KANELAND—Kaneland volleyball now has 10 matches under its jersey, all in large invite fashion.
Now at 6-5, the volleyball crew must hope the action this past weekend in Champaign, Ill., and the previous week in Wheaton, Ill., has prepared them for the rigors of Northern Illinois Big XII battles.
After a 2-3 finish at Wheaton North last week, the Lady Knights travelled for the first time to the Centennial Charger Invite down at Champaign Centennial High School and went 3-2, a slight improvement over the closer gathering.
Kaneland first lost to La Grange’s Nazareth Academy by a final of 25-17, 25-13. KHS then rebounded by beating Bloomington Central Catholic in a 25-22, 22-25, 15-13 affair, and then beat East Peoria 25-22, 25-16. Host Champaign Central took care of the visitors 25-17, 25-20, before KHS solved Mahomet-Seymour in a 25-19, 21-25, 15-9 matchup.
By virtue of her performance through five matches, the Lady Knights’ Ellie Dunn was named to the all-tournament team.
Cyndi Violett, KHS head coach, also saw plenty of other nice efforts.
“Riley Hannula and Anna Senese had a big weekend for us leading the team, with Ellie Dunn in kills,” Violett said.
A trip like the Charger Invite is more than a chance to visit an out-of-the-way tournament.
“The big weekend overnight invites is a great opportunity to bond as a team. It’s more than just the tournament. It’s the dinner, bus ride and hotel stay with the girls,” Violett said.
Additonally, against Montini Catholic in Lombard, Ill., the Lady Knights won 25-18, 26-24 over the Broncos. Dunn had seven kills, four sevice points, an ace and eight digs. Hannula had two kills, one block and two service points. Senese had three kills and five service points, while Hannah Nauert had one block, three digs and eight assists. Holly Fedderly also had six assists.
Aug. 26 vs. Hinckley-Big Rock—Kaneland defeated Hinckley-Big Rock 178 to 261. Jacob Hummel led the team with a 43. Michael Petrick and Rhett Espe each shot a 44. Jacob Milton (47), Jacob Romas (47) and Joey Brandonisio (53) rounded out the scores.
Sept. 8 vs. Yorkville—The Knights defeated the Foxes 176-194. Dan Franck led the team with a 42. Milton (44), Brandonisio (45) Luke Calabrese (45) Hummel (45) Jacob Pearson (47), Brock Williams (49) and Petrick (49) also competed.
Sept. 9 @ Montini—The Lady Knights defeated Montini 25-20, 25-18. No individual stats were provided.
Sept. 9 @ Montini—The freshman A squad won 25-22, 13-25, 25-14, while the B squad lost 13-25, 19-25. No individual stats were provided.
Sept. 9 vs. DeKalb—The Knights settled for a 1-1 tie against DeKalb. John McCaffrey scored the lone KHS goal unassisted. The sophomore team is now 0-1-1, and 0-0-1 in conference play.
Kaneland Youth Football League
Saturday, Sept. 6 8U
Kaneland White 20
@ Kaneland Orange 0
Kaneland Silver 28
@ Burlington Blue 8
Burlington White 6
@ Kaneland Black 25
Kaneland Black 6
@ DeKalb Black 0 (OT)
Kaneland White 32
@ Yorkville Red 14
Kaneland Black 12
@ DeKalb Black 6 (OT)
Kaneland White 0
@ Yorkville Red 6
DeKalb Orange 33
@ Kaneland Black 8
Kaneland White 27
@ Yorkville Red 6
Don’t see your results in the Elburn Herald? Have your coach email them to email@example.com or fax them to (630) 365-2251.
Photo: Anna Senese spikes the ball over Raider defenders in action against Glenbard South Aug. 27. Photo by Laura Gampfer
Lady Knights manage comeback win over Romeoville as part of middle-of-pack finish at Wheaton
WHEATON, Ill.—Aug. 27 marked the return of Cyndi Violett to the Kaneland head coaching ranks, and also marked the beginning of the 2014 test for Kaneland volleyball.
After the opening night and Saturday’s conclusion in the Wheaton North tournament, the report card might note Kaneland’s perseverance, with some room to improve in other areas.
KHS managed a sixth-place finish out of 12 squads at the Falcon-hosted tournament, which has marked the unofficial beginning of the Kaneland volleyball campaign in recent seasons.
KHS began with a 25-19, 25-15 loss to former conference foe Glenbard South, and came back in the Aug. 27 nightcap against Romeoville, 23-25, 25-19, 27-26. On Saturday, KHS lost to Wheaton North 25-16, 25-15, beat Tinley Park, Ill. program Andrew 19-25, 25-17, 25-20 and lost to Glenbard West 25-16, 25-13.
