TOLONO — Lizzy Barnard was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
A standout volleyball player — who played for a team that earned state medals in 2012 — as a senior, Barnard was prepared to bypass the sport she intends to play in college.
Barnard transferred from Tri-County to Unity last summer, not knowing if — or when — the IHSA would sign off on the move, not knowing how long it would take to file the required paperwork and get a response.
If the bottom line was that volleyball couldn’t be a part of her life in her final year of high school, Barnard would take comfort from sharing that year with family.
“(Sitting out) would have been tough,” she said, “but the main reason for moving was not for sports.
“Bobby (brother who is a freshman at Unity) had been here since seventh grade and that was definitely a factor. I wanted to finish school with my brother. I wanted to be part of my family up here.”
Jeff Barnard made sure his eldest daughter knew she was welcome but didn’t apply pressure to relocate.
“Our philosophy was, ‘We have an open door and would love to have you here,’ but she approached us,” Jeff Barnard. “What she said is I only have one year left (of high school) to experience the family atmosphere we have at the house.”
Lizzy Barnard recognized what she was missing during her weekend visits with her father and stepmother.
“She saw it and gravitated to it,” Jeff Barnard said.
Moving Lizzy and her possessions was the easy part. The time-consuming challenge was to go through the legal process for the father to establish legal guardianship.
“You have to prove that the move is for everything else other than athletics,” Jeff Barnard said. “The process wasn’t quick by any means, but it didn’t take as long as it could have.”
There was plenty of supporting evidence for the Barnards to submit.
In addition to Bobby Barnard living in the home, Jeff Barnard and his wife, Channon, have two other children, 9-year-old Mackenzie and 7-year-old Gavin.
“The young ones love Lizzy so much, and she is good with them,” Jeff Barnard said. “It’s a blessing she is with us.”
The ultimate blessing for the family was that Lizzy Barnard was cleared for competition by the IHSA.
She not only played with the Rockets as a senior but also excelled. Lizzy Barnard was a narrow choice over Eastern Illinois University-bound Shelby Simmons, from St. Joseph-Ogden, to headline the 36th News-Gazette All-Area team as Player of the Year.
◆ ◆ ◆
When Lizzy Barnard moved after her junior year ended, she soon met one of the neighbor girls and added her as a friend on Facebook. Turns out Bailey Reifsteck would become more than a friendly face in the neighborhood.
Reifsteck is Unity’s volleyball setter and was among the area’s leaders in assists.
“Before I could do the summer stuff (with the team), Bailey was the first person I knew,” Lizzy Barnard said.
It didn’t take long for Barnard to make the connection that her neighbor would become her teammate.
“She baby-sits some of the same neighbors and they’d say they’d watched her play volleyball,” Lizzy Barnard said.
Even without the help of a neighbor, Lizzy Barnard said it would have been a matter of time before she had a friendship group at her new school.
“I’m kind of a social butterfly,” she said. “I’m OK at making friends.”
Surprisingly, younger brother Bobby helped with some introductions.
“Bobby’s a very lovable person and he knows everybody,” Lizzy Barnard said. “He knows most of the upperclassmen and helped me make a few friends. He helped me more than I helped him.”
◆ ◆ ◆
Barnard arrived at a good time at Unity. The Rockets were transitioning to a new coaching regime. Former Illini Kylie McCulley — a Clinton native — started her first year as the school’s head coach in the fall.
Unity’s volleyball program is one of the area’s traditional powers — the school once captured postseason titles in 13 consecutive seasons — but had recently fallen on hard times. Before McCulley arrived, the Rockets had endured three straight losing seasons for the first time in school history.
The combined win total from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons showed 23 victories.
Though Barnard played for a Tri-County program that placed third in Class 1A her junior year, she didn’t have to bring a winning attitude with her to the court.
“There was a drive in everyone, everyone wanted to win,” she said. “Maybe I helped, but it wasn’t just me. I could see it in practice. The expectation of the team was to keep the energy going and make sure we controlled what we could control.”
At season’s end, Unity finished with a 23-11 record.
“Lizzy not only brings a great attitude and leadership but also was a dynamic player that Unity hadn’t seen in years,” McCulley said. “Her ability to do what the coaches ask is very impressive.
“She has a huge arm and a dynamic swing, and that sets her apart from others. She can hit the ball literally from anywhere on the court. Her passing skills in serve-receive and defense is top-notch. Her serve-receive is so stable and consistent you want her in every rotation. I haven’t seen many players who stick out as much as she does.”
Barnard said everything about the season was perfect.
“The team I had was extremely incredible,” she said. “It was a great experience for my senior year.”
McCulley helped to bring out her best.
“Her big emphasis was to be a good person and a good role model, not just stuff on the court, which I liked a lot,” Barnard said. “She’s extremely knowledgeable and can tell you what to fix.”
