Kroner's prep volleyball insider: Rantoul starts turnaround
On Fridays, prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner covers the area volleyball scene like it's nobody's business:
Eagles start turnaround
RANTOUL — After a 1-5 start to the season, Rantoul coach Jay Bennett started a youth movement. Three sophomores now are starting, and the Eagles are 4-1 since the change, with the only loss coming by two points in a three-set match.
Setter Kaylee Denton is the team leader in assists. Bennett said she "shows the poise of an upperclassman." Another sophomore, Carson Church, is the kills leader and Bennett said "continues to be a go-to hitter." The sophomore who joined the starting unit at last weekend's Mahomet-Seymour Tournament, Logan Wascher, has totaled 15 kills in her last three matches.
Bennett is encouraged by what he is seeing.
"We have a very deep and talented junior and sophomore group that seems to get better every day," he said. "The younger players don't seem willing to accept losing as an outcome. Although we are very young, we have a group of girls that has not only the talent but also the desire to be successful."
The Eagles' three seniors are the only varsity returnees from 2011. Libero ChaQuera Cross "solidifies our defense on a nightly basis," Bennett said. Hannah Wascher, who had four stuff blocks Tuesday against Eureka, "is probably one of the better blockers in the area," and Taylor Wood is a consistent contributor as a hitter and setter.
Uni rewriting records
URBANA — Senior Emma Hoyer, who helped Urbana University High win Westville's round-robin tournament last Saturday, has shattered the Illineks' career record for blocks. She has 138, which is 20 more than previous record-holder Rachel Skoza (2009 graduate). Hoyer ranks fourth in career kills (352) and needs 41 to pass current Uni coach Lis Pollock for third place.
"We are still pretty up and down in terms of consistency, and I'd like to see that improve over the course of the season," Pollock said. "I think we can contend for the conference championship if we play like we can, but sometimes we play down to the level of our opponents and get tentative with our hitting and serving."
Uni's other senior captain, setter Juliana Trach, also is moving up the career charts. She has 652 career assists and needs 22 to move into second place. To pass record-holder Ruthie Welch, Trach needs 196 assists.
Another senior who has emerged this season is outside hitter Abbi Frings.
"She has filled in nicely with solid hitting and consistent serving," Pollock said. "Her hustle on defense and willingness to hit the floor have been good inspiration for the team."
Freshman Lydia Mihaly is the team leader in digs.
Cissna Park stays strong
CISSNA PARK — In the fourth year since Crescent-Iroquois was deactivated, the program that was formerly known as CPCI is now just Cissna Park. One thing remains the same. The volleyball program still is strong.
Coach Josh Landon returned five letter winners from a regional title team, and the Timberwolves opened the year by winning six of eight matches.
"Our team chemistry is the best it has been in the last few years both on and off the court," Landon said.
The offense doesn't revolve around one or two individuals.
"We have had four different girls lead us on any given night," Landon said.
Junior middle hitter Hillary Hines, senior middle hitter Jessica Flinkman, senior outside hitter Gabbi Jennings and junior outside hitter Amanda Montgomery are the offensive catalysts. Defensively, Landon said, "we have made some minor adjustments which have been nothing but positive."
Odds against Chargers?
CHAMPAIGN — Last weekend, Centennial's Chargers won the prestigious Crossroads Classic at Effingham, beating the state's top-ranked team (Wheaton St. Francis) in the semifinals. During the past 20 years, 26 state champions have played at the Crossroads Classic the same year they went on to win their state title. However, just five of those state titlists also won the Crossroads event that same year.
Chrisman's junior varsity team has won its first seven matches, with five of the wins in two-set sweeps. ... Rowan Crozier leads DeLand-Weldon's 11-6 team in kills, blocks and service aces. ... Paxton-Buckley-Loda will host its annual tournament Saturday. Joining the Panthers in one pool are Clinton, Lexington and Monticello. The other pool includes Iroquois West, Milford, Rantoul and St. Joseph-Ogden. The day's first matches start at 9 a.m. The championship match is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ... Joining Blue Ridge in its Saturday round-robin tournament are Decatur Christian, Georgetown-Ridge Farm, Ridgeview and Sangamon Valley.
Our updated ranking of area teams:
TEAM (previous) RECORD
1. Centennial (1) 13-2
Next: Tuesday, home vs. Danville
2. Tri-County (2) 9-2
Next: Saturday at St. Anthony Tournament
3. St. Joseph-Ogden (4) 12-2
Next: Thursday, home vs. Iroquois West
4. Champaign Central (10) 10-4
Next: Today at Mount Pulaski Tournament
5. PBL (8) 11-1
Next: Saturday at PBL Tournament
6. St. Thomas More (6) 9-7
Next: Monday at Unity
6. Watseka (5) 14-2
Next: Monday, home vs. Fisher
7. Schlarman (—) 6-1
Next: Monday, home vs. North Vermillion, Ind.
9. Sullivan (—) 8-3
Next: Monday, home vs. Beecher City
10. Blue Ridge (3) 12-5
Next: Saturday at Blue Ridge Tournament