Girls Volleyball: Palos Courts tourney brings summer season to closeProvidence players warm up during 2012 summer league action at Palos Courts. | Logan Malloy - For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:10PM
As the start of girls high school volleyball season beckons, teams from around the Southland are bidding farewell to the more casual summer season at Palos Courts’ bustling league.
A slew of divisions ensure the parking lot is always near capacity, but it is the robust 22-team league on Tuesdays and Thursdays that continues to house the area’s top girls teams.
Thursday marks the end of the summer season with the Courts’ annual tournament. But will that championship glow last even as long as the start of fall practice just 13 days later?
“I’d like to think (a strong showing) would give us momentum, but it’s a completely different dynamic when you start the season,” Providence coach Rachel Ellingson said. “It’s always great to win, but you have to be a realist. There are 16 kids trying out for a team and this gives us an opportunity to evaluate and see where they are.”
Providence (6-2) and Shepard (5-3), two programs with high expectations for the fall season, will get early tests in a summer tourney bracket that features five returning regional champions: Illiana Christian, Lincoln-Way Central, Lockport, Oak Forest and Sandburg.
Those tests, however, might be fated to return a grade of “incomplete.”
The Celtics and Astros have both played at times this summer without 2011-12 All-Area players expected to be on their fall rosters.
Shepard recently participated without versatile setter Stephanie Korbakes, last season’s South Suburban Red player of the year.
“With Stephanie (not here), it definitely changes our dynamic of where we’re trying to send balls offensively,” Shepard coach Dan Grunauer said. “So as a team, we’re working out those kinks right now, and that’s what summer league is for.”
Korbakes missed time on a college visit to St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She’s expected to be back for the tournament and will continue to acquaint herself as the new focal point of Shepard’s outside hitting.
“Stephanie has a cannon, that’s why,” Grunauer deadpanned about the change. “We wanted to make the switch last year but we didn’t have the clientele to run the offense. This year we have an incoming freshman who’s ready: Caroline Graham. She’s very good.”
In a similar situation, Providence opened summer play with All-Area returnee Krista Brakauskas at the helm, but the senior-to-be setter will miss the second half of summer play including the tournament.
“Krista is an overall great player, not just a setter,” Providence coach Rachel Ellingson said. “She’s matured with us. It’s her third year on varsity. We miss her, but we have some other setters stepping up to the plate. We lost to Sandburg in three, and obviously we could have used her there, but that’s what summer league is for. It’s not just to win, it’s to give everyone a chance to show their stuff.”
Grunauer echoed similar sentiments.
“Are you giving your all and are you energetic towards your teammates? That’s what I really care about here,” Grunauer said. “I don’t care about who’s making errors or missing serves. I tell them to be mindful of those things, but it’s really about effort and energy right now.”
The girls tournament begins at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday and finishes with the championship match at 10:00 p.m.