Sky High Adidas 16 Black is using the final weekend of the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open to tune up for next weekend’s Mideast Qualifier in Indianapolis, Indiana.
So far, so good.
Sky High Adidas 16 Black split its two matches Saturday, defeating Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold 25-20, 25-21, 26-24 after suffering a 25-23, 25-22, 25-19 loss to sister Sky High Adidas 18 Black in its opener.
The split left Sky High Adidas 16 Black at 10-4 in the Power League with two matches to play Sunday. All four of its losses – two to Sky High Adidas 18 Black and one each against 1st Alliance 18 Silver and Wildcat Jrs. 18 Black – came at the hands of 18s teams.
“We should've beaten them,” Sky High Adidas 16 Black coach Steve Bonnem said if his team’s loss to Sky High Adidas 18 Black. “We’ve already beaten them once this season. We’re definitely moving up in the rankings. At Salt Lake City, we were one set from making the final eight.”
At the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 17-19, Sky High Adidas 16 Black lost to CC Force161 Crossfire 22-25, 25-16, 15-9 and had to settle for winning the consolation bracket.
Bonnem traces much of his team’s success to his setter – 5-foot-7 sophomore Taylor Jakubowski from Huntley.
“She makes it happen,” he said. “You talk to any coach around here, they're all like ‘She's amazing.’ She gets to every ball and runs the offense like a college team. You get the ball up and she’ll get to it. It just doesn't matter. She plays big.”
“Big” is a good word to describe Sky High Adidas 16 Black’s two middles – Maggie Bodman (New Trier) and Vanessa Kuliga (Glenbrook South).
“I really like Maggie,” Bonnem said. “She came in as a blocking middle and now she’s an offensive middle. She's really well-rounded. She can even play back row. She has a great platform. I really like her. We’re still trying to get her to the next level>
Sky High’s two pins hitters – Maddie Blake and Camryn Hausler from Crystal Lake Central –
are too shabby, either.
“Maddie plays like a 40-year-old how she sees the court and place the ball,” Bonnem said. “It's like she’s been playing forever. We laugh about it all the time because it's almost like she takes a picture of the court and just knows what's open and who dug her on the last play.
“Camryn can play anywhere I put her,” the coach added. “She even has hands good enough to set. She’s well-rounded. I want her to be ‘Big Texas’ and go over people with of all the power that she has.”
Prairie Ridge’s Trinity Sheridan sat out Saturday’s matches with a minor ankle sprain, but Bonnem said she will be ready to go this weekend.
“She’ll give us a lot more options,” he said. “She's one of our main attackers.”
Sky High Adidas 16 Black is seeded fourth at the qualifier, so the team knows what is has to do.
“We’ve got to get to the finals,” Bonnem said.
Fusion 18 Black needed five sets – 22-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 15-13 -- to dispose of pesky FC Elite 17 Navy Saturday on Court 2.
The Marengo crew didn’t have much left in the tank against Illini Elite 18 Cardinal, a 25-19, 25-20, 21-25, 25-19 loss in the second round of Gold Pool A, but coach Jamie Dimaggio liked what she saw from her team, especially after losing outside hitter Gylian Finch (Oregon).
“She broke her nose at the JVA Showcase (in the Wisconsin Dells) the other weekend,” said Dimaggio, who played at Prairie Ridge and Coastal Carolina and now coaches at DeKalb. “So we’re working with a completely different lineup that we never use before.”
“My setters (Celene Morris from Rockford Guilford and Becca Blakeley from Williams Bay, Wis.) are doing a really good job playing six rotations and hitting,” Dimaggio added. “And Erin McNeil (Prairie Ridge), who normally plays on the right side, did a good job at outside.”
However, what impressed Dimaggio the most Saturday, was how the team kept its composure after falling behind 2-1 against FC Elite 178 Navy.
“They are doing a great job staying composed, even while we are using a who different lineup,” she said.
The lineup is the same – almost – the results have been better lately for Illini Elite 18 Cardinal and coach Kyle Caldwell.
“We finished fifth at the (Ultra Ankle) Bluegrass tournament,” Caldwell said. “We played really well against top-level teams from all over the country and finished fifth, which was really good for us going in seeded 12th.”
“This little tune-up (the final weekend of Power League) will get us ready for what we need to for the (JVA) World Challenge (April 6-8 in Louisville, Kentucky). That's what were really looking forward to.”