◆ ◆ ◆
The year was a learning experience for Lizzy Barnard and a time of growth for Jeff Barnard.
“If it wasn’t for Channon, I’d probably have driven Lizzy crazy with some of the schools (colleges) I was talking to her about,” Jeff Barnard said. “My thing was, ‘Push for the highest level you think you can go to.’
“Channon changed my focus on that to what was best for Lizzy and what she wanted.”
A few days before practice started at Unity last August, Lizzy Barnard committed to Parkland College, the same school where her father once played baseball.
She wasn’t interested in waiting to see if major-college offers came to fruition as the high school season progressed.
“I don’t know if I would have picked a Division I school over Parkland or not,” said Lizzy Barnard, who first started playing volleyball as a fifth-grader in Kansas. “From a volleyball standpoint, and a development standpoint, Parkland is the place for me. It’s a great fit and somewhere I’m happy to be.
“I know the coaches (through the Prime Time club program) and I know the girls. It’s a comfortable transition for me. It’s a good school for me to develop and, if I do go on, that experience will help me a lot.”
McCulley has no doubts that Barnard will be an impact player.
“She is going to make a huge contribution to an already great team,” McCulley said, “and she will be successful even after that (junior college stint) is over.”
◆ ◆ ◆
For years, Lizzy Barnard has had the skills to compete at a high level. She was an All-Area first-teamer as a junior and a dominant outside hitter. Though her role was expanded at Unity — she was frequently set as a back-row attacker — it was the mental part of her game where she made her biggest strides.
“I didn’t have a bad attitude, but I’d get down on myself a lot,” Lizzy Barnard said. “This year, I tried to stay positive and be outwardly happy and not get upset with myself when I make mistakes. Once one player on a team gets down, it’s like a domino effect.
“My dad helped me. He stressed that mistakes will happen, but you don’t have to be so frustrated. If you’re down on yourself, the next point and the next point will keep getting worse.”
She took to heart the points her dad was emphasizing at home.
“We’d talk to her and say, ‘There are bigger things in life to worry about,’” Jeff Barnard said. “If you dwell on those (mistakes), it will snowball and get worse. Lizzy has flourished in so many ways this year.
“Our philosophy wasn’t just about volleyball. We wanted her to become the best person she can be, become a well-rounded young woman.”
What McCulley appreciated was the way Barnard fit in as a teammate and not as someone consumed by her press clippings.
“She realizes it takes six people on the court to be a great team and she helps bring that out in each and every player,” McCulley said. “Lizzy has a very loving and warm personality. She greets people with a big hug. She’s always smiling and is a positive person.
“It wasn’t hard to get her to fit in. She just sort of did it this summer on her own. It took no work. Every player on the team looks up to Lizzy.”
Even at a young age, Lizzy Barnard was an independent thinker.
“A lot of girls want to be a princess. I wanted to be president, or an astronaut. All those cool things,” Barnard said.
Unlike many athletes who don’t know how to occupy their time if they’re not in the game, Lizzy Barnard is fine as a competitor or as a spectator.
“I love to watch sports,” she said. “I definitely like to watch as much as to play.”
She has evolved into one of those “cool things” she contemplated as a youngster. It’s not the same as being president, but she does have a title: All-Area Player of the Year.
Players of the Year
YEAR NAME SCHOOL POS.
2013 Lizzy Barnard Unity OH
2012 Lauren Cloyd Centennial MH
2011 Mariah Coleman Heritage MH
2010 Morgan Leach Centennial MH
2009 Cori Harris Centennial OH
2008 Alexis Braghini Centennial MH
2007 Lucy Coleman Monticello MH
2006 Ali Omahen Schlarman S
2005 Kylie McCulley Clinton OH
2004 Kylie McCulley Clinton OH
2003 Amber McKean CPCI MH
2002 Melissa David Central MH
2001 Carly Hill Monticello OH
2000 Carly Hill Monticello OH
1999 Julie Leman Central S
Coaches of the Year
2013 Abby McDonald St. Joseph-Ogden
2012 Stan Bergman Centennial
2011 Stan Bergman Centennial
All-Area First Team
NAME SCHOOL YR. HT. POS.
Lizzy Barnard Unity Sr. 5-9 OH
Taylor Bauer Watseka Jr. 5-10 OH
Ayla Dew Centennial Sr. 5-8 OH
Laura Gross Schlarman Jr. 5-10 MH/S
Jordan Marganski Schlarman Sr. 5-10 S/MH
Shelby Simmons St. Joseph-Ogden Sr. 5-9 OH
Abby Smith Tri-County Sr. 5-11 MH
Lexi Wallen St. Thomas More Jr. 6-0 OH
Dana Westfield Champaign Central So. 6-0 OH
Sirena Woo Mahomet-Seymour Sr. 5-5 L
All-Area Second Team
NAME SCHOOL YR. HT. POS.
