Sabers energized in sweep

Sabers energized in sweep

PAXTON — Lindsay Stalowy didn't feel her Paxton-Buckley-Loda volleyball team made enough noise or showed enough fire during Tuesday's match with reigning Class 2A state champion St. Thomas More.

Stan Bergman's Sabers didn't have that issue — and it rarely seems to come up with senior libero Haley Elam on the court.

"I've always been told I have a really bubbly personality," Elam said. "I don't really have a problem with being loud and confident. I just hope everybody feeds off it."

It didn't hurt STM's chances in this nonconference showdown.

Elam's support was apparent throughout the evening, giving the Sabers a little boost in key moments and helping the visitors to a 25-22, 26-24 triumph over the Panthers.

"I think that every coach would love a kid that will say, 'Which wall do you want me to take down for my team,'" Bergman said. "She's that player."

Elam may not collect the power numbers of senior Kayla Brandon or junior Allie Trame, both of whom used the big swing to thwart any upset bid from PBL (6-2).

But Elam's strong voice, as well as her more-than-capable digging and low line-drive serves give STM (6-0) another potent weapon.

"I think the most important thing for us seniors, and junior Allie, we're trying to build our legacy," said Elam, one of three upperclassmen on the Sabers' roster. "It's not just varsity — it's a program."

STM rooters already can see contributions to that vision not only from the older athletes, but also from the newcomers.

Freshman setter Caroline Kerr and frosh outside hitter Anna McClure both were inside the white lines during pivotal points in Tuesday's bout, as they have been throughout 2018.

"If they can draw the defense of your opponent, the attention offensively, they're going to take the attention away from somebody else," Bergman said. "And Caroline, being the setter that she is, is still developing and learning how to read that."

The Panthers have their own youth movement ongoing amid a solid start this season.

Sophomore libero Makayla Klann is quite noticeable for PBL not only because of her steady play, but also because she stands just 5 feet tall.

"She stepped up last year for us when we needed her, so this year it's her spot to shine again," Stalowy said. "She knows the game. She's the all-around package, and size doesn't matter with her."

Then there's freshman outside hitter Addison Oyer, the Panthers' tallest player at 5-11 and already a force on the attack despite her age.

"I think she's going to be one of those girls that continues to get better," Stalowy said. "For being a freshman and being the only one on varsity thrown to the wolves, she's adjusted quite well."

STM, meanwhile, is handling its evolving roster with aplomb. Ten of the Sabers' 14 varsity members are either a freshman or sophomore, yet Bergman's crew is perfect through six events.

There's one determining factor in this equation that won't show up on the stat sheet, according to Elam.

"We really focus on the next ball and building each other up and making sure no one ... goes into themselves," she said. "It's really about not getting in your own head, and sharing it with the team and having the team pick you up."