Girls volleyball: Downers Grove North rallies to beat Glenbard West
Junior Gwen Wolkow is a potent outside hitter for the Downers Grove North volleyball team, but she also is tenacious on defense.
The Division I Campbell recruit had a team-best 410 kills in 2019 but also 276 digs, second on the Trojans.
"I feel like I just help the team out more (than kills) because I help put the ball up and that can help someone else achieve a kill or keep the ball in play," Wolkow said.
"I just love getting the balls up that are hard to get. It's just so great to be able to get one up for (setter Sandy Brindl) to put out to another pin."
The Trojans' experience and commitment to team defense Tuesday turned the tide in their home and West Suburban Silver opener for a 20-25, 25-14, 25-21 come-from-behind victory over Glenbard West.
Wolkow had 12 of her match-high 17 kills over the final two sets as well as 13 digs to complement the back-row play of Michigan-bound senior libero Madi Cuchran and senior Jacki Lucas, who each had 15 digs.
"Definitely serve receive and defense (were crucial), just talking and going for more balls. We were definitely on our toes," Wolkow said. "In the beginning, we were really slow. We picked up our energy a ton, which helped so much."
In the final two sets, the Trojans (3-0) had 28 kills (14 each set) with 13 attack errors after 11 kills with 10 errors in the first.
Two big serving streaks by senior Sophie Rodriguez (13 service points with four aces) gave Downers North leads in the final two games. Glenbard West (2-1) cut a late seven-point deficit in the third game to three twice before Lucas ended the match with a kill.
Lucas and junior Grace Beacom each added six kills, junior Brindl had 27 assists and Rodriguez had seven digs.
Glenbard West stat leaders included junior Makayla Webber (seven kills), sophomores Liz Murray (12 digs) and Katherine Creswell (15 assists, nine service points) and freshmen Avery Herbert (eight kills) and Marin Johnson (six kills, two blocks).
"I think serve receive is always important and serve receive goes into siding out fast," Cuchran said. "And then you get the serve and serving is where you get your runs going."
Rodriguez's first serving run of seven points opened a 16-8 lead in the second game.
"We as a team got more pumped up and excited and talking more and encouraging each other," Rodriguez said.
The Trojans began the third set with a side out and Lucas serving them to a 5-0 lead. Rodriguez later served six in a row for an 18-8 advantage.
"I'm consistent, not usually an ace after ace type server but I think after I get a few, I keep going and just like to keep the momentum going," Rodriguez said.
Although this season is abbreviated, the WSC Silver champion will be determined as years past with teams playing each other only once. With six returning starters, the Trojans' 2019 sectional finalists hope for their third conference title in four seasons after a 4-2 finish in 2019.
"We had to turn it up a notch. I think that impacted us a little bit in game one and then (we) got going in game two," Downers North coach Mark Wasik said. "Glenbard West is always competitive. This is a tough conference and there's not a lot of room for error. You've got to take it one match at a time."
Glenbard West continued making big strides with several new varsity faces after last week beating Willowbrook after trailing 24-20 in the third set.
Glenbard West coach Pete Mastanadrea agreed that the Trojans' defense was a huge factor as well as not enough middle attack on his side.
"It's a shame we don't have this season because (Cuchran) could be the player of the year in the state. She's a tremendous player and she's always keeping their floor together," Mastandrea said.
"That's the best we can play. We've gotten better every match and that's a quality player there (Cuchran). And we know who Gwen is, too. Two great players. We gave them everything we had."
Natalie Charintranond, among four seniors who played Tuesday, switched positions and contributed six service points with two aces.
In the first set, the Hilltoppers opened an 18-13 lead with 10 points coming on Downers North attack errors. The Hilltoppers' final two points came from Herbert kills.
"We kind of got a little slower in the second set and played down a bit. but we're definitely improving every match and we're doing great," Charintranond said. "I feel like we get along and play pretty balanced altogether."