Kaneland sits at 2-3 in the early goings of 2014.
Noteworthy performances after the first night of action had Ball State bound Ellie Dunn with 12 kills, two aces and nine digs, Anna Senese with 11 kills, a block and ace, Hannah Nauert with 15 assists and five aces and Sami Burgin with nine kills, eight digs and an ace.
“They finally got mad and let the nerves go away and played how they could play. Romeoville is a good defending team. Against Glenbard South, we had a lot of mistakes,” Violett said.
Against the Spartans of Romeoville, Dunn supplied two blocks to tie the score at 22, before Romeoville scored three of the next four points for the Game 1 win.
Romeoville went ahead 12-5, sending the Lady Knights to a possible defeat before a handful of Dunn kills and Romeoville errors gave KHS a 14-13 lead. Burgin and McKenzie McMullan executed a block to go up 19-15 and send Kaneland on a 7-5 run to end Game 2.
An evenly matched rubber encounter had the two squads tied at 17 and 22 after a Romeoville sideout, before a team block gave Kaneland a one-point edge. After Romeoville tied again, AnneMarie Franz and Senese combined on a block for a 24-23 lead. Romeoville scored twice before a Kaneland kill attempt. A sideout tied it at 26 before a Dunn kill gave the Lady Knights a one-point Game 3 win.
“There were jitters, and it’s a new team, so there was that aspect,” Dunn said. “We realized we lost and it was done with, and we came back and had to prepare for the season. It’s about never giving up. We were hesitant but then we were all-in and were like, ‘let’s win this game.”
Kaneland travels south to Centennial High School in Champaign, Ill., for the Charger Invite on Saturday, Sept. 6.
Seniors Brittany Grider and Elle Dunn (right) work on a blocking drill at last Friday’s practice. Junior Makenzie McMullan (below) taps the ball over the net in other practice action Friday. Photos by Patti Wilk
Violett returns to head coaching spot with consistent talent pool
KANELAND—It’s a similar story in some aspects to begin the 2014-15 season for Kaneland volleyball.
After an exciting postseason, the Lady Knights have to begin battle on the court with a new head coach once again.
Luckily for KHS, it’s one who’s had the exact position before.
Cyndi Violett, originally head coach from 1997-2001 and an assistant under both Todd Weimer and Kerri McCastland, takes over the head spot again after McCastland’s acceptance of a position within DeKalb High School’s administration.
The transition, due to Violett’s familiarity with the school, program and players, looks to be as seamless as it can get.
“There’s not really much of a learning curve for me. I’m just excited to be back,” Violett said. “I worked under Todd and Kerri and learned a lot from them, but I’m definitely excited.”
A seamless change is beneficial for both parties involved: coach and roster.
“The biggest challenge was not to change too much. We’re going to keep going so there’s not much change for the girls,” Violett said.
KHS comes off an interesting year, which saw one senior, Jenny Lubic, on a squad that took Sycamore to three games only to lose the Sandwich Regional as a No. 1 seed. The Lady Knights ended at 16-16 after a 23-13 mark in 2012 and a sectional appearance.
“We play a lot of bigger schools during the season, so that contributes to some losses, but we’re competing with them. We’re going to still have some of that, and we’re changing some tournaments up,” Violett said. “It’s great competition.”
Taking the mantle this year are seniors like future Ball State player Ellie Dunn and future Greenvile College athlete Riley Hannula, both captains in 2013. Other seniors include Anna Senese, Brittany Grider at DS and Rachel Kintz at right side hitter.
“It’s a good core group of seniors,” Violett said. “I’ll lean on them and others a lot.”
Junior Kathy Nguyen brings quickness and court sense at the libero position again, in the footsteps of Kylie Siebert.
Setters picking up the slack for Lubic include sophomore Hannah Nauert and junior Holly Fedderly.
“They are great and hardworking this offseason, you’re going to be wowed by them,” Violett said.
Looking to do damage in the refurbished Northern Illinois Big XII East division, Kaneland sees the usual suspects for conference supremacy.
“Sycamore and DeKalb will be our tough matches. A lot of our girls play club with DeKalb kids. That’s going to be some good volleyball there,” Violett said.
KHS begins the 2014-15 journey on Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the usual Wheaton North Tournament stop, with the first NIB-12 match on Tuesday, Sept. 16, vs. DeKalb.
Hottest time of year the best time to teach v-ball fundamentals to area athletes
MAPLE PARK—Nearly 100 athletes were able to enjoy snow cones from a machine in the Kaneland High School East Gym on Tuesday.
That was only after perspiring in the morning hours going through the paces of volleyball camps for aspects like setting, basics and fundamentals of the court game.
