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MDH area volleyball teams are competitive as ever

All six local girls volleyball teams finished above .500 this season, creating some of the most heated competition for Morris Daily Herald All-Area spots in the team’s history.

Minooka, which won 21 games against primarily Class 4A competition, has the Player of the Year in Skyler Day and the most total selections with seven, but Coal City has the most first-teamers with three after getting to a Class 3A sectional final. Every team is represented by at least three players.


Skyler Day, Minooka

Senior outside hitter

Not only did Day finish third in the area with 248 kills and lead the area with a 42.3 kill percentage, she also was second on her team in both digs with 188 and serve receptions with 188 and third in both 116 service points and 27 aces. The University of Buffalo-bound Day was the Indians’ co-MVP, All-Conference in Southwest Prairie and All-Tournament at Edwardsville.

“Skyler became a more well-rounded player this year,” Minooka coach Chris Hoelscher said. “She was definitely a dominant offensive player, but her passing and defense were just as valuable to our team success.”

Kassie Aldridge, Coal City

Senior setter

By a margin of 231, Aldridge led the area in assists with 679, giving her 1,589 in her varsity career. She also had 22 aces with a 94.3 serve percentage, 152 digs and 27 blocks, was a co-captain and a repeat All-Conference and academic All-Conference selection in the Interstate Eight.

“Kassie had a great season,” Coal City coach Michael Lanoue said. “She took our offensive system to a new level regarding the speed and precision setting, but more importantly, she was a great leader and motivator for our team.”

Emily Halliday, Coal City

Senior outside hitter

By totaling 261 kills during her third season as a varsity starter, Halliday finished with 680 for her career. She also had 343 digs to finish her career with 390, 23 aces, a 93.1 serve percentage. A co-captain, Halliday was All-Conference for a second time and academic All-Conference for a third in the Interstate Eight.

“Emily’s attack numbers may be down just a little, but that is due to Kassie being able to spread out the play to our other good hitters. Emily still hit 89 percent effective with a 29 percent kill rate; still good high school numbers,” Lanoue said. “But Emily had a different focus this year and that was to lead us on the floor with our ball control.”

Claire Smith, Coal City

Senior middle blocker

The area’s leader in blocks with 85, Smith made All-Conference in the Interstate Eight for a second time. She contributed 197 kills, 31 aces and 70 digs.

“Claire was almost unstoppable at times this year,” Lanoue said. “Not bad for a player who had to defend against some big players.”

Kristina Nichols, Newark

Senior outside hitter

A unanimous All-Conference pick in the Little Ten, Nichols totaled 226 kills to lead Newark and 255 digs, which ranked second on the team. She had 147 service points, including 54 aces, while serving at 87 percent.

“Kristina is a dynamic leader both on and off the court,” Newark coach Tonya Grayson said. “She led the team in many statistical categories, but more importantly, she led in her character and integrity.”

Natalie Yard, Minooka

Senior libero

Yard led the Indians in aces with 45, service points with 241, digs with 279 and serve receptions with 463. She was All-Conference in the Southwest Prairie.

“She contributed much more than [statistics] to our team,” Hoelscher said. “Her ready smile and positive energy made her someone others looked to when times got tough. Her serve receive was spot-on and enabled us to run our offense well.”


Kailyn Korte, Morris

Sophomore outside hitter

In her first full varsity season, Korte led Morris in kills with 246 and was second in serve receptions with 356 as she made first-team All-Conference in the Northern Illinois Big 12. She was second among the Redskins in blocks with 30 and digs with 299, and also had 29 aces.

“She is our go-to player who can put the ball almost anywhere on the court,” Morris coach Jackie Litwiller said. “Her attack is deadly and she loves the game more than anyone. Can’t wait to see what she brings back to the court next season.”

Jessica Karalow, Minooka

Junior middle blocker

The area’s second-leading blocker with 83, Karalow was named co-MVP for the Indians. She added 104 kills with a 39.8 kill percentage that ranked second on the team, 93 service points, 40 aces and 46 digs. She was All-Conference in the Southwest Prairie.

“Jessica came into her own this year and was probably the best middle in our conference,” Hoelscher said. “Her blocking was phenomenal, and she played a larger role in our offense. As a server, she was second in aces and could spark rallies with her tough jump floater.”

Taylor Vandenberg, Seneca

Senior middle blocker

New to Seneca and new to the front row, Vandenberg led the Lady Irish in kills with 199 and blocks with 68 after transferring and moving from defensive specialist. Her kill percentage of 32.6 ranked second on the team, and she added 24 aces and 119 digs.

“If you had the opportunity to watch Taylor play, especially on a daily basis, it was fun and obvious how she can [dominate] a match at the net with a block and a stellar swing,” Seneca coach Karen Raney said. “There were many key matches she took control of and we ended up on top.”

Kayla Haines, Seneca

Senior outside hitter/setter

An All-Conference pick in the Interstate Eight, Haines tied for the team lead in passer rating at 2.1, was second in assists with 334 and aces with 26 and was third in kills with 161. She added 174 service points, 33 blocks and 120 digs.

“Kayla’s experience, knowledge and skill level is the cornerstone for our team,” Raney said. “The leadership she established was an underlying key to the success of the season. It is not very often when you coach a player that contributes strongly in all those aspects of the game.”

Lexi Wilkinson, Seneca

Junior middle blocker

With a school-record 33.6 kill percentage, Wilkinson finished second on the team in kills (164), blocks (57) and serving percentage (94). She had 25 aces and was All-Conference in the Interstate Eight.

