The ascent continues for Glenbard West

Glenbard West is 20-1 with the defending state champion coming into its gym tonight.

That's the kind of stuff Hilltoppers coach Pete Mastandrea could only dream of a few short years ago.

The Hilltoppers, winners of 20-plus matches five straight years now, are soaring past that plateau this fall. They already are winners of three tournaments.

Could a 30-win season and regional title be next?

First up is a home match tonight with Lyons Township.

“I really do feel like we are moving up,” Mastandrea said. “This is monumental for this program, is this match.”

Glenbard West last topped 30 wins in a season in 1983, the school's state championship season.

It's been a long road back. Glenbard West is perhaps still searching for its marquee win but seems to be on the cusp of breaking through. The Hilltoppers dropped a tough three-set match at Hinsdale Central a couple weeks ago. They did beat a pair of ranked teams in Geneva and Fremd at the Glenbard West Invite over the weekend.

“It's how you do after your first loss,” Mastandrea said. “I thought our kids took it pretty seriously.”

Meg DeMaar was moved to libero from outside earlier in the season and has solidified the back row. Amanda Perry, Charlotte Karp and Megan Wagner lead the attack at the net.

The centerpiece to Glenbard West's success, though, is setter Caleigh Ryan, a player Mastandrea said is the best to come through the program in his tenure. Ryan was named MVP in each of the three tournaments the Hilltoppers won.

“I love the kid. She is unreal — a difference-maker,” said Mastandrea, touting Ryan as all-state caliber. “Find me a better setter. She serves well and has a ferocious demeanor.”

Huskies getting it done: Naperville North has had all of one practice this season with its full lineup. The Huskies have had five setters up on varsity.

Through it all, Naperville North is 12-3 which has Huskies coach Jennifer Urban feeling pretty good about things.

“The girls have adjusted well,” Urban said. “With (five setters) that puts a lot of accountability on our hitters to adjust. Everybody has stepped up around that position.”

This past weekend Naperville North finally got its original starting setter, senior Christine Wu, back from an ankle injury she suffered two days before the team's first match. Big credit goes to the Huskies' three other seniors — Ashley Crawford, Sami Scroggins and Madison Murphy.

The Huskies already own a big win over defending DuPage Valley Conference champion West Chicago, and have beaten Rosary twice. Their only losses are to unbeaten Huntley at the Plainfield North Tournament and once-beatens Benet and Marist at last weekend's Wheaton Classic.

The schedule does't get any easier this week with DVC matches against West Aurora tonight and Naperville Central Thursday.

“We played Benet and Marist tough over the weekend,” Urban said. “Now we have a better idea what we need to work on.”

Redhawks seeking consistency: Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson says her team is “the last people out the door every day at Naperville Central.” The Redhawks are still doing weekend two-a-days into September.

“We cannot physically practice more than we have,” Isaacson said.

Alas, the results on the court to this point are hot-and-cold. Naperville Central, with almost its entire lineup back from a year ago, is sitting at 8-7 after 15 matches. It mirrors the 7-8 start from a year ago, but more was expected from this more experienced team.

“Our highs are high,” Isaacson said. “Unfortunately we have not been consistent enough. I'm seeing the good things I want to see. I was just hoping to see more and faster.”

Isaacson said Alysia Baznik is doing a solid job running the offense and hitting right side, and middles Sammie Condon and Nikki Connors can put away balls when the Redhawks get it to them. Kendall Ward puts down the heaviest ball of any player Isaacson's ever coached.

But Naperville Central needs to match its frontcourt game in the back row with more consistent ballhandling.

Isaacson is convinced it will come with more match experience.

“The only way to be able to get this team to play at a high level is to play. You can't simulate it in practice,” she said. “The more we play, the better off we'll be.”

Red Devils learning to adapt: Injuries are the great unknown that no team is ever fully prepared for. Hinsdale Central is learning to adapt. The Red Devils suffered a big blow when 6-foot-2 setter Meghan McDowell, a Virginia recruit, was lost for the season with torn ligaments in her ankle.

The reins have been turned to 5-7 senior Ellie VanKeirsbilck. Hinsdale Central (8-7) seemed to be finding its rhythm over the weekend at the Wheaton Classic. The Red Devils beat Rosary for their seventh win in eight matches, before dropping matches to Benet and Sandburg.

“We are definitely showing signs of improvement,” Hinsdale Central coach Sheralynn Kellough said, “but we still have our work cut out for us. Obviously Meghan is a difference-maker but we have other people and other positions that need to step up. Ellie has done a great job running the court.”

It surely has been a most unusual and trying season for Kellough, who is expecting twins Nov. 23. Providing a boost is first-year assistant Maggie Stewart, who played at Michigan State. Hinsdale Central clearly seemed to feed off Stewart's positive energy in the Rosary match Saturday.

“She brings a ton of energy and enthusiasm to the court,” Kellough said. “Maggie's been a life-saver. She couldn't be more of a perfect fit.”