On Fridays, prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner covers the area volleyball scene like it’s nobody’s business:
Schlarman overcomes slight
MILFORD — Only two of the five head coaches whose volleyball teams were assigned to the Class 1A Milford Regional participated in the online voting to determine how the schools would be seeded. One picked Schlarman as the top team. The other picked Cissna Park.
In order to break the tie, the IHSA used a coin flip. Cissna Park, with a 13-10 record, was the winner over Schlarman, 16-2.
No worries, Schlarman coach Heidi Crane said.
“It is disappointing that it happened that way, but our focus has been going in one game at a time,” she said. “We know that accidents happen, but in order to achieve our goals we are focusing on each individual game.”
Schlarman has a busy final eight days of the regular season. The team is in the Beecher Invitational on Saturday, plays two conference matches next week and has its final pre-regional tuneup in the Quincy Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 19-20.
“The girls have great chemistry and work well with one another,” Crane said. “Our hitters and setters know what each other wants and needs, and do their best to provide that. The girls have improved greatly in seeing the entire court while playing. The girls are maintaining aggressive play during each match. Each player is strong, and (they) are determined to achieve their goals.”
Tigers feature all-stars
URBANA — Junior middle hitter Alayna Jackson and senior libero Cate Hummel are two of Urbana’s catalysts. Each has an all-tournament designation this season.
“Cate has a great ‘libero mentality,’ ” Urbana coach Angela Roloff said. “Her hustle and commitment to the ball is 120 percent. No matter where the ball is on the court, Cate is there.”
Jackson is a second-year varsity starter and leads the Tigers in kills and blocks.
“As long as Alayna is swinging, the ball is going down whether it be a tip or a hard kill,” Roloff said. “She is an important part of our offense and defense, stopping balls at the net with her block.”
An unheralded player is senior outside hitter Jessica Mack. “Many balls don’t get by her in the back row,” Roloff said.
The future looks promising. Urbana’s junior varsity team is 13-8, with a lineup that includes three freshmen, three sophomores and one junior.
“Of the eight losses, many of them were early in the season when we were trying to get to know each other,” Roloff said. “They have the drive to win each and every game.”
GCMS focus is on practice
GIBSON CITY — Senior defensive specialists Dani Jones and Jade Miller have provided an ingredient Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley coach Kristine Rousseau hopes will get the program moving.
“They have really been my practice leaders,” Rousseau said. “I can count on them to keep the drills competitive and hold their teammates accountable. They really have the desire to keep the team pushing themselves.”
GCMS has a 2-16 record, but Rousseau said “although our record isn’t the best, we consistently have close matches. We have just needed that extra push in leadership roles and to stay competitive throughout the match.”
Middle hitter Katie Massey and outside hitter Taylor Boma, both seniors, are two GCMS leaders.
“Taylor’s serve-receive passing and hitting percentages are always consistent, and she doesn’t play way up or way down,” Rousseau said. “Katie has become our competitive leader. She is the one we go to when we need to put the ball down and gather momentum.”
Unity regrouping with youth
TOLONO — It’s not hard to imagine Unity’s Rockets as a team for the future. Coach Sarah Eisenmenger’s squad has five juniors and eight sophomores in varsity uniforms. That accounts for all 13 of the varsity members.
“We have had our share of bumps in the road, just like any other team,” Eisenmenger said. “The difference, I believe, is that these bumps have made us stronger. Unlike what other teams may experience with injuries or other outside factors, our team has only grown stronger through our trials and pushed harder to meet and surpass our expectations.”
Several of the youthful players have emerged as major contributors. Sophomore Rebecca Maxwell is among the team leaders in digs and kills and, Eisenmenger said, “is consistently able to help the defense in any area.”
Junior McKenzie Martin leads in kills, and Martin and junior setter Bailey Reifsteck “do a nice job in terms of leading the Rockets in stability and leadership on the floor,” the coach said.
When everything meshes, the result is impressive.
“They are exciting to watch when they come together with the excitement they can have,” Eisenmenger said.
First-round regional matches will start Oct. 22. Championship matches at all sites in Classes 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A will be Oct. 25.
Our updated ranking of area teams:
TEAM (previous) RECORD
1. Centennial (1) 25-3
Next: Saturday at Lincoln-Way Tourney
2. Tri-County (2) 28-2
Next: Tuesday vs. Bement at Oakland
3. Central (3) 23-6
Next: Saturday at O’Fallon Classic
4. Clinton (4) 25-8
Next: Tuesday, home vs. Argenta-Oreana
5. PBL (8) 22-3
Next: Monday at Rantoul
6. St. Joseph-Ogden (5) 20-6
Next: Wednesday at SVC Tournament
7. Watseka (6) 25-3
Next: Wednesday at SVC Tournament
8. Schlarman (7) 16-2
Next: Saturday at Beecher Invitational
9. Arthur-L. (9) 21-4
Next: Monday, home vs. Windsor
10. Sullivan (10) 17-8
Next: Tuesday, home vs. St. Teresa