Veteran St. Francis coach Pec Kopec unquestionably ranks Normal as her favorite downstate destination.
Makes sense for someone with nine career state championships, including last season's 3A crown.
Effingham ought to at least be in the next breath, though, after the Spartans won the Crossroads Classic for the fourth time in nine seasons over the weekend. St. Francis also boasts three runner-up finishes in that span.
"Nine years. Who knew? It didn't seem like it," Kopec said. "Seven finals in nine trips. Can't complain."
St. Francis further made its mark on the event with an MVP showing from sophomore outside hitter Molly Haggerty. Seniors Sam Dubiel (libero) and Maddie Haggerty (outside hitter) joined her on the all-tournament team during an otherwise enjoyable weekend.
"Our team has really good chemistry. We all love each other," junior defensive specialist Lisa Mordell said. "So definitely, going down there with the bus ride and everything definitely gives us lots of time to bond."
Ready for primetime
While a victory would have been nicer, Geneva coach KC Johnsen still felt good about the Vikings' energy down the stretch of Tuesday's home match against Batavia.
The Bulldogs prevailed in three games after losing the opener and trailing Game 3 as late as 16-13. It wasn't without a fight from Geneva, though, as freshman Grace Loberg contributed 21 kills and 21 digs and junior Kelsey Wicinski notched 48 digs – what Johnsen believed to be a school record.
"We're making more big plays at big moments and looking a little more comfortable in big moments, so we're getting there," Johnsen said. "If we keep improving, we're going to be OK."
BC's Wiltsie on the mend
Burlington Central sophomore outside hitter Lauren Wiltsie underwent surgery on her torn meniscus on Sept. 12. Wiltsie was injured in a match earlier this month and is expected back in the lineup in a few weeks.
"She's already on the recovery trail," Rockets coach Marv Leavitt said. "It's going to be hard keeping her down. We'll have to slow her down. She was trying to run [Tuesday]."
With Wiltsie out, upperclassmen Emily Bozich, Makenna Jensen and Jenna Schudel have taken increased roles for Central, which is off to a 3-0 start in Big Northern Conference East play.
– Kevin Druley, email@example.com
IN THE GROOVE
Geneva, Fr., RS/OH
What she did: Breaking through for 21 kills and 21 digs, Loberg always gave Geneva a chance in Tuesday's eventual three-game loss to visiting Batavia. "That Loberg is a special player, guys," Bulldogs coach Lori Trippi-Payne said.
St. Charles North, Sr., OH
What she did: Krage smacked a match-high 18 kills in Tuesday's three-game victory against St. Charles East, the first win for fifth-year North Stars coach Lindsey Hawkins (nee Linkimer) against her alma mater.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
Waiting doesn't have to be all bad. On Tuesday, seniors from St. Charles North and Batavia earned long-awaited varsity victories against their respective archrivals, St. Charles East and Geneva. "It's so amazing, being on a team that can fight so hard through any game," Batavia senior outside hitter Shea Stanley said.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How Burlington Central fares against defending 3A runner-up Richmond-Burton. Streaking BC hosts its Big Northern East rival Tuesday night and, as always, braces for a challenge from R-B senior outside hitter Ali Frantti, a Penn State recruit who helped her team to a 12-0 BNC East record in 2012.
COACH SLY SEZ ...
St. Charles North isn't exactly in the clear yet, but you can't start much better in UEC River play than the North Stars have.
On the past two Tuesdays, North knocked off Batavia and St. Charles East. Another Tri-Cities clash awaits this Tuesday when the team travels to Geneva.
We'll see how things shake out, but with the North Stars' hot start and a veteran group, focus should not be a problem out Red Gate way.