DeLorenzo serves key role for STM volleyball

DeLorenzo serves key role for STM volleyball

CHAMPAIGN — Teagan DeLorenzo was part of a surge this time last year.

As a junior with the St. Thomas More volleyball program, her class accounted for seven of 15 team members on the eventual state-champion Sabers.

Flash forward, and just three of those athletes remain with coach Stan Bergman's squad.

Outside hitter Kayla Brandon and libero Haley Elam rarely leave the floor for the Sabers (36-4), who take on Pleasant Plains (32-6) at noon today in a Class 2A state semifinal at Normal's Redbird Arena.

DeLorenzo isn't a starter for STM. But she's carved out a valuable niche nonetheless.

"I feel that not having her here would be like missing a family member," Bergman said. "She knows her role, and her role has been to improve on her serving, try to serve as much as she can."

DeLorenzo is one of just two non-starting Sabers with an ace this season, and her total of 19 ranks sixth among the girls.

She's specifically dropped into a match to smack a jumping float serve, with an emphasis on making the ball "really hard ... to be tracked."

"I think it helps knowing that I am put into the game to serve," said the 5-foot-5 DeLorenzo, whose lone statistic was a dig in 42 varsity bouts last year. "It helps ... knowing that Bergman trusted me and put me in here, knowing I can serve and knowing I can get it over."

Jump serving requires a little extra work to perfect.

Unlike with a standing serve, for which a player keeps both feet planted on the hardwood and tries to clear the net, a jump serve is approached like an athlete rising up for a kill.

When executed correctly, it's just another wrinkle for an opponent to contend with.

"Further into the year, we had some trouble serving," DeLorenzo said, "and so Bergman thought, at least to me, that I would be able to help the team in this way."

DeLorenzo also is valuable to STM because she stuck around for 2018 despite limited time on the court in her junior season.

While other rising-senior Sabers departed, DeLorenzo fell into the reliable veteran mold as a younger crop of athletes — including her sister, sophomore Bridget — rolled into STM.

"After winning last year, even though I didn't play a lot, I still got to experience that," Teagan DeLorenzo said. "That experience, for me at least, was really fun."

Bergman acknowledges DeLorenzo lacks some of the size and speed required at this level of the sport. Even so, DeLorenzo strives to be the consummate teammate.

"The girls really rely on her, just knowing there's somebody there that's very consistent," Bergman said. "Somebody there that they can talk to."

One topic she'll be glad to discuss with her peers is how to become a state champion, something the Sabers can vie for Saturday against either Galena (35-5) or Nashville (32-8) should they knock off Pleasant Plains today.

"I got to really figure out what it took to become a state-championship team," DeLorenzo said. "Knowing what we would need to do to become a state team again, like we are."

DeLorenzo relishes the opportunity to cap her prep volleyball career with back-to-back state crowns, as well as the chance to contribute even more in the latter run.

Simultaneously, she's also looking to start Bridget along the path to similar success.

"I can ... explain to her what it took and what we experienced last year," the elder sibling said, "and try to help her in coming years."