the host Tigers and Lemont. Pool play in the 24-team event is Thursday and Friday, with the finals Saturday. The championship match should get going around 5 p.m. Saturday.

"It's a good representation of what Illinois has to offer," WW South coach Bill Schreier said. "There should be intriguing matches Saturday depending on how pool play turns out."

Volley for the Cure: Naperville Central and WW South will hold Volley for the Cure Night together once again on Oct. 5 in Wheaton. Schreier said the schools are hoping to top last year's fundraising total of $20,000 that went toward the Susan G. Komen Foundation in the fight against breast cancer. Those interested in donating items for an auction at the event can contact Bill Schreier at WW South or Brie Isaacson at Naperville Central.

Meg DeMaar of Glenbard West, left goes up to defend as Lauren Domaracki, right, of Fenton goes up to hit in action during girls volleyball Monday in Bensenville. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer