Athlete of the week
Prairie Ridge, sr., libero
The Wolves enjoyed a strong week with wins against Huntley and Cary-Grove, and Prairie Ridge’s defense was a big catalyst for that success. Hanley finished with 26 digs, two assists and an ace in the two matches, but her serve-receive was what particularly impressed coach Stefanie Otto. Hanley’s serve-receive average was 2.13, and she did not commit any service errors.
Rolling: Prairie Ridge is no stranger to slow starts and fast finishes. The Wolves have raced to the postseason many times after starting the season under .500. This year, Prairie Ridge has turned an 0-4 start into a 10-6 record.
In addition to defense, eliminating the mistakes and getting the hitters going have been key. Middle hitter Ali Witt stepped up last week with 11 kills, while Maddy Drain, who moved outside, had 11 blocks and 10 kills. Kennedy McNeil and Taylor Otto, who now is healthy, also have contributed substantially.
“I think they always believed in themselves, but I just don’t think they could get it to happen,” Stefanie Otto said. “Now we’ve changed the way we’ve approached practice and we’ve built some confidence. We played very solid (last week). We had great passing and we were able to distribute the ball. And for the first time, we had more aces than we had (service) errors.”
Change of scenery: Kelsey Burlini wasn’t shocked when she got the nod last summer to start setting for Richmond-Burton.
The Rockets’ senior has played almost everywhere on the court. Burlini is a natural outside who moved to the middle last year to help draw the block away from outside hitter Ali Frantti. Now, Burlini is running the show.
“She’s so versatile,” said interim head coach Laura Karamitos on Saturday during the Hampshire Tournament. “You know you can put Kelsey anywhere and she is going to be effective.”
Burlini, however, is tasked with setting the second-ranked player in the nation in Frantti. Their friendship helps ease the nerves, Burlini said.
“Ali is one of my closest friends, so that makes it much easier,” she said.
Postseason seeds announced: The IHSA will release the seeds for this year’s postseason on Thursday. As has been the trend in recent years, some of the area’s best Class 4A teams are packed in the same regional.
Dundee-Crown will host a regional that includes Jacobs, Crystal Lake Central, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge.
This week’s top matches
Crystal Lake South at Cary-Grove, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
The Gators beat the Trojans in two last time the teams met. South is in first place in the FVC Valley Division, while C-G and Huntley are tied for second.
Marian Central at Chicago Christian, 6 p.m. Wednesday
The Hurricanes and the Knights had a close match early in the season with the Knights coming out on top.
Hampshire at Crystal Lake Central, 6:30 p.m. Thursday
The Tigers are rolling through the FVC Fox Division. Can anyone hand them their first loss?
– Maureen Lynch