Athletes from kindergarten through eighth grade were put through the paces by second-year head coach Kerri McCastland and assistant Cyndi Violett, Breanne Kahl and Kelsey Flanagan.
“Fundamentals is where we pick one specific one, and then break it down. We add it into what it looks like in game play, so it’s progression,” McCastland said.
Examining the specific fundamental and using it in a controlled setting for the prospective athletes is nothing new for McCastland, herself an experienced coach and official. However, this is the first camp she’s able to run after being appointed coach last summer with the departure of eight-season coach Todd Weimer.
“It’s fun,” McCastland said. “Even though I’ve been a head coach for a really long time, I can say it’s not my first kids camp. But this is the first time I can come in and teach my own thing. It’s fun to see the kids excited about learning.”
The camps were organized and made full use of the gym space with the amount of girls.
“Each court space had their own age group, and my girls broke down the fundamentals to smaller groups. It was a full staff effort,” McCastland said.
McCastland was encouraged by not just the effort of the girls, but the commitment of the staff during a hot July week.
“That’s kudos, and that all goes back to the staff. I offered it as optional for them and they all chose to come on their own. I think that’s a great tell-tale,” McCastland said.
Also coming through the late July exercise is a chance for Kaneland volleyball to show kids how the program is run.
“It’s an added benefit,” McCastland said. “Any time you can bring awareness to your high school program is a good thing. We’ll figure out in the fall how to take it a step further.”
Two Kaneland volleyball players, Jessie Weber (back row, second from right) and Maddie Keifer (back row, third from right) were part of the Kane County Juniors club team that placed third at the Volleyball Festival International Championships in Phoenix June 26-29. Photo submitted by Bob Webber to firstname.lastname@example.org
Kane County Juniors finish third in 15-year-old bracket in Phoenix
PHOENIX—Summer is a time for local athletes to showcase themselves in a realm outside the Maple Park fields and courts.
Lady Knight volleyball talents Jessie Weber and Maddie Keifer did so in Phoenix last month as part of the annual Volleyball Festival International Championships June 26-29.
Housed at the Phoenix Convention Center, the festival featured teams from the 12-through-18 age range on the club circuit, and had a majority of teams from Arizona, California and Washington, and teams like Weber and Keifer’s Kane County Juniors 15 Gold squad to complete the 73-team age bracket.
The extravaganza also featured teams from British Columbia and Trinidad and Tobago.
The Gold crew, with head coach KC Johnsen, went 8-2 during the four-day trial and finished in third place.
In the Saturday championship bracket, the Gold side beat Epic 15-Shawn in a 25-20, 25-20 match before beating Legacy 15 Elite in a 25-22, 25-23 affair. The Juniors took a 25-17, 25-21 rematch with Epic 15-Shawn before losing to eventual winner AZ Sky 15 Gold, 23-25, 25-21, 15-3, which stopped the eight-match win streak, and second-place club El Paso Stars 15 Blue, 25-12, 25-13, in the double elimination chance.
Assistant coach Cindy Weber, Jessie’s mother, felt it was a successful tournament gathering.
“For lack of a better term, the other teams were gunning for us,” Weber said. “We didn’t have their height, but we were a quick team out there.”
With teams from all over, the Kane County crew was no stranger to unique settings like Phoenix and a Navy Pier tournament last month, Weber said.
“We were able to get our kills and blocks in, and it was really a fun experience. The Kane County Juniors have been to Arizona, and we were very excited to go again this time,” Weber said.
The 15 Gold contingent improved to 59-13 with the Phoenix performance.
Lady Knight star-turned-college libero wins prestigious Augustana honor
ROCK ISLAND, ILL.—For a rising Kaneland volleyball program in the beginning of this decade, Class of 2012 athlete Kylie Siebert of Sugar Grove could be seen digging plenty of attempts from opponents.
After two seasons as a libero for the Division III Augustana Vikings, Siebert has dug up some high accolades.
As starting libero for the Vikings, most recently 16-15 and owners of back-to-back winning records for the first time in six years, Siebert was named Most Valuable Player for the 2013-14 Augustana unit for her exceptional play.
That came on the heels of earlier namings to the All-College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin team and All-CCIW academic all-conference list.
“It’s definitely an honor,” Siebert said on Monday. “As a libero, we sometimes get overlooked.”
From a stint on the KHS squad that won 55 matches during her varsity stay, to a rigorous college circuit, Siebert was glad to have some preparation.
“It’s a lot more commitment. You have to be mentally and physically ready, and it’s a lot different of a workload,” Siebert said.
The sophomore averaged 5.3 digs a game for the Vikings, the fourth best single season rate in program history. The former Lady Knight was also third on the team with 109 assists.
Raising her game against the rotation of capable CCIW teams was satisfying to the former Northern Illinois Big XII MVP.