Heidi Dague Tri-County Jr. 5-11 MH
Karly Goodman Arthur-Lovington Sr. 5-10 MH
Hayley Gray Watseka Sr. 6-0 MH
Lexi Hall Centennial Sr. 5-5 S
Kailey Kleinert Paxton-Buckley-Loda Sr. 6-0 MH
Tori McCoy St. Thomas More So. 6-4 OH
Kylie Michael St. Joseph-Ogden Fr. 5-11 OH
Miaya Peacock Centennial Sr. 5-6 OH
Katie Sloniger Champaign Central Jr. 5-5 L
Emily Zelhart Blue Ridge Jr. 5-6 S/OH
All-Area Special Mention
NAME SCHOOL YR. HT. POS.
Mary Bass Bismarck-Henning Sr. 5-9 MH
Anna Billman Urbana Jr. 6-0 MH
Maddie Bounds Prairie Central Sr. 6-0 MH
Natalie Castonguay Watseka Jr. 5-4 L
Sherelle Coller Arthur-Lovington Sr. 5-5 S
Rowan Crozier Monticello Sr. 5-11 MH
Taylor Edwards Arcola Jr. 5-7 OH
Taylor Filkin Clinton Jr. 6-1 MH
Emily Gewirtz Judah Christian Sr. 5-4 L
Leah Henrichs Cerro Gordo Sr. 5-7 OH
Peyton Jones Oakwood Jr. 6-0 MH
Hillary Hines Cissna Park Sr. 5-9 MH
Maddie LeGrande Champaign Central So. 6-0 OH
Louisette Lukusa St. Thomas More Sr. 5-9 MH
Janelle Marion Schlarman Sr. 5-7 OH
Jori Maynard Paxton-Buckley-Loda Sr. 5-2 L
Emilie McFadden Salt Fork Sr. 5-8 OH
Rachel Miles Armstrong-Potomac Sr. 5-9 OH
Mason Moore Mahomet-Seymour Jr. 5-6 S
Lauren Moses Shiloh Sr. 6-0 MH
Emily Neuhauser Sullivan Jr. 5-6 OH
Chandler Randolph DeLand-Weldon Sr. 5-8 MH
Bailey Reifsteck Unity Sr. 5-5 S
Cedar Richardson Heritage Sr. 5-10 OH
Emily Seegmiller Arthur-Lovington Jr. 5-10 OH
Addison Stoller Cissna Park So. 5-9 MH
Tori Swanson LeRoy Sr. 5-11 MH
Taylor Wienke Heritage Sr. 5-9 S
Maddie Winkler Bismarck-Henning Sr. 5-4 S
Morgan Zindars Armstrong-Potomac Sr. 5-5 S
All-Area Honorable Mention
ARCOLA — Madie Budd, So., 5-6, OH; Klaire Karmazinas, Sr., 5-4, L
ARGENTA-OREANA — Alexa Jones, Sr., 6-2, MH; Gillian Jones, So., 6-1, OH
ARMSTRONG-POTOMAC — Meghan Vinson, Sr., 5-2, L; Macey Williams, Jr., 5-9, MH
ARTHUR-LOVINGTON — Jessica Davis, Jr., 5-5, MH; Brooke Tabb, Jr., 5-4, OH
ARTHUR OKAW CHRISTIAN — Kayla Gingerich, Sr., 5-8, MB
ATWOOD-HAMMOND — Chantell Bonham, Sr., 5-9, OH; Reilly Ferrell, Sr., 5-7, S; Kaitie Wildman, Sr., 5-7, OH
BEMENT — Abby Trott, So., 5-4, S; Taylor Wegrich, Sr., 5-6, OH
BISMARCK-HENNING — Stephanie Bott, So., 5-8, MH; Jessica Hall, Jr., 5-8, OH
BLUE RIDGE — Amber Blazek, Sr., 5-8, OH; Gabby Pearl, Jr., 6-2, MH
CENTENNIAL — Kelly Braghini, Jr., 6-3, MH; Jordin Hopkins, Sr., 5-3, L; Alayna Jackson, Sr., 5-10, MH
CERRO GORDO — Molly Lawler, Jr., 5-11, MH; Makenzie Wagoner, Sr., 5-10, MH
CHAMPAIGN CENTRAL — Emma Atkinson, Jr., 5-10, S; Alyssa Olson, Jr., 5-11, MH
CHRISMAN — Sarah Ellis, Sr., 5-3, OH; Shelby Warner, So., 5-9, OH
CHRIST LUTHERAN — Billie Lohrbach, Sr., 5-4, OH; Shelby Spitz, So., 5-9, MB
CISSNA PARK — Anna Kaeb, So., 5-5, S; Amanda Montgomery, Sr., 5-7, OH
CLINTON — Mally Hickman, Sr., 5-7, S
DANVILLE — Alexis Hoskins, So., 5-6, S
DeLAND-WELDON — Alexis Dick, Sr., 5-10, OH; Holly Reynolds, So., 5-4, L
FIRST BAPTIST — Hannah Wells, Jr., S
