SYCAMORE – Debbie Klock sat down with her captains after the Sycamore volleyball team lost to DeKalb in the Spartans’ Northern Illinois Big 12 opener.
The Sycamore coach wasn’t happy with her team’s consistency so she wanted to figure out what it would take for her team to play well all match every match.
The answer, she soon found out, was comfort.
Sophomore Mattie Hayes, she realized, was better off in the middle than on the outside. Brittany Huber, meanwhile, plays better when she begins the game passing rather than hitting. Hannah Knox likes to start the match hitting.
“We found those comfort zones … we didn’t realize they were so evident in the lineup,” Klock said. “We sat down and said, we can play with this lineup and still be happy. When people come out, they’re not coming out because they’re bad, they’re coming out because they’re going to show something different.”
The change worked wonders.
After starting the season 5-4, the Spartans won their last seven Northern Illinois Big 12 matches on their way to the conference title.
“They know it’s about the team now,” Klock said. “Now they’re all for each other instead of fighting each other for a spot. That’s what brought them together.”
The comfort factor is just one of the reasons Klock feels better heading into the Class 3A Hampshire Regional despite a daunting road ahead. The Spartans’ road could include matchups with Burlington Central and Kaneland.
Another reason for hope is middle blocker Ellyn Heegaard, a senior who only began playing volleyball last year. Like the rest of the Spartans, Klock said Heegard has improved leaps and bounds over the last two seasons.
“She’s improving each day, and you don’t see that in most schools because kids have matured by then,” Klock said. “She started volleyball so late that what she’s learning now and doing now, teams just don’t expect because she’s young, young in volleyball, not in age.”
If Sycamore does get past the regional, the Spartans will likely meet Richmond-Burton, one of the top teams in Class 3A. The Spartans lost to Richmond-Burton early in the year.
The tough road starts on Monday when No. 3 seed Sycamore take on No. 6 seed Hampshire. While they’re not looking past the Whip-purs, the Spartans are confident they can make a deep run.
“We’re sitting where we want to sit,” Klock said. “We’ve been saying that for a few weeks now.”
Barbs finish with win: DeKalb coach Ben Fisher hasn’t always been thrilled with his team’s play throughout the latter part of the season, but the Barbs were able to beat Morris last Thursday to finish the tough Northern Illinois Big 12 East season 6-4. They’ll go into the Class 4A Rockford East Regional as the No. 1 seed.
The Barbs will play the winner of Rockford East and Rockford Jefferson on Tuesday