Illini Elite 18 Cardinal should have 5-10 outside hitter MaKenna Barnhart back by then. Barnhart is resting a pulled quadriceps muscle this weekend. Caldwell wants to ensure that she will be ready to go in early April.
“That’s the last tournament of the year for us, so we’re treating it like that is our nationals,” said Caldwell, who added that due to college trips or players joining their college teams early, Illini Elite 18 Cardinal does not have enough players to field a team at AAUs.
“We’re pulling out all the stops for that one,” he said.
Caldwell credits part of Illini Elite 18 Cardinal’s recent success – they are 9-5 in Power League with Saturday’s split against SDPB 18 Elite and FC Elite 17 Navy – to a more complicated offense.
“We’ve got ball control down to where we’re passing 2.4, so we can really bring in some different options, different looks, change what we’re running on every play,” he said. “That makes it a lot more complicated for other teams to stop.”
Few people can stop Kansas State recruit and Uno Girls 18 Elite outside hitter Holly Bonde from Minooka. But a left ACL tear suffered at practice last week will sideline her for at least six or seven months and force her to redshirt her freshman season at Manhattan.
“I guess it was just worn out,” said Bonde, who watched Uno Girls 18 Elite’s matches at the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open from the bench Saturday. “The doctor said it could have happened at any time.
“It stinks, but I can either sit around and cry about it or I can use it as an opportunity,” she said.
Bonde’s absence on the court gave Taylor Baranski an opportunity few liberos get – the chance to switch jerseys.
Baranski moved to outside hitter Saturday. Despite her best efforts, Uno Girls 18 Elite dropped a pair of matches – 25-20,, 25-15, 23025, 25-16 to Michio Chicago 18 National and 18-25, 25-21, 25-19, 26-24 to 1st Alliance 18 Silver – to slip to 10-4 in league play.
“A lot of people don’t give outside hitters as much credit as they deserve,” Baranski said. “They have to block, then transition into hitting and then play back row. It’s pretty exhausting, but it's a lot of fun.”
Uno Girls 18 Elite will probably pull up stakes after Sunday’s final two matches. With several girls leaving early for college, there will likely not be enough players to field a team for AAUs. But Baranski, who decided to wait until July to head to Iowa State, hopes otherwise.
“We’ll be going to AAUs if we can get a team together,” she said.
SPVB 18 Elite assure itself of the best record in Power League play Saturday when it defeated Illini Elite 18 Cardinal 25-10, 25-20, 25-20 and Fusion 18 Black 25-17, 25-18, 25-7. But SPVB 18 Elite still must win its two matches Sunday to claim the championship.
Saturday, SPVB 18 Elite was much improved over its performance last weekend at the Bluegrass tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, where it lost to Tri-State Elite 18 Blue 25-16, 23-25, 15-9 and K2 Adidas Jota 25-18, 25-17 to go 3-2 and finish tied for fifth in the 35-team 18 Open field.
“It was a tough weekend in Kentucky,” said SPVB 18 Elite coach Troy Gilb. “We had a lot of struggles siding out in Kentucky. Today was much, much better. We were able to run our offense much more efficiently.
“Last week, it was if when we were passing well we weren’t putting the ball away, and if we weren’t passing well, then, of course, you struggle,” he added. “I thought we did a much better job siding out and getting first-balls kill than we did last weekend.”
A good of week of practice also paid off Saturday, as did timely contributions from 6-3 middle hitter Annika Clark (Wheaton North/Clemson) called up for the weekend from SPVB 18 Kahl.
“They’re playing with a little bit more confidence,” Gilb said. “We practiced really well this week. We made some changes to their mental state.”
What did SPVB 18 Elite learn last weekend?
“I think the big thing is we weren't as good as we thought we were,” Gilb said.
“Sometimes you get a false sense of confidence when you're winning a lot of matches,” he said. “It was good for us, and in a sense, a wake-up call, just to let them know the type of level you have to practice, No. 1, and No. 2, compete with.
“We don’t like losing, but if you’re going to lose, now is the time to do it,” Gilb said.
For more results and schedules, go to www.advancedeventsystems.com/EventResults/(S(b1fah445ta1yiw55viphzx45))/Standings.aspx?e=PTAwMDAwMTM3MDI90&d=60254