Neuqua Valley twins leading the way
Updated: September 22, 2011 8:26PM
Neuqua Valley middle hitters Katelynn (Kat) and Leighanne Novak are identical twins, but they insist that most people can tell them apart.
“I part my hair on the right side, and she parts her hair on the left,” Leighanne said. “And she has a longer, narrower face, while mine is a little wider and rounder. I’m more critical of our teammates on the court, while Kat is more encouraging. And I think I have a better singing voice.”
“I don’t think we look that much alike,” Kat said. “And I would say that I have a better singing voice.”
Also, Leighanne, a two-year starter in the middle, is a shade taller, standing just under 6-feet and Kat had been a starting outside hitter until making the switch to the middle of the Wildcats’ attack this year.
Despite these minor differences, the two are best friends (they’ll be attending Western Illinois together next year) and they hang around with the same people, they have the same hobbies, they both love math and they possess the same quick wit that helps keep the Wildcats’ practices loose and upbeat.
The twins have also become a perfectly synchronized pair of middles who inspire confidence with their coaches and teammates, and together they’re a nuisance to opponents thanks to great athletic ability, aggressiveness and a great volleyball IQ.
“Both are confident and extroverted and they’re terrific vocal leaders,” said Neuqua Valley coach Kelly Simon. “They both play bigger than they are, they’re strong and they can jump. They’re competitive and they have a great work ethic and they feed off each other in practice and in games.”
Simon reported that Kat’s versatility has helped her adjust to middle hitter without any problem and she has added value because she stays on the court through all six rotations.
“Leighanne is a true middle blocker — a front-row player,” said Simon. “She completely embraces that role. She knows the game and she makes quick decisions at the net. And she moves well laterally and has great upper body strength.”
“Leighanne has really helped me with the position switch,” Kat said. “I always ask her to watch me and tell me what I’m doing wrong. The biggest adjustment about playing the middle is that you have to think quick to determine where the block is going.”
Redwings confident at 15-1
Benet won the Wheaton Classic for the third time in the past four years on Saturday and coach Brad Baker is happy with where the team stands at this point.
“We’re progressing, and the girls are starting to play with more confidence,” Baker said.”
Outside hitter Jenna Jendryk was the tournament’s MVP and middle blocker Meghan Haggerty, like Jendryk, a three-year starter, was named to the all-tournament team. Both were consistently strong throughout the tournament.
Baker called the championship match, a 25-16, 25-22 win over Hinsdale South, the best the Redwings (15-1) have played all year.
“We passed extremely well,” Baker said. “That’s when you want the passing to step up, in big matches, tournament finals. Four girls — Sheila Doyle, Shannon O’Brien, Annie Ferlmann and Nora Young — were all outstanding in serve-receive. Their passes made it easier for our setter to give our hitters an easier ball to hit, and the hitters were usually facing one-on-one at the net, because the opposing blockers couldn’t commit to one part of the court.”
Minarick steps up for Warriors
Waubonsie Valley, which defeated Downers Grove North for the Bronze Division championship at the Wheaton Classic, put sophomore setter/hitter Rachel Minarick on the all-tournament team.
Minarick, who had a strong freshman campaign, improved a great deal in the off-season after a successful club season at Sports Performance.
“She’s made a lot of big strides this year,” said Waubonsie Valley coach Kristen Stuart. “She’s hitting with more power, confidence and consistency and her setting location is better. The spark she brings to our team and our 6-2 offense is unmatched. She turns bad passes into better sets and she puts the ball down when we need it.”
Stuart was also thrilled with Minarick’s serving.
“She went on some big service runs,” Stuart said. “She was putting away ace after ace. In three matches on Saturday, Rachel had 15 aces.”
Waubonsie will host the Warrior Blast tournament Friday and Saturday.