Girls volleyball: Nieman, Hinsdale Central use balanced effort to blow past St. Charles East
Lauren Nieman realized asking more questions brings opportunities for fruitful results.
The Hinsdale Central junior middle blocker utilized a development season in both school and club volleyball with New Wave last year to prepare herself for what was to come.
It's now visibly paying off for the Red Devils.
"She actually played on our sophomore team last year; she wasn't moved up to JV," Hinsdale Central coach Kelly Stapleton said following the Red Devils' 25-10, 25-21 sweep over St. Charles East on Thursday. "She went and did a ton of lessons and worked her butt off and beat out some of the other kids to get a starting spot here just through hard work."
"I definitely trained really hard during the club season," Nieman said following her three-ace effort.
The combination of learning from watching other teammates and actively learning from situations in practice is part of the formula for finding her groove in the early portions of the season.
"I made sure to speak up more in practices and really ask my coaches for advice because I knew that's what would get me to that next level and able to play varsity this year," Nieman said.
Nieman was one of several Red Devils (5-3) that turned in a balanced effort. Senior outside hitter Siena Steines (four kills, two aces), sophomore right side Caitlin Leddy (three blocks, two kills) and senior outside Emma Quast (four kills) all found bright spot moments during point-scoring runs to produce.
"I really like [Steines'] intensity. She has a really high volleyball IQ," Stapleton said. "She likes to hit the ball hard, but she's smart enough to know at certain times, it's just not what's open and she'll take the shot that'll score points; even if it's not the flashy thing to do, so it makes her pretty solid all-around."
"[Leddy] broke her wrist partway through last season, so this is like her first real high school season," Stapleton said. "Coming into high school, she had a broken elbow, broken ankle, broken finger, so this past club season was her first full volleyball season; she's come a long way."
The Red Devils sailed to a convincing victory in set one, controlling momentum from the opening volley. Set two brought a more competitive set with the game tied at 17-17, but Hinsdale Central ripped off a 5-0 run to pull away and an ace for match point was the final piece needed to ensure the sweep.
St. Charles East (0-2), meanwhile, is re-inventing itself following one of the best seasons in program history a season ago with its run to the state tournament. With virtually an entirely new lineup, except senior setter Sarah Musial and senior defensive specialist Maya Lopez, the Saints are going through the expected growing pains that comes with a new group.
Saints senior outside hitter Tatum Ahrens had three kills and senior defensive specialist Avery Smith had two kills. Morgan Tapson had two aces.
"There was 11 last year that graduated and we had all these people moving up into these spots," Saints coach Kate McCullagh said. "It takes time to get used to the speed of the game at the varsity level, right? We're happy because we feel like every day we're doing something a little better and that's our goal: Just little baby steps and get better by the end of the season when it really counts."