Kroner's volleyball insider: Nice work, Sages
On Fridays, prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner covers the area volleyball scene like it’s nobody’s business:
Sages prepare for benefit
Monticello’s fundraising match to raise awareness for breast cancer and help with research will be Tuesday at Miller Gym against Maroa-Forsyth. It’s a project that is a true team effort.
“At the beginning of the season, all the players from freshmen through seniors went into the community to ask for donations from area businesses for Volley for the Cure,” coach Emilie Walk said. “I have been impressed with their maturity and follow-through when doing this. Rather than relying on adults to earn money for Susan G. Komen, they have taken responsibility with donations from businesses and raffle ticket sales at our home football games.”
At Tuesday’s match, spectators will have the chance to take part in raffles and serving for prizes.
After a slow start, the Sages (9-12) have been hitting their stride with wins in four of their last six matches.
“We have emphasized doing the little things we have control of,” Walk said. “For example, no matter who we are playing, we control how well we hustle, how well we cover and how much we talk. Likewise, we can control how smart we play.
“We try to emphasize the analytical parts of the game, which will make our players attack and defend more effectively in games.”
Walk said one of the team’s unsung heroes is Alyssa Whitney. “Day in and day out, she is supportive of her teammates and works hard in every drill,” Walk said. “She does the small thing every time, be it covering a hitter
or bringing up a teammate when needed.”
Bunnies hitting stride
Senior captains Carli Clifton and Gina Masko are two of the catalysts for Fisher’s youthful team, which has won four of its last six matches. “Those are two of my very strong leaders,” coach Allison Pentti said. The Bunnies are 8-8.
“We may not be tall and mighty, but we are scrappy and utilize what we do have,” Pentti said. “We are smart and have lots of volleyball background.”
In recent years, change has been the constant for Fisher’s volleyball program. Pentti is the Bunnies’ fourth head coach in the past four years. Even within this season, there has been change. Pentti gave birth earlier this month to her third daughter.
During her week’s absence, assistant Denise Nowak and former Fisher coach Jennifer Nigg (who was Pentti’s high school coach) handled the team. A stay-at-home mom, Pentti spent the previous eight years teaching and coaching in Phoenix.
“With baby No. 3, and two others at home, it made more sense to be a stay-at-home mommy this year,” Pentti said, “which I love, but sometimes it’s more work than teaching.
“I know this season has been rough on the girls,” she added, “but I love this group of girls. They have so much talent and determination. The frustration shows at times, but I know we are on the upswing.”
Junior setter Olivia Heffernan, junior middle hitter Jessi Head and junior libero Shelby Clanton are among the other steady contributors.
Sophomore Alyssa Chapman (6-foot), Head (5-8) and Masko (5-8) are the team’s tallest players.
Freshmen boost Bement
The varsity volleyball roster at Bement has a neat bookend of players. There are four seniors and four freshmen among the 11 on varsity. Two juniors and a sophomore complete the roster.
“Taylor Wegrich (junior) and Sabrina Hinton (senior) have definitely been our rocks this season,” Bement coach Carissa Benner said. “They are both fantastic in the front row as well as the back row. They are solid all-around players.
“Sabrina is our team leader, and every girl feeds off of her energy each night.”
Among the freshmen, two are in key positions: setter Abby Trott and outside hitter Maddie Mann. The Bulldogs are off to a 11-2 start with seven consecutive wins.
“I always knew the girls could have a winning record like this if they played to their full potential,” Benner said. “The team worked hard this summer while playing in the DISC in Decatur.”
Benner has enough depth on her squad that she is confident in making substitutions.
“When anyone is having an off night, I know I can pull any girl off my bench to step in and take their place,” she said.
Bement will serve as the host for the upcoming Little Okaw Valley Conference tournament. The finals are scheduled for next Thursday.
Tournament seeds: 1. Tri-County; 2. Arthur-Lovington; 3. Bement; 4. Heritage; 5. Martinsville; 6. Shiloh; 7. Atwood-Hammond; 8. Arcola; 9. Cerro Gordo; 10. Okaw Valley and 11. Villa Grove.
The Vermilion County tournament will be held at two sites next month. The Saturday matches (Oct. 13) will be played at Jamaica High School. The trophy matches the following Monday (Oct. 15) will be played at Catlin High School. Bismarck-Henning is the defending champion.
Our updated ranking of area teams:
TEAM (previous) RECORD
1. Centennial (1) 18-2
Next: Tuesday at Central
2. Tri-County (2) 23-2
Next: Monday in LOVC tourney
3. Central (3) 19-5
Next: Tuesday vs. Centennial
4. Clinton (4) 19-5
Next: Today at Riverton Invite
5. St. Joseph-Ogden (5) 19-3
Next: Monday vs. Mattoon
TEAM (previous) RECORD
6. Watseka (7) 22-2
Next: Monday at St. Anne
7. Schlarman (8) 11-1
Next: Monday at Danville
8. PBL (9) 16-3
Next: Monday at Fisher
9. Sullivan (—) 14-7
Next: Tuesday vs. Tuscola
10. Arthur-L. (—) 16-3
Next: Monday in LOVC tourney