“There’s teams like Elmhurst, Wheaton, North Central and Carthage. We kind of struggled and get looked at as the underdogs, so this season was a big step,” Siebert said.
Siebert, attending Augustana for a business and marketing major with a minor in multimedia journalism, doesn’t plan to rest after the nice bounty of awards.
“I’m very competitive and I push myself. I’m in a lifting program now and it’s helping out,” Siebert said.
The CCIW leader in average digs per game with 5.95 per conference tilt, Siebert is already looking to a productive back half of her college tenure after adjusting to the high level.
“The college game is very disciplined, and you have to adjust and go with it,” Siebert said. “We have a new coach next year (Kelly Bethke), and I think we can fight to get in the top half of the conference.”
ROCK ISLAND, ILL.—Augustana sophomore Kylie Siebert, a Sugar Grove native and Kaneland graduate, was recently named to the all-conference volleyball team in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin. Siebert, a 5-foot-5 libero, was the lone representative for the Vikings.
She led the team this year in digs with 567 in 107 games played for an average of 5.30 per game. Her average of 5.30 digs per game is the fourth highest single season mark in school history. She also had 28 service aces and 109 setting assists as she helped the Vikings record a 16-15 overall record and a 3-4 mark in the CCIW. It was the second-consecutive winning record for Augustana, which went 20-11 a year ago.
Siebert led the CCIW in digs this past fall with 125 in 21 league matches for a 5.95 average. She was also named to the all-tournament team at the Viking Classic.
A year ago, as a freshman, she was named “Freshman of the Year” for the Vikings when she played in 107 games and had a team-high 475 digs (4.44 average) with 39 service aces and 79 setting assists. So far in her career, she has played in 214 games with 1,042 digs, which is 11th on the Augustana all-time list. She has 188 setting assists and 67 service aces.
Kylie, a business and accounting major, is the daughter of Dawn and Trent Siebert of Sugar Grove.
Photo: Sophomore Anna Sinise had four digs and two kills in the Lady Knight’s Regional loss to Sycamore last Thursday. Photos by Patti Wilk
Lady Knights’ journey ends by third-seed Sycamore in regional final
SANDWICH, Ill.—There would be no standing tall, despite the valiant effort.
Kaneland, the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A Sandwich Regional, looked to knock off Sycamore, the No. 3 seed, last Thursday, in a repeat of the 2012 Hampshire Regional final.
What ended up happening after a nice first game was two drops in a row, allowing the Lady Spartans to hoist the Sandwich Regional plaque after a 17-25, 25-12, 25-18 tussle. Sycamore was set to hit the Princeton Sectional against Dunlap on Tuesday in a semifinal matchup.
Kaneland finished the 2013 campaign at 16-16, while Sycamore improved to 16-17 after the three-game tussle.
Lone senior Jenny Lubic had 25 assists in her swan song, while junior teammate Ellie Dunn had 13 kills and 14 digs. Sophomore Vanessa Gould had seven kills and eight digs.
Kaneland had earned a slot in the final by beating Plano on Oct. 29, while Sycamore had defeated Sandwich in the following game.
The Lady Knights got off to a nice start against their Northern Illinois Big XII conference rival with a 14-9 edge in the first game. Sycamore took advantage of some service errors to close within 17-16. Soon, Dunn took control with two kills, and coupled with a sideout, the Lady Knights led 23-16. After a Sycamore point, the Lady Knights got a Dunn kill followed by a Lubic set to Dunn for the match point and eight-point margin of victory.
Service mishaps, errors and an overall tightening of the Sycamore game had Kaneland fall to a 20-8 margin in the second game. Despite a key kill by Hannah Nauert to close it to 21-10, Sycamore went on a 4-2 run to even matters.
Back and forth action had Kaneland’s last lead of the 2013 season at 12-11 before strategic placement of the ball and key blocking made for third-game woes. Sycamore went on an 11-4 run to take a 22-16 lead. Dunn would come up with two late kills, to close within 24-18, but a side out ended the contest.
With the first year a season-long adjustment, the Lady Knights hoped to make it past the regional final. Strides were made, however.
“New coach, new systems, young team, individual player, the bond, trust and friendships that were made, we did a lot in roughly 70 days,” KHS coach Kerri McCastland said. “I’m just sorry we didn’t have more time to foster it. The future looks bright.”
With the loss, Lady Knights volleyball says goodbye to Lubic.
“Jenny was the unanimous chosen leader on our team by her peers,” McCastland said. “She was great under pressure and stayed poised as a player and person. She is selfless; playing injured and never giving less than 110 percent. She’s a dynamic player who loves to attack the game. I will miss that among so many other things about her.”
