Relaxed Waubonsie Valley having fun
Updated: October 13, 2011 8:15PM
Libero Lauren Clarke and defensive specialist Geena Mancuso bring in the noise and bring in the fun for the Waubonsie Valley volleyball team.
“We really need their spirit and their enthusiasm,” said coach Kristen Stuart. “When they’re not talking, it’s usually quiet on our side of the court. They bring the team to life. They play hard and they practice hard and that motivates the other girls. And they have a ton of fun on the court.”
The two seniors, who are close friends, have also brought a veteran presence to a pretty young team.
“They’ve really brought in some of the newer people socially and made them feel comfortable,” said Stuart.
As courageous defenders Clarke and Mancuso also set an example for toughness with their hard-nosed play.
Earlier this week Clarke was diving for the ball when she cut her arm and had to leave the game to get the bleeding stopped.
She was taped up and went right back in the game.
“Both Lauren and Geena have played through sickness and injury,” Stuart said.
And it isn’t just their spirit and personalities that make them assets to the Warriors. The coach reports that both Clarke and Mancuso have high volleyball IQs.
“They both play scrappy defense,” said Stuart. “They play a lot of volleyball in the offseason, and Lauren does a great job of reading the hitters, while Geena is expert at getting herself in the right position. Very few balls drop between them. And they’re always asking questions and looking to get better.”
At the beginning of the season, Naperville Central wasn’t getting the team’s middle hitters involved in the offense, a factor that goes a long way to expaling the team’s inconsistent start.
But in recent weeks the Redhawks ball control has picked up and those two outstanding hitters Nikki Connors and Sammy Condon are playing a major part in the team’s improvement and the Redhawks 18-8 overall record. The Redhawks are tied with rival Naperville Northl at 10-1 atop the DuPage Valley Conference standings.
“It’s hard to run middles without consistent passing and defense,” said Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson. “Having two good middles like Nikki and Sammy forces the other team to guard everyone. That opens up opportunities for the hitters on the pins. Having good middles is huge for our long-term success. And now we’re getting them involved the way they should be.”
Connors, who’s a great leaper and reads the play well brings the enthusiasm and passion to the court for the Redhawks.
“She’s so competitive and that fire brings a smile to your face,” said Isaacson. “She’s also a fantastic server and she gives us a lot of aces.”
Condon can put the ball on the floor consistently despite drawing two opposing blockers.
“The great thing about Sammy is her blocking,” said Isaacson. “She gets so far above the net that we can terminate points even if she just gets a hand on the ball. Her blocking allows our defense to be great.”
Isaacson reports that the entire team has grown since the beginning of the season.
“The girls are really buying into our system,” she said. “It takes time to get everyone on the same page, but each girls is finding her niche and we’re coming together as a team.”
To look at Lexi Lobdell of Metea Valley on the court, you’d never think she was just a freshman.
“Her presence is exceptional for a freshman,” said Metea Valley coach James Milkert about his outside hitter. “She’s blended right in from the beginning and the other girls really lean on her. She’s been an outstanding addition to our team.”
In addition to her great skills, Milkert reports that Lobdell is very coachable.
“When you tell her something or make a correction,” said Milkert. “She’ll do it right next time. You can see her getting better with every repetition at practice.”
The coach believes Lobdell has unlimited potential.
“She’s a great athlete and she’s made great strides as an attacker and gotten better as a passing,” said Milkert. “Her court-awareness has really improved. She’s reacting faster and making smarter decisions. She’s gotten used to the speed of the varsity game.”