JOLIET – The girls volleyball teams from Joliet West and Bolingbrook entered Tuesday’s season opener feeling upbeat about their possibilities this year with both sides returning a lot of players from successful squads a year ago.
But the early season action certainly offered much different perspectives for each side after the host Tigers played well in most aspects of the match, and the Raiders struggled through much of the evening, which resulted in West capturing a 25-21, 25-9 nonconference win.
Coach Al Mart’s Tigers focused on strong serving, and they succeeded in frustrating Bolingbrook throughout the match. Natalie Stefanski led the way behind the service line with two long runs and she also led in kills, helping West jump out to big leads in both sets.
“The first thing on the game plan was to serve aggressively and to control our own unforced errors, and we got them out of system,” Mart said. “They have some nice players and had a good summer, and we knew that, so we weren’t sure what to expect.
“Olivia Kirin stepped in and did a nice job, and Ashley Shawmeker came over and did a nice job on the right side. And my two leaders, Natalie Stefanski and Brooke Borgra, have stepped up and done a nice job of where the team needs to be mentally.”
Stefanski used three aces during a six-point service run to give West a 13-4 lead in Game 1. The Tigers led, 19-8, after an ace from Bailey Fair.
The Raiders began to rally with a long service rally of their own by Sara Magdziarz, who had two aces in that run to go with blocks by Deborah Dinkel and Taylor Coley to help narrow the gap a bit.
“Serving is a very important part of the match, just like passing is,” Stefanski said. “We got their passers and setter out of system, and we played the game really well by playing smart, and our team came together just like I thought we would. We came in with a great mindset that we could beat them, and we never doubted that and just played our hearts out.”
A kill by Ashley Shawmeker gave West a 7-4 lead in Game 2, and then Stefanski, who finished with 10 kills, served up the next nine points to give the Tigers a 16-4 advantage. That run featured two more aces for Stefanski, two blocks from Ashlee Johnstone and a pair of kills by Olivia Ryan off assists from setter Sam Fair.
“Like in any sport, defense is a key to success,” West’s Brooke Borgra said. “And I think we’re going to be really strong defensively this year. So stepping up in the libero position, I know that I have a big role to fill, and I’m ready to take it on, especially since it’s my senior year, and I know what I have to do to contribute and bring success to the team.”
“Seeing a team like this early on is definitely eye-opening,” Raiders coach Molly DeSerf said. “It’s the first week, and we’re still figuring it out a little bit, so it’s not time to hit the panic button, but we definitely need to reset.”