“Lexi’s versatility and pure speed allowed her to be an attacker that was difficult to contain,” Raney said. “She doesn’t force a certain swing at the net. If it’s not there, she’ll find another way to put the ball on the floor. That’s what makes her so effective.”

Melanie Kala, Newark

Junior libero

An area-high 437 digs, along with 39 aces, helped Kala earn unanimous first-team All-Conference honors in the Little Ten. She was a primary passer for the Lady Norsemen.

“Melanie is a hard-working defensive player who loves the game and wants the ball,” Grayson said.


Madison Wyss, Seneca

Junior outside hitter/setter

Nobody in the area, or in Seneca history, had as many service points (262) or aces (94) as Wyss did this season. Her 346 assists led the team, and her 2.1 passing rating tied for the team lead. Wyss also had 101 kills.

“We want to win the coin toss. Our opponent wants it more because we have Madison stepping to the service line,” Raney said. “She can put a team on its heels quickly. As setter and attacker in our 6-2 offense, she was effective directing the offense and being part of it.”

Ginger Perinar, Minooka

Sophomore outside hitter

Perinar was second among the Indians with 208 kills, and she piled them up with a 36.5 kill percentage. In just 67 serve attempts, Perinar had 18 aces. Her other statistics included 30 blocks, 128 serve receptions and 69 digs.

“Ginger displayed more confidence and aggression in her second year on the varsity team,” Hoelscher said. “We look for great things from her in the future.”

JoAnna Nowicki, Morris

Senior outside hitter

In her third season as a starter, Nowicki finished second in kills with 157 and aces with 40 and first in points with 164 for the Redskins. She was first-team All-Conference in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East and All-Tournament at McNamara.

“Her strength at the service line is just as strong as her dominating swing inside the 10-foot line,” Litwiller said. “She has the potential to do great things in this sport.”

Austin Thompson, Morris

Senior outside hitter/setter

The Redskins’ leader in aces with 42 and their second-leading player in service points with 142, Thompson was honorable mention All-Conference in the Northern Illinois Big 12. She ranked second on the team in assists with 121, fourth in blocks with 21, fourth in kills with 74 and fifth in digs with 110.

“She played almost every position for us this season,” Litwiller said. “Her court awareness is some of the best I have seen in the program. She can read the blockers on the other side of the net and put the ball where she wants it. She became a very crucial part of our offensive package and will be missed.”

Brenna Perinar, Minooka

Senior right-side hitter

At perhaps any other local school, Perinar – who had 62 blocks, which ranked second on Minooka – would have been a featured middle. The Lincolnland Community College-bound Coach’s Award winner added 114 kills.

“She took her role as captain seriously and urged her teammates to be as passionate about the team’s success as she was,” Hoelscher said. “She improved greatly from 2012. Her blocking helped us change the momentum in many matches and stymied our opponents’ best hitters.”

Morgan Hussey, Morris

Senior libero

Hussey led the Redskins in digs with 358 and serve receptions with 368 while serving as one of their captains. The honorable mention All-Conference pick in the Northern Illinois Big 12 added 24 aces and 128 service points.

“One of the best float servers in the program, and her court talk is amazing,” Litwiller said. “She is truly the definition of what it means to be a Redskin and would do anything for her teammates. Her communication skills are second to none, and I can only hope that the younger generation was listening carefully and will be able to fill that void left by ‘Fiver.’”


Coal City: Junior middle blocker Nicole Borgetti, who was a very close third in the area in blocks with 82 and added 79 kills and 169 digs. “She also excelled during the year without much help in the height department,” Lanoue said. ... Senior outside hitter Britta Spelde, who had 133 kills, a team-best 48 aces, 26 blocks and 107 digs. “She also excelled during the postseason,” Lanoue said.

Gardner-South Wilmington: Senior middle blocker Breann Fisher, a captain and first-team All-Conference choice in the River Valley who had 106 kills and 26 blocks. “She puts up a great block, has an amazing arm swing and is fiercely competitive,” GSW coach Melissa Cardone said. ... Junior outside hitter Bryanna DeMoraes, a captain who totaled 126 kills, 20.5 blocks and was special mention All-Conference in the River Valley. “Bryanna has been a steady force on the outside for us this season,” Cardone said. ... Junior middle blocker Lexi Posing, who served at 92.2 percent while totaling 19 aces and had 85 kills, 37.5 blocks and 147 digs.

Minooka: Junior setter Kelly Clucas, who totaled a team-high 352 assists and added 18 aces and 101 digs. “Kelly was much steadier and composed as a junior; she was more of a strategist,” Hoelscher said. ... Junior middle blocker Cindy Ley, who had 47 blocks and 57 kills and was named the team’s Most Improved Player. “At the end of the season, Cindy showed flashes of brilliance and offensive dominance,” Hoelscher said.

Morris: Junior setter Taya Torkelson, who finished second in the area with 448 assists and was a close third among the Redskins with 38 aces. “When we really weren’t sure who was going to take those reins, she stepped in, worked hard and got better every match,” Litwiller said.

Newark: Freshman right-side hitter Jasmine Mitchell, who had 50 blocks for points along with 71 kills. “Jasmine is young with a very promising future,” Grayson said. ... Sophomore outside hitter Madison Friestad, who had 88 kills, 44 aces, 177 service points and 152 digs while serving as a primary passer. “She has a natural knack for the game,” Grayson said.

Seneca: Senior outside hitter Danielle Hauch, who had 111 kills and 120 digs and tied for the team lead in passing at 2.1 despite having an injury shorten her season. “I believe had she had a full season, she would have been a strong candidate for All-Conference,” Raney said.

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