Photo: Riley Hannula (left) and Vanessa Gould prepare to battle Riverside Brookefield during Saturday’s Spikefest at KHS. Photo by Lynn Logan
Sweep against Plano means Halloween contest against Sycamore
SANDWICH, ILL—Tough challenges can come your way as the No. 1 seed in any type of regional.
It’s just a matter of what to do with those challenges.
Kaneland volleyball dealt with a competitive No. 4 seed Plano lineup off a win against Rochelle the previous day, and took care of the Lady Reapers on Tuesday evening by a final of 25-19, 25-23.
Sycamore lines up to be the Kaneland opponent in the Halloween night regional final in Sandwich, Ill. The Lady Spartans, who were shelved by Kaneland in the Hampshire Regional final in 2012, beat Rock Falls and improved to 15-17 after a 30-28, 25-21 match.
Kaneland, after a week that included a Senior Night win over Yorkville, improved to 14-15.
Kaneland also hosted their annual Spikefest Saturday, but complete results were not provided by press time.
Against Plano, a tight first game still had Kaneland lead for most of the duration, and an Ellie Dunn tip over the net made it 15-13. Later, a Riley Hannula kill made it 17-14. A kill by Dunn, followed by a couple of sideouts and a spike by lone senior Jenny Lubic completed a 7-2 run to make it 24-16.
Plano would have a mini-rally after a couple of blocks and a kill, but a too-strong serve ended the game with the six-point margin.
The Lady Reapers relied on more capable front-line play to take a 17-9 advantage in game two, with things looking like they were headed to a third and deciding game.
Kaneland hurried back with two kills by Dunn. After Plano increased the lead back to 19-12. A couple of errors and another Dunn kill, coupled with a Plano sideout brought Kaneland to within 20-16. With time getting tight, A block by the combination of Hannula and Anna Senese and a tap by Vanessa Gould tied the score at 22. After a sideout made it 23-22 for Plano, Kaneland rallied with a side out, and a tap and kill by Gould on successive instances to win the match.
“I think we were just really pumped up and motivated,” Lubic said. “We wanted to win in two, and we were just focused on our goal and what we wanted to get to in the future.”
KHS coach Kerri McCastland realized a challenge was overcome, with more on the horizon, with the help of the established crew.
“Ellie and Jenny are the only ones who have ever been to this dance, I’m full of kids who have never seen the likes of what this is,” McCastland said. “I think that played into it tonight. Hat’s off to Plano, I think they played to win.”
On Thursday, Kaneland closed out conference play with a three-game win over Yorkville in Maple Park by a final of 25-22, 18-25, 25-21. Noteworthy nights were had by Lubic with 29 assists, Dunn with 14 kills and Gould with six kills and eight digs.
Scores at the Saturday Spikefest at Kaneland included KHS beating Riverside-Brookfield 23-25, 27-25, 16-14 and losing to Geneva 17-25, 25-14, 15-5, among the happenings.
Thursday’s Sandwich Regional final will send the winner to the Class 3A Princeton Sectional beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 5, with either Kaneland or Sycamore facing the winner of Illinois Valley Central-Dunlap in the Monmouth-Roseville Regional in the semifinal.
Former KHS standout Drendel having a ball at Normal West
KANELAND—You’ll have to excuse area volleyball fans if there is some positive sentiment for another team besides Kaneland High School.
That’s because the incoming Normal West Wildcats program comes into the usual late October Spikefest competition with a bit of Kaneland presence itself.
The visitors are coached by Class of 2005 Lady Knight Kelsey Drendel, who continues to add to the Drendel line of coaching capability, along with her coaching legend father Ralph and brother Andy, who currently helps staff cross country and track and field at Kaneland.
Kelsey, a former volleyball standout at Kaneland and a former Division I asset for Northern Illinois, is in her second year of coaching NW. She also coached Kaneland sophomores from 2008-10 under former varsity head coach Todd Weimer.
“When I was applying everywhere for jobs, my parents told me to apply in Unit 5 (Normal West’s district), because they went to ISU and I have some family in the Bloomington-Normal area,” Kelsey said. “I was super pumped when I got the video interview and was convinced I bombed it, but they called me back for a second interview. This is my third year teaching here, and I’m loving it.”
For Kelsey, the Bloomington-Normal landscape gives her some comfort, being not too dissimilar to the Elburn and Tri-Cities area.
“I do think it’s similar to Kaneland and kind of like the St. Charles area. It reminds me of a suburb but without the traffic, long travel times, and everything is way cheaper,” Kelsey said.
Her family tree so heavily involved in coaching also seemed to give her a leg up on the sideline.
