Kaneland has traveled to Hampshire, St. Francis, Burlington Central, Sycamore and Huntley for regionals in addition to hosting its own regional since the IHSA adopted the four-class system for girls volleyball in 2007.
News the Knights were going south this season – to Sandwich for regionals and Princeton for a possible sectional – prompted good vibes.
If not life, variety at least can spice up volleyball, especially for a team so often clustered with nearby rivals Burlington Central and Sycamore.
"I'm really excited. I think changing it up is a good idea," Kaneland junior outside hitter Ellie Dunn said. "We've got a new team. Might as well. I think it's awesome."
The youthful Knights, 9-12 entering Thursday's Northern Illinois Big 12 home match against Sycamore, could also meet the Spartans in a possible regional final.
An encouraging showing in a weekend tournament in Bettendorf (Iowa) was the latest positive development for a team that's become increasingly comfortable with first year coach Kerri McCastland.
"It was interesting to see how that played out, but we keep getting better," said Dunn, who verbally committed to Ball State on Tuesday. "It's come a long way since we began, and I'm really happy with it."
Kull the cut-up
St. Charles East players broke into chuckles and wide grins between the first and second games of Saturday's Mizuno Cup third-place match against Geneva.
The Saints lost the opener to the Vikings, but veteran coach Jennie Kull had her pulse on why. Kull said her piece, and East regrouped for a 19-25, 25-17, 25-22 victory.
"She just told us to have fun. I mean, honestly, when it comes down to it, this is a game," Saints senior setter Carly Jimenez said. "She just said that we were playing really tense, which we were, so she just said have fun, play hard and work hard and it will all just come together."
East hopes to keep the edge when it hosts Geneva in a key Upstate Eight Conference River Division match Tuesday night.
Elsewhere at the Mizuno Cup, Rosary viewed its fifth-place finish in the silver bracket as progress.
The Royals defeated higher-seeded Hinsdale Central in pool play and downed traditional power Joliet Catholic in three games in its final match.
"They're starting to look like a different team in the beginning of the year," Rosary coach Rachel Hartmann said. "With the kind of rough start we had in the conference and just in general, to see them continue to improve in every practice and every game is kind of all you can ask for."
Spartans lose elder Haggerty
Defending 3A state champion St. Francis will be without senior outside hitter Maddie Haggerty for the remainder of the season as she awaits surgery for a torn labrum.
The older sister of sophomore teammate Molly, Maddie Haggerty is a Nebraska recruit. Her final appearance with the team came Oct. 9 during the Mother McAuley Asics Challenge.
– Kevin Druley, firstname.lastname@example.org
IN THE GROOVE
St. Charles East, Jr., L
What she did: Hughes had 26 digs Tuesday to back East's three-game victory against visiting Batavia in a key Upstate Eight River Division match.
St. Charles North serving
What happened: North amassed 39 aces in winning each of its five matches to take the Schaumburg Saxon Invitational title, an extra weapon behind sisters Taylor and Daley Krage, who combined for 108 kills.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK
St. Charles East's future and present are bright. The Saints' JV finished eighth in the silver bracket of this weekend's Mizuno Cup while the varsity placed third in the gold. The JV turned heads with a three-game victory against Bloomington in pool play. "I'm proud of them, because they held their own," Saints senior setter Carly Jimenez said. "I mean, the only JV team in this tournament and they really just played well."
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Which team wins the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title. Conference play concludes Tuesday, and each Tri-Cities team except Batavia enters with one league loss. Geneva visits St. Charles East, while St. Charles North visits struggling Streamwood. The North Stars defeated the Saints head-to-head but lost to the Vikings.
COACH SLY SAYS
Hard to believe there's only another week-plus before the regular season ends. Weren't we just in August and getting ready to sweat through triples?
Just as the calendar flips, teams know about the art of turning the page this time of year.
Sly says look no further than the Tri-Cities, where just one of four worthy teams will win the UEC River, but each club still could be dangerous when regionals begin at the end of the month.