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Sports

Coal City ready to protect conference title

COAL CITY – Of the 14 players that made the Morris Daily Herald’s All-Area first or second team in girls volleyball in 2012, only six will return this season.

Three of those players will suit up for Coal City. First-teamer Emily Halliday, an outside hitter who had 264 kills, 313 digs and 35 aces a year ago, leads the group. It also includes setter Kassie Aldridge, who distributed 487 assists, and middle Claire Smith, who totaled 57 blocks and 125 kills.

Two others played regularly in 2012 in senior outside Britta Spelde, who had 104 kills, and junior middle Nicole Borgetti, who blocked 45 kills. Four juniors – middle Mady Bunton, outside Ryanne Ehrman, setter Carly Pavlis and outside Claire Pavlis – will compete with the holdovers for playing time.

“We also won our sophomore conference (title), so we have some very, very experienced volleyball players who have had success,” Coal City coach Michael Lanoue said. “This is why we’ve committed to this (senior) core, why we brought them up as sophomores – so they would get varsity experience that could pay off now.”

Coal City is the defending Interstate Eight Conference North champion, recording an 8-2 record in 2012. Lanoue said defending that title is a top priority for the Lady Coalers, but he expects Seneca, along with Plano and possibly Westmont, to challenge them.

Improving on last season’s Class 3A regional quarterfinal exit is another team goal. Coal City will not have to wait until the postseason or the start of conference divisional play to begin working toward its goals. It could start on one of them with Friday’s opening of the Willowbrook Tournament.

“We do want to have good showings in all of our tournaments,” Aldridge said. “Especially at Willowbrook. We always go there, and we play a lot of bigger schools with some really strong teams, so we don’t always start off with the best record, but at the same time it is good experience for us.”

After divisional play begins, the Lady Coalers hope to distance themselves from the competition. In 2012, they did not clinch the championship until Oct. 22, when they defeated Westmont 25-22, 23-25, 25-23 at home.

“The atmosphere was so rowdy – the crowd, both teams, everyone,” Halliday said. “It was crazy. It was a lot of fun, but there’s a lot of pressure when it comes down to one game like that. So we’d like to avoid it coming down to that if we can.”

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