“Growing up with my parents both highly involved in their schools definitely made an impact on my decision to coach. I knew I wanted to be a head coach when I was in high school. Seeing my Dad coach at track meets and basketball games was always so cool and I knew I wanted to follow in those footsteps,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey’s also loving the fortunes of her Wildcat lineup, who before Tuesday were 18-2-1 and undefeated in conference at 7-0, on the cusp of a conference title.
“I didn’t like know in August things would be going as well as they are, but I knew we had a lot of potential,” Kelsey said. “The girls have done an awesome job of taking on the challenge of long practices, conditioning, tough rivalry matches. It’s kind of been an uphill ride the entire season.”
In her first season, NW went 22-13-1 and made it to the Class 4A Normal Sectional Championship before bowing out.
As a young coach, Kelsey still has the presence of mind to accumulate coaching influences throughout her playing and assistant coaching days.
“I have been influenced by every coach I’ve had. I kind of made it a point to remember things I liked or didn’t like all through college so I could apply it when I started coaching. Kris Weiss was a big influence on me especially for learning how to build a team atmosphere. My club coach Joe Brudzinski was a huge influence on me and always pushed us to the limit,” Kelsey said.
“I really owe a lot to Ron Sweet,” Kelsey added. “He gave me the opportunity to continue playing volleyball after my freshmen year at Western Illinois when I had no confidence at all. He also showed me that we can work hard on the court but also have a lot of fun. He opened up the door for me to start coaching at Club Fusion in Rockford, Ill. Not only have I been influenced by the coaches I’ve played under, but also the coaches I have coached with or against,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey and company head to Maple Park for Spikefest, which provides an ample tune-up for what’s ahead next week in the postseason, and add to what’s been a rewarding experience.
“We try and take every opportunity we can to get better whether it’s practice or a match,” Kelsey said. “My team and I have had a lot of fun this year and there are some personality traits that they have picked up from me and vice versa. I’m super-dorky and they have become a little more nerdy every day, which is awesome. They do a great job of focusing and working hard but while also having fun because of that. It’s been a really fun year for sure.”
Homestretch features key win over Sycamore, loss at Rochelle
KANELAND—With time running out on the 2013 campaign, Kaneland High School volleyball felt it was a good time to start running over competition.
On Thursday, Kaneland went three games before beating rival and potential regional title opponent Sycamore in Maple Park, 25-22, 23-25, 26-24.
On Tuesday in Rochelle, the Lady Knights fell to the Lady Hubs 23-25, 25-15, 24-26.
Kaneland’s record sits at 11-15, and 4-5 in Northern Illinois Big XII play.
Facing the Spartans, Ellie Dunn had 18 kills and nine service points. Teammate Riley Hannula added to the winning effort with eight kills and seven points. Vanessa Gould added six kills and five points, and lone senior Jenny Lubic supplied 27 assists, three blocks and a kill.
Against the Lady Hubs, who will also be in the upcoming Sandwich Regional, the Lady Knights lost a close third set to fall to under .500 in conference play. Dunn led KHS with 10 kills, 12 digs, three aces and five blocks.
Ahead for the Lady Knights: a conference home finale matchup against Yorkville on Thursday, Oct. 24, before Spikefest hits the gym on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Junior volleyball standout verbally commits to Ball State program
KANELAND—While the football landscape in the Mid-American Conference has been coined “MACtion” as of late, the volleyball scene in that collegiate group looks to be getting some of its own, thanks to a standout at Kaneland.
Last week, Lady Knight junior Ellie Dunn verbally committed to the Ball State Cardinal women’s program for the next step on her volleyball journey.
The outside hitter and captain for the Lady Knights joins the Muncie, Ind. based Division I program, housed in the same conference as Northern Illinois University.
“I’m so excited, and I could not be happier about it,” Dunn said. “I went up there a few weeks ago to visit campus, and I loved it. I loved the coaches and some of the girls I got to meet and talk to, and it couldn’t be a more perfect fit right now.”
Dunn’s grandparents also live less than an hour from Ball State’s campus, creating a sense of home away from home.
“It’s awesome; if my parents want to come visit, they can visit their parents, too,” Dunn said.
Ball State volleyball, currently headed by fourth-year coach Steve Shondell, currently has two Illinois players on its roster in the form of senior Kylee Baker of Plainfield North and senior Jacqui Seidel of St. Charles East.
Ball State is 19-4, and 7-1 in the MAC, with eight regular season matches remaining before the 2013 MAC tournament.
Filling her role to the best of her ability for the 11-14 Lady Knights, Dunn, who gets her fill of Cardinals volleyball online, couldn’t be happier that one aspect of her post-high school plan is packed away.
“I’ve been looking probably since the very end of last club season, and it’s been stressful, I guess. Just trying to find where I want to go and who wants me, too, but I’m so happy,” Dunn said.
