Girls volleyball preview '11: Ready for experience to pay off
Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 - 9:22am
Head Coach: Elisabeth Pollock (third season)
2010 Record: 5-19 overall, 4-11 East Central Illinois Conference
Key Losses: Sheela Gogula, Amrutha Kumaran
Key Returnees: Seniors Jamie Blue, Sarah Heffley, Hannah Johlas, Sarah Sutter; Juniors Emma Hoyer, Jo Ellen Machesky, Kaila Simpson, Veronika Sowers, and Juliana Trach.
Key Newcomer: Freshman Grace Lilly
Outlook: Despite a difficult 2010 season, the girl's volleyball team hopes to build off last year's late season momentum into a new year. With only two seniors leaving and a team filled with talent, the girls have high hopes for this season.
Dates to Remember: Sep. 10 (Westville Invitational), Sep. 13 (vs. Judah Christian), Oct. 6 (Volley for the Cure game vs. Arthur Okaw Christian), Oct. 21 (ECIC tournament begins), Oct. 26 (IHSA regionals begin).
URBANA—After a strong run at the end of last season, the 2011 girls volleyball squad hopes to maintain their momentum heading into a new year. Although they struggled through much of last season, they had a strong run at the end of the year by winning games against Normal Calvary and Cornerstone Christian Academy in the conference tournament. With much of the team still together, the girls believe that this will be a successful year.
Last year, the team suffered from lack of experience. With Jamie Blue as the only returning starter, the team had to figure out how to work together and build confidence. After finishing the regular season 3-17, the girls pulled it together by winning two games in the conference tournament after a loss to Deland-Weldon. However, they failed to advance past their first regional game against Rantoul.
This year will be a different story.
"If we play to the best of our ability we can easily take our conference and hopefully make it past regionals." said junior Juliana Trach. "Overall, we expect to get a lot better as a team."
Senior Jamie Blue expects a successful season as well. "Our goal as a team is to win the conference. A lot of the big time players from the other schools that were really good in our conference have graduated, and we only graduated 2 seniors last year, so we're still really strong and a lot of teams are down."
An important change for many Uni sports this year is the IHSA division realignment. Uni has been moved down a division, meaning that, upon reaching regionals, the school will face teams that are closer to its size. In the past, Uni's enrollment has been multiplied by 1.65 to determine its IHSA division, due to its selective enrollment policy. This has caused lopsided match ups come postseason time, as Uni sports will often face schools nearly twice its size. Now, this multiplier is only applied if the sport reaches a certain level of success that Uni has not reached in the postseason.
"[We hope] to win a game in regionals, because we were brought down from 2A to 1A so we're actually gonna play against schools that are our size," said Blue.
Another plus for the team is that there is only one change in the starting rotation from last year. The team lost Amrutha Kumaran, a starting outside hitter. However, they aren't too concerned.
"Jamie's going to be moving to the outside and she's a great outside [hitter]. So is Hannah, and they're both seniors. Kaila is stepping up her play and she's our new middle, along with Emma and they've done fantastic," said junior Jo Ellen Machesky.
Rounding off the starting lineup are Juliana Trach and Sarah Heffley, while Machesky generally starts at the libero position. The girls are confident in their starting lineup, and their depth is a strong suit as well. Junior Veronika Sowers is an excellent alternative at libero. Senior Sarah Sutter provides leadership off the bench, and juniors Abby Frings and Chelsea Edwards are always ready to step into the game with confidence. Part-time varsity junior Megan McBride and sophomores Brigette Dietz and Megan James show that this team won't be going away anytime soon.
Jamie Blue is as excited as anyone for the depth.
"I think if we can really fuse all the good aspects of everyone together we can utilize everybody's skills and assets. I think we have a very deep team this year which is kind of unique to Uni sports."
The final varsity member is an especially bright spot for the team. Only a freshman, Grace Lilly is already making good impressions on the team.
"[Grace is] very athletic and has played volleyball before, so she knows the game and knows how to think about the game. I think she has a lot of potential, especially in years to come," said Blue.
"She's floating and has already gotten some minutes on varsity," added Trach.
One thing the girls keep talking about is the chemistry they have this year. In the past, the volleyball team hasn't always been too close.
"[In previous years] we had a couple players who didn't get along and that spread to the entire team, so our team didn't have the best chemistry," said Machesky. "This year we have very colorful signs that Emma made for the locker room, and we have pre-game huddles, and a lot of hugs, and the whole butt slapping thing which is really popular. The team bonding experience is a lot better than last year in so many ways."
Finally, the new coaching staff is expected to make an impact as well. This year, the girls lost assistant coach Nicole Winkler and JV coach Eva Palmer. They will be replaced by new assistant coach Ainsley Reiser and JV coach Matt Childress. The girls especially miss Winkler, but say that the new coaches are fitting in just as well.
"Nicole is really cool, loved her, but she graduated so there's nothing we can really do about it. But I think Ainsley is filling her spot really nicely even though we still miss Nicole. The new JV coach, I think he's doing very well. He's very approachable by the girls. He's just really doing well at working at their level," said Blue.
The new coaches have a lot to add to the team as well.
"[Matt] was a setter and libero and Ainsley was a setter so they have a lot of good info you can use," said Machesky. "You need the one coach that will say what needs to be done, but also the coach that points out what you did good even when you did mostly bad things, and build on those things. That's what Ainsley's really good at and Matt is too."
Overall, the team expects great things this year. They are overcoming minimal losses, and the improved chemistry and confidence will likely propel this team to new heights. Expect great things out of this year's Illineks.
2011 Girls Volleyball Roster
- Jamie Blue (sr)
- Brigitte Dietz (so)
- Chelsea Edwards (jr)
- Abbi Frings (jr)
- Sarah Heffley (sr)
- Emma Hoyer (jr)
- Megan James (so)
- Hannah Johlas (sr)
- Grace Lilly (fr)
- Katherine Liu (fr)
- Jo Ellen Machesky (jr)
- Megan McBride (jr)
- Ashley McFarquhar (fr)
- Julia Miller (fr)
- Isabel Morford-Cheibub (fr)
- Chae Won Park (jr)
- Sally Pennacchi (fr)
- Halley Pollock-Muskin (jr)
- Kaila Simpson (jr)
- Veronika Sowers (jr)
- Sarah Sutter (sr)
- Juliana Trach (jr)