Girls volleyball preview '09: After successful Palla era, another Uni grad takes the reins
Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - 12:33pm
Head Coach: Elisabeth Pollock (first season)
2008 Record: 20-10 overall, 9-3 East Central Illinois Conference (second, behind Decatur Lutheran), lost to St. Thomas More in Class 2A regionals
Key Losses: Annie Machesky, Rachel Skoza, Jessi Sullivan, Sheri Grill, Jasmine Alvarado
Key Returnees: Seniors Michelle Wong, Tuli Bera, Rachel Harmon, Chumin Gao, Amy Ding; sophomore Jamie Blue
Outlook New coach Elisabeth Pollock takes over the Illineks on a high note after two straight 20-win seasons. With talented veterans such as Wong, Bera, Gao, Ding, and Harmon leading the way, expect another winning season from Uni volleyball.
Dates to Remember: Sept. 1 (season opener at home vs. Atwood-Hammond), Sept. 29 (at crosstown rival Judah Christian), Oct. 20 (home vs. ECIC defending champ Decatur Lutheran), Oct. 23 (final home match vs. Judah Christian), Oct. 27 (IHSA regionals begin)
URBANA — The bar is set high for new girls volleyball coach Elisabeth Pollock, whose predecessor, Amanda Palla, went 69-49-1 in four years, including two straight 20-win seasons.
Pollock brings impressive credentials to the job. Like her former teammate Palla (Class of '97), she is a Uni graduate ('99) who starred in both volleyball and basketball. She went on to play volleyball in college from 1999 to 2002, setting the Lawrence University record for career kills (1,595) and hitting percentage (.336).
Palla resigned at the end of last season because she was on her way to becoming a first-time parent. Her final team finished 20-10 overall for a school-record .667 winning percentage. The Illineks also went 9-3 in the East Central Illinois Conference, placing second behind ECIC powerhouse Decatur Lutheran.
However, due to graduation losses, Pollock won’t inherit five Illineks from last year: Annie Machesky, Rachel Skoza, Sheri Grill, Jessi Sullivan, and Jasmine Alvarado.
“All of the five seniors who left last year will be sorely missed, especially our libero, Annie Machesky,” said Rachel Harmon, one of five current seniors on the team, along with Tuli Bera, Amy Ding, Chumin Gao, and Michelle Wong.
The loss of Machesky, the school record-holder for career digs (567) and season digs (241), means that players such as Harmon will start playing back row this year, and the team will probably not play with a libero.
“We lost Rachel Skoza, our best offensive player … so there are some big statistical shoes to fill,” said Pollock. “However, we have several promising offensive players, especially Tuli and Rachel.”
So how does Pollock see this season shaping up?
“I think it will be a rebuilding year with the loss of so many varsity players from last season,” she said, “but our focus will be on building team cohesion, having fun, and developing our younger players.”
The team's veterans are ready to rise to the challenge.
“All of the returning seniors this year will be important to the team in terms of leadership, both on and off the court and giving our team some direction,” said Harmon.
The upperclassmen will be joined by a number of promising younger players, including sophomore Jamie Blue, who saw varsity action last year, and several freshmen.
“We lost a lot of seniors, but gained a lot of new talent to complement the team,” said Ding.
This year’s squad will have 24 athletes overall, including eight full-time players on varsity and 16 on JV, compared to last year’s total of 17. Four JV members will also play varsity — sophomore Hannah Johlas and freshmen Emma Hoyer, Juliana Trach, and Jo Ellen Machesky — bringing the total varsity roster to 12.
How will this chemistry change the game?
“My strategy for this year is to focus on the execution of basic skills and ball placement,” explained Pollock. “We need good, strong serves that are accurate and we need to be able to place the ball wherever we want on the other side of the floor.”
The Illineks themselves applaud Pollock’s strategy.
“Everybody is really supportive of each other and we're already seeing tremendous improvement in the few first weeks of practice,” said Ding. “I think that we have enormous potential and can definitely create a few surprises.”
Uni will start the season against Atwood-Hammond tonight at Kenney Gym. Expect the Illineks to play full throttle.
“We may not look like college volleyball players, but we'll undoubtedly be scrappy,” said Harmon. “We will fight for every point and make it difficult for our opponents to make any points. That makes me very optimistic.”
2009 Uni Girls Volleyball Roster
- Tuli Bera (sr)
- Caroline Beshers (fr)
- Jamie Blue (so)
- Amy Ding (sr)
- Chelsea Edwards (fr)
- Miriam Ferede (fr)
- Abbi Frings (fr)
- Chumin Gao (sr)
- Sheela Gogula (jr)
- Rachel Harmon (sr)
- Emma Hoyer (fr)
- Hannah Johlas (so)
- Ariana Kamberelis (fr)
- Amrutha Kumaran (jr)
- Jo Ellen Machesky (fr)
- Raina Martens (jr)
- Megan McBride (fr)
- Chae Won Park (fr)
- Halley Pollock-Muskin (fr)
- Kaila Simpson (fr)
- Veronika Sowers (fr)
- Juliana Trach (fr)
- Michelle Wong (sr)
- Elenita Zamora-Mills (jr)
2009 Girls Volleyball Schedule
- Sept. 1: Atwood-Hammond
- Sept. 3: at Oakwood
- Sept. 5: at DeLand-Weldon Eagle Classic (opponents TBA)
- Sept. 8: at Buckley Christ Lutheran
- Sept. 12: at Westville Invite (opponents TBA)
- Sept. 15: Normal Calvary Baptist
- Sept. 17: Fisher
- Sept. 18: DeLand-Weldon
- Sept. 21: Arthur Okaw Christian
- Sept. 25: at Decatur Lutheran
- Sept. 29: at Judah Christian
- Oct. 1: at Buckley Christ Lutheran
- Oct. 3: at BCL Tourney (opponents TBA)
- Oct. 6: Decatur Christian
- Oct. 8: at Decatur Christian
- Oct. 9: at Normal Calvary Baptist
- Oct. 10: Uni JV Invite (opponents TBA)
- Oct. 13: at DeLand-Weldon
- Oct. 20: Decatur Lutheran
- Oct. 23: Judah Christian
- Oct. 27: at IHSA Regionals (opponent TBA)