Knowing she has parts of one high school season and another full season to follow, the talent is not done shoring up her game yet.
“I’ve tried pushing myself this year. Going from right side to outside, I feel a lot more is expected of me. I want to keep pushing myself further,” Dunn said.
Dunn and the Lady Knights begin postseason play on Tuesday, Oct. 29, as the No. 1 seed of the Class 3A Sandwich Regional. The next regular season challenge is against Yorkville on Thursday, Oct. 24.
Ball State visits DeKalb to face NIU on Friday, Nov, 15.
Lubic provides senior leadership during year of transition
KANELAND—Jenny Lubic knew going into the 2013 volleyball season that changes aplenty were in store for the Knights.
Kaneland had graduated several seniors from the 2012 squad who helped them chalk up 23 victories and capture its first regional championship since 1991. Lubic also was aware she would be the lone senior on this year’s squad.
Furthermore, the Knights’ setter and her teammates would have to get acclimated to a new coach, Kerri McCastland, and learn the nuances of her offensive and defensive systems.
Lubic realized the young Knights would be looking to her for leadership, and that McCastland—although a veteran coach with successful stints at Plainfield North and Plainfield South high schools—would need to develop camaraderie with Lubic as McCastland put her system into place.
“I knew that I had to take on a role of being a leader and that people we’re going to look to me for advice,” Lubic said. “I was excited for it.”
Lubic’s relationship with McCastland, as well as her leadership qualities, are such that McCastland wishes the season could go on quite a while longer. McCastland said it can take a long time to build trust and a relationship between the setter and her coach, yet they’ve managed to do all this within the time frame of the regular season, which is just over 30 days old.
“We came to respect each other right out of the gate,” said McCastland, who replaced eight-year coach Todd Weimer. “It’s sad because in another 30 days it could all be over.
“Hopefully we’ll win the state tournament,” she added with a laugh.
Lubic said she and the team, with a core that’s made up of sophomores, have embraced McCastland’s coaching style and upbeat approach.
“Coach has a lot of new energy and is positive,” Lubic said. “We’ve become better teammates to each other. I also think we work hard and all have that attitude now to work hard and get things done.
“It was definitely an adjustment, but a good adjustment. I really like how she coaches. I think she’s helped me become a better player just in short amount of time she’s been our coach.”
The setter has been compared to a quarterback in football, and Lubic concurs with that comparison.
“I talk to my hitters and communicating with them is huge,” she said, “and also communicating with my defense so we’re woven together. You have to have a good defense to set up the offense.”
McCastland said she’s pleased with how Lubic has gone about her on-court responsibilities.
“Being the only senior, to be able to keep everyone in the system, set balls and instill trust is something that doesn’t go unnoticed,” McCastland said. “Whether she’s setting up a kid like (junior) Ellie Dunn, who’s a Division I talent, or a freshman or a sophomore, no matter who you’re setting it’s the same set and same system, and she leads with intention of wanting to win. I think the girls appreciate that.
“Her composure and her ability to lead is true gift that she brings to the team. She wants to win, she’s a competitor and I’m a big fan of that.”
Lubic, a three-year varsity player, was voted captain by all of of her teammates and also was endorsed by the coaching staff to fill this role. She’s taken the younger players under her wing.
“I help them figure out difference between the levels of play (between frosh-soph and varsity) and how the game is played at a different speed,” Lubic said. “Other than that, I’m trying to bring us all together and help them out whenever they need help on the court.
“They’ve adjusted really fast. I think especially with the hard workouts we had in summer it helped them catch on really fast.”
McCastland agrees with Lubic’s assessment.
“They’ve really learned a lot of things in a very short period of time,” she said. “I think candidly that they’ve done an amazing job of learning and being able to execute under expectation. They’ve sort of been learning under fire. I watch a lot of it play out in the matches. The educator in me wanted them to learn and process it. If it happened in a match, great, practice great, but the fact is that it’s happening.”
The Knights have been hovering around the .500 mark recently, yet they did earn the top seed at the upcoming Class 3A Sandwich regional.
“I think that a lot of nerves and tension has gone away (since the beginning of the season),” Lubic said. “We’re starting to play as a team and learning from each other. We have more confidence. There’s a lot of new and great energy, and we haven’t taken a step back.”
Lubic hopes the club can repeat at regional champs. That would complement her favorite memory as a Knight: winning last year’s regional.
KANELAND—Finding a groove can be tough in a long volleyball season.
The Lady Knights just hope that comfort finds them before the playoff road begins.
Last Thursday, KHS trekked to the competitive setting of Morris where it lost in three games by a count of 17-25, 28-26, 16-25.
