Rosary setter Konovodoff leads team to fast startRosary players, including setter Abby Konovodoff (center), celebrate a point against Aurora Central last week. The Royals are off to a 7-2 start this season. | Jeff Cagle ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 6, 2011 9:22PM
Rosary coach Lisa Kasper didn’t ask a lot of her players this past summer.
“We (basically) took the summer off,” said the Royals coach, who didn’t use many of the contact days with her team allowed by IHSA rules.
“We did one camp (together) at the end of July. But I coach all year long and most of these kids are busy with club ball. People need time to see their girls and go on vacation.
“When we brought them back (for preseason practice), I think they were anxious to get together. We’ll see if it works.”
So far, so good as the Royals are off to a 7-2 start.
One of the key reasons is the outstanding play of senior setter Abby Konovodoff, who has gone from a player with somewhat shaky confidence to one who is brimming with confidence.
She probably should be, coming off a summer in which she did well with her Sports Performance Club team but even better by making the U.S. Junior A2 team.
“It was one of the best choices I ever made,” the 6-foot Konovodoff said of her decision to attend the national tryouts in Vernon Hills last spring.
“You basically try out and a few weeks later I got an email telling me I had made it,” she said. “I had a lot of fun and learned a bunch of great stuff.”
And it may have been just the boost she needed, coming off a shaky junior season in which she missed time early with shin splints and then struggled, at times, late. Konovodoff shared setting duties as a sophomore and junior in Rosary’s 5-2 with graduated Lindsay Juriga.
This year, Kasper has chosen to run a 5-1 with Konovodoff as the team’s featured setter.
“It’s her position to lose, she’s a senior and she’s been on varsity for three years,” said Kasper. “Next year, I’m gonna have kids there with not much varsity experience which for us is very worrisome but we’ll deal with it then.”
Konovodoff has been setting since she started playing club ball in eighth grade.
“I was pretty tall but I guess I walked in and they saw the size of my hands and said, ‘You’re setting,’” she said. “I have huge hands. I think it comes from my dad’s side of the family, the Russian in me.
“Every once in awhile it’s nice to go up and slam a ball but I enjoy being in charge of the offense. I love the thinking aspect of setting and the best part of being a setter is running a 5-1.”
Konovodoff’s A2 Junior National team consisted of 10 players, eight who are high school seniors this fall and two who are sophomores in college. They had six days to prepare for the High Performance Championships held in late July in Tucson, Ariz.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Konovodoff. “We had matches against the Dominican Republic and China and ended up getting third in the (5-day) tournament.”
They also met the U.S. Junior National team featuring West Aurora standout Lauren Carlini that won the tourney and then went on to play in the FIVB Worlds in Turkey.
“We got matched up against them in the semifinals,” said Konovodoff. “They were definitely the dominant team (in the tourney), but we did our best. We just had six days to make everything happen. I thought we bonded pretty well.”
Now she hopes to take it to the next level, setting up outstanding threats on her high school team like four-year starter Mia Wegman, Briana Flagg and Kate Stefanski.
Wegman set a school record for kills last season but this year’s Royals’ attack should be more diversified than last season, “which ended with a bitter taste,” said Konovodoff, who will play at the next level but hasn’t decided where.
“I’ve been contacted by Cal State Bakersfield and Rhode Island,” she said, “But I’ll probably hold off (deciding) until club season. With high school season overlapping with the college season, college coaches don’t have many opportunities to see you play in high school.”