Tulacka leads Downers North past Redhawks

Updated: March 22, 2011 4:22PM



As the older, wiser brother, J.P. Tulacka is always ready to share a few words of advice with his younger sister, Downers North junior volleyball star Jessie Tulacka.

"We play the same sports and do a lot of the same things as each other, so he will tell me tips and stuff," Jessie Tulacka said.

Not that J.P. Tulacka is that much older than his sister.

"He's 13 minutes older than I am," said Jessie Tulacka about her twin brother. "Sometimes, he thinks he's all older and mighty."

There was not much for J.P. Tulacka to criticize Tuesday, however. Jessie Tulacka had 13 assists, six kills and an ace to lead Downers North (2-0) to a 25-20, 30-28 victory over host Naperville Central.

"She's just versatile," Downers North coach Mark Wasik said about Tulacka. "She's an all-around, all-skilled player. The only thing we don't do is ask her to play middle, and maybe we will."

Tulacka, who played rightside for Downers North last season on a team that featured Britta Barstaad (Rhode Island), said making the adjustment to setter has been the most difficult part of her expanded role. She had not set at the high school or club level for nearly three years.

"I'm getting used to all new players and getting used to all the timing that goes with setting," she said. "But it's fun to be more involved. I get to touch the ball a lot more. I am really excited for the rest of the season and getting better with each game."

Junior Taylor Kasal added 11 assists, six kills and a ace for Downers North. Senior Gina Gammonley had five kills and a block, and sophomore Grace Borgard and 6-foot-1 freshman Katherine Mahlke each had four kills.

Sophomore Alysia Baznik had eight kills, 10 assists and an ace to lead Naperville Central (0-1), like Downers North a young team which at times had a freshman, four sophomores and a senior on the floor.

"We played hard," Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson said. "You never know what to expect from such a young group. You hope they play better and hope they play hard and that you didn't waste a day of practice."

Sophomores Nikki Connors and Kendall Ward each had four kills for Naperville Central, which had two game points in Game 2 before Gammonley put the match away on a feed from Kasal.

"It's going to take experience," Isaacson said. "The more matches we play and the more we practice, the better we'll get."

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