On Saturday, Kaneland went to the Bettendorf Invite in the Quad Cities area where it went 1-2. Tuesday saw the Lady Knights host DeKalb where KHS fell 17-25, 15-25.
Kaneland’s mark is now 10-14, and 3-4 in Northern Illinois Big XII play.
In Iowa, KHS fell to Muscatine 13-21, 14-21, then defeated Moline 20-22, 21-12, 15-13 before falling to host and eventual runner-up Bettendorf 14-21, 15-21.
In Tuesday’s loss against the Barbs, Ball State-bound Ellie Dunn provided four kills, three service points, six digs and a block, while senior Jenny Lubic have five service points, six digs, three blocks and 14 kills.
“The flu and injuries took over tonight and all week,” KHS coach Kerri McCastland said. “This weekend, we’ll need to rest and take care. Morris played a relentless match of volleyball and took advantage.”
Kaneland hosts Sycamore on Thursday, Oct. 17, in a NIB-12 skirmish.
Last Friday, the Lady Knights also got wind of the postseason journey that awaits them. McCastland’s crew heads to the Class 3A Sandwich Regional as the No. 1 seed, and faces either No. 4 Plano or No. 5 Rochelle on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 6 p.m.
A special presentation will take place between the sophomore and varsity volleyball games versus Sycamore on Thursday, Oct. 17. Another presentation will take place between games one and two of the varsity match. The sophomore game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m., and the varsity game begins at 6 p.m. at KHS.
On Tuesday, Oct. 15, the KHS volleyball team is inviting any breast cancer survivors, or those currently fighting it, to attend their home match versus DeKalb. Sign in at the door, and you will receive free entry to the game, and will be honored at approximately 5:45 p.m. The varsity game begins at 6 p.m.
Photo: The Lady Knights volleyball team celebrates a point Wednesday against Geneva. Photo by Patti Wilk
GENEVA—Only one challenge was out there to await Kaneland volleyball, but it was a familiar and daunting one.
KHS traveled to non-conference foe Geneva on Oct. 2 and lost in three games, 18-25, 25-22, 25-23.
The Lady Knights are 9-11, and 3-2 in Northern Illinois Big XII Conference play.
Lone senior Jenny Lubic had 19 assists. Kathy Nguyen had 12 digs, with sophomore Vanessa Gould and Anna Senese collecting nine digs each.
KHS coach Kerri McCastland still feels like the Lady Knights crew can play up to tough competition in the area, and in time for crucial postseason meetings.
“It’s what we will continue to do everyday,” McCastland said. “Being young in the game and as a team takes time, patience and learning. I’m proud of their commitment. It will get better everyday.”
Kaneland’s busy week includes a Thursday, Oct. 10, meeting in Morris, a Saturday, Oct. 12, trip to the Quad Cities area for the Bettendorf Invitational in Iowa, and a home match on Tuesday. Oct. 15, against the Lady Barbs of DeKalb.
On Thursday, Oct. 10, Kaneland was expected to learn its postseason seed as part of the Class 3A Sandwich Regional. Teams making their regional home in Sandwich were Kaneland, Plano, Rochelle, Rock Falls and Sycamore.
The Sandwich Regional group joins the Monmouth-Roseville, Streator and Stillman Valley Regionals as part of the Princeton Sectional group. A year ago, as part of the Hampshire Regional, Kaneland beat St. Edward and Sycamore to capture the plaque and a sectional berth.
KANELAND—At 9-10 (3-2 Northern Illinois Big XII), the new-look and still jelling Kaneland Lady Knights volleyball club will take the big and integral conference victories when it can.
On Thursday, Kaneland solved the visiting Rochelle Hubs in just two games. On Tuesday in Kendall County, the Lady Knights and Lady Foxes battled, with Kaneland falling short in three games, 25-23, 17-25, 15-25. Wednesday saw KHS fall to the visiting Geneva Vikings.
In the 25-20, 25-18 matchup with the purple-clad Rochelle, lone senior Jenny Lubic stabilized the attack with 22 assists to her name. Important cog Ellie Dunn also produced 12 kills, four service points and five digs. Sophomore teammate Vanessa Gould maintained the Kaneland strength with six kills, three service points, four digs and two blocks. Lady Knight Riley Hannula added five kills, three blocks and two service points.
In the Tuesday loss to the Lady Foxes, Dunn provided 10 kills, five digs and an ace, Lubic had nine assists, one ace, Hannula had six kills and Kathy Nguyen 12 digs.
Against Geneva Wednesday, the Lady Knights dropped a close match to Geneva 25-18, 22-25, 23-25. Lubic had 19 assists, five kills and five service points. Dunn provided 19 kills, 12 digs and seven blocks.
Volleyball doesn’t compete until traveling to Morris on Thursday, Oct. 10.