Girls volleyball: Stevenson knocks off hosts to claim Libertyville crown
Stevenson's 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker Cayla Weisner called the championship at this weekend's Libertyville girls volleyball tournament a "statement" by her Patriots.
"It's a great statement for sure," she said. "We have so many powerful players on this team and to come together as clean as we did against Glenbrook South in the second and third set (of the semifinal) and then carry that moment to this championship match (against the host Wildcats) is truly awesome."
Weisner is also making a statement this season.
Her versatile play of 4 kills, 2 aces, 4 blocks and 5 digs helped earn the Pats a 25-13, 25-18 triumph in the title match that featured two of the winningest coaches in Lake County and the two teams who played in last year's third-place match won by Stevenson.
"Cayla played incredibly this weekend," said Pats 22-year veteran coach Tim Crow, a winner of 578 matches, including the 5-0 record this weekend. "Her blocking, getting more involved in the offense, getting the tips and serving for us were all big. She is a very skilled middle who is probably going to play at the next level. I'm just so pleased at how her game and confidence have gotten so much stronger from last season to this season."
Weisner's kill off a quick set from senior setter Rachel Shin (24 assists) gave Stevenson an 8-4 lead in Set 1. Weisner's big block made it 17-9, forcing the Wildcats to use their second timeout. Weisner then ended the set with an ace.
The second set was tighter as Libertyville pulled ahead 14-10 on a kill from senior Hannah Fleming, who had nine for the match.
But Stevenson answered with a service string of 5 points from Northeastern-bound Brynn Smith (4 kills, 3 aces, 7 digs), capped by her ace which made it 16-15. Another smash by Fleming tied it at 16-16 before the Pats went ahead for good on a kill by Iona pledge Mija Jegers, who led Stevenson with 12 kills.
Weisner then served 5 straight points to help seal the deal with a 23-17 cushion.
Stevenson had a few players out for SAT testing.
Senior Julia Rafa filled in at middle hitter for Adiana Voshtina and Shin had to run a 5-1 offense.
"Julia did a great job," Crow said. "Props to her for not playing much this year and being put into that spot with some girls out. I just loved the way the girls rallied around each other and we were able to execute and perform. We didn't have the personnel to run the 6-2 offense but Rachel stepped up and did a great job."
Junior Ava Wysocki added 5 kills for the Pats (5-1), whose only loss is to Barrington.
Jaimie Marquardt collected 17 assists, 2 kills and 1 block for Libertyville (5-2), which defeated Lake Zurich in three sets in the semifinal.
Other key contributors were Lily Evans (3 kills), Mia Colton (7 digs) and Sky Rohrbach (5 digs).
"We turned on the intensity a little bit in the second set but we needed to scrap more and make it a little more challenging for them," said Wildcats coach Greg Loika, who has won 387 matches. "They're a little bigger team than we are and I think we were just letting them have their way with us in the first set by just putting the ball right on their platform.
"We learned the type of volleyball we need to play consistently. We know it's there. It's just a matter of putting it out there against the good teams. We see it in practice every day."
"Credit to Greg and his kids," Crow added. "They came out in set two and really schemed well and were running things a lot faster. They were doing things that really got us on our heels but our girls were kind of able to adjust this weekend to different styles. We played unbelievable volleyball today and I thought our best match of the season was against Glenbrook South (three-set semifinal).
Lake Zurich coach Rachel Wiatrowski liked what she saw from her team as the Bears took fourth place after falling in two sets to Glenbrook South in the third-place match.
"Overall, I'm really happy with how the girls played this weekend," she said. "We played some really good volleyball as we are getting used to filling the big shoes of Chelsea Williams and Heidi Mason."
Last season, Williams became the program's all-time leader in kills while Mason set the career mark for assists.
So what happens on Saturday?
The Bears (3-3) produced their all-time leader in digs.
Senior libero Madelyn Elsen now has more than 435 digs to set the record. Her younger sister Ella (freshman) is also off to a big start in the assists department following in the terrific career of Mason.
"We have big shoes to fill in Chelsea and Heidi but other girls are stepping into their roles and doing really well with it," Wiatrowski said. "We saw awesome play from Kayden (Glisson) this weekend and Kendall Freeland played great."
Glisson, Freeland and Madelyn Elsen are the Bears' captains this fall.