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The INSIDER: Girls Volleyball

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

SPOTLIGHT ON ...

Olivia Cotton
Genoa-Kingston, junior, libero
Cotton had 31 digs in a come-from-behind win over Marengo last Thursday. In her third year on the varsity team, the junior is one of the top liberos in the area. Cotton is one of the driving forces behind a resurgent G-K team.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Morris at Sycamore, 6 p.m. Thursday Sycamore will try not to fall any further off of DeKalb’s pace in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, but the Redskins are strong.

Hinckley-Big Rock at Hiawatha, 7:15 p.m. Thursday Hiawatha will be able to measure how far it has come against its DeKalb County rival.

Morris at DeKalb, 6 p.m. Tuesday Last year, DeKalb’s only conference loss was to Morris. The Barbs already have lost one, so a loss against Morris would be a step back from last year.

POWER RANKINGS

1. DeKalb (18-4, 3-1 NI Big 12 East): The Barbs lost their first game of the conference season Monday to Yorkville before breezing by Rochelle on Tuesday. 2. Kaneland (12-5, 2-2 NI Big 12 East): The Knights earned their first win in conference Tuesday, beating Sycamore, 25-12, 25-21. 3. Sycamore (6-5, 1-2 NI Big 12 East): The Spartans are talented, but have struggled with consistency in the young conference season. 4. Genoa-Kingston (7-4, 3-1 Big Northern East): The Cogs rebounded from a loss to Burlington Central to beat Marengo last week. 5. Indian Creek (6-7, 1-2 Little Ten): Timberwolves had an encouraging weekend at the G-K Invite before beating Hiawatha on Tuesday. 6. Hiawatha (5-6, 2-1 LTC): Hiawatha already has  surpassed last season’s win total. 7. Hinckley-Big Rock (5-7, 1-2 LTC): The Royals lost Monday to Plano.

NOTEBOOK: Boehne back for Timberwolves

Indian Creek had a tough start to the season.

The Timberwolves went 2-5 early on and missed setter Dallas Boehne, who was out with a health issue. But since Boehne’s return, the Timberwolves have surged, going 3-2 in the G-K Invite before beating Hiawatha on Tuesday.

“It’s really huge (having Boehne back),” Indian Creek coach Stephanie Crutcher said. “She knows what’s expected of her, she’s smart with the ball and knows who her hitters are and their strengths and weaknesses. She doesn’t force anything. (Hitter) Kate (Thuestad) has got the spotlight on her, but Dallas is the one that gets her the ball.”

DeKalb suffers first conference loss DeKalb suffered its first loss of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East season to Yorkville on Monday, and coach Ben Fisher thinks the reasons for the only blemish on a 3-1 start to the conference season were simple.

“Quite frankly, we just didn’t come ready to play,” Fisher said. “We were very unfocused, we were very flat, and we didn’t do what we usually do well, which is control the first contact and serve well. We didn’t do that very well, and we lacked a lot of effort and discipline defensively. They worked a lot harder than us and they wanted it a lot more.”

On Tuesday, DeKalb rebounded against Rochelle, winning, 25-11, 25-14.

“We executed better (against Rochelle),” Fisher said. “Our communication was better; we had a lot more togetherness on the court. I just thought we played for each other [Tuesday night].”

VIEWS: More teams are in the NI Big 12 East mix

Ben Fisher didn’t quite know how difficult the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference’s East Division would be when he became the DeKalb girls volleyball coach this summer.

“I was never informed,” Fisher said. “... You don’t get a night off in this conference.”

When Morris handed DeKalb it only loss of the conference season last year, it was a sign of a program taking a step toward elite status in the NI Big 12 East.

The Redskins didn’t win a conference match the year before but tied with Kaneland for second in the conference standings with a 6-4 mark.

On Monday, Yorkville might have taken that same step with a 25-21, 25-22 win over the Barbs, giving DeKalb its first loss of the conference season.

Meanwhile, Kaneland finally registered its first win in NI Big 12 play with a win over Sycamore on Tuesday after losing its first two matches. Both teams were expected to be near the top of the conference, but both sit at 1-2, already totaling more losses than last season’s conference-champion Barbs.

DeKalb, though, just narrowly beat Sycamore and Kaneland last week, so another conference championship certainly is no sure thing.

Five of the top six teams can beat each other on any given night, which should make for a fascinating race.

“Every year, programs are getting better, and every year kids are playing club more,” Fisher said. “I think it’s a good thing for the conference. It makes things competitive. It forces all of the top teams in the conference to strive for consistency and for a higher level of play. Once we get out of conference, it makes all of the teams more competitive.”

• Anthony Zilis is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. Contact him by email at sports@daily-chronicle.com.

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