FISHER — Olivia Heffernan, Sr., 5-2, S
GEORGETOWN-RIDGE FARM — Kelsey Buckman, Jr., 5-3, OH/S; Tristyn Mingee, Jr., 5-6, L; Lexi Sliva, Sr., 5-8, OH
GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY — Tori Gaesser, Sr., 5-10, OH
HERITAGE — Micaela Childress, Jr. 5-9, MH
HOOPESTON AREA — Rylee Martin, Jr., 5-4, S; Erika Solis, Sr., 5-5, MH
IROQUOIS WEST — Taylor Cultra, Jr., 5-10, MH; Taylor Zirkle, Sr., 5-6, OH
JUDAH CHRISTIAN — Kylie Beaumont, So., 5-7, S; Brooke Childers, Jr., 5-7, OH
LeROY — AshLynn Cowles, Sr., 5-8, OH; Briana Retter, Sr., 5-8, S
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR — Cortney Bohn, Jr. 6-2, MH; Abby Cockerham, Sr., 5-5, DS; Tori Veldman, Sr., 5-9 OH
MILFORD — Alissa Totheroh, Jr., 5-4, L
MONTICELLO — Shannon Finet, Sr., 6-0, OH
OAKWOOD — Sadie Edwards, Jr., 5-7, S; Makayla Gayler, Sr., 5-5, OH
PAXTON-BUCKLEY-LODA — Kellyn Maynard, So., 5-10, OH
PRAIRIE CENTRAL — Laura Crane, Sr., 6-0, MH; Katie Kupferschmid, Sr., 5-8, L; Shania Scurlock, Sr., 5-8, S
RANTOUL — Hannah Cargo, Sr., 5-8, MH; Samantha Nigh, Sr., 5-2, L
RIDGEVIEW — Lindsey Graham, Sr., 5-2, S
SALT FORK — Jenny Kimbro, So., 5-7, OH; Kalyn Learnard, Jr., 5-6, OH; Britton Seaman, Jr., 5-10, MH; Allie Trosper, Sr., 5-6, S
SCHLARMAN — Sierra Bell, So., 5-9, L; Alexis Rangel, Sr., 5-8, OH
SHILOH — Bethany McGinness, Sr., 5-6, S
ST. JOSEPH-OGDEN — Karlie Baker, So., 5-6, S; Olivia Owens, Jr., 5-2, L
ST. THOMAS MORE — Courtney Wax, Sr., 5-9, OH
SULLIVAN — Brittin Boyer, Jr., 5-11, MH
TRI-COUNTY — Madelyn Cottle, Sr., 5-6, OH
TUSCOLA — Morgan Little, Jr., 5-4, S
UNITY — Madi Clark, Sr., 5-6, L; McKenzie Martin, Sr., 5-9, OH
URBANA — Michelle Driscoll, Sr. 5-6, S
URBANA UNI HIGH — Callie Bruce, Fr., 5-9, MH; Brigitte Dietz, Sr., 5-7, S; Natalie Dullerud, So., 5-6, L; Grace Lilly, Jr., 5-7, OH
VILLA GROVE — Chelsea Rund, Sr., 5-9, OH
WATSEKA — Maddie Pfingsten, Jr., 5-7, S; Lexi Shoemaker, Jr., 5-11, OH
WESTVILLE — Lauren Barthalow, Jr., 5-8, MH/OH; Mariah Rolinitis, So., 5-5, OH; Mikayla Rolinitis, Sr., 5-5, OH/RS
A look at the final area volleyball Top 10,
courtesy executive sports editor Fred Kroner:
N-G Final Top 10
TEAM (previous) W-L COMMENT
1. Centennial (1) 31-9 Underclassman leads team in blocks
2. Schlarman (2) 31-5 Underclassmen lead team in kills and digs
3. St. Joseph-Ogden (3) 25-9 Underclassman leads team in assists
4. Watseka (4) 32-4 Underclassmen lead team in kills, digs, aces and assists
5. Arthur-Lovington (5) 27-4 Underclassman leads team in aces
6. Tri-County (6) 26-10 Underclassman leads team in assists
7. Blue Ridge (7) 26-9 Underclassmen lead team in blocks, digs, aces and assists
8. Salt Fork (8) 26-7 Underclassmen lead team in aces and digs
9. Unity (9) 23-11 Underclassman leads team in blocks
10. Cham. Central (10) 21-14 Underclassmen lead team in kills, digs and assists
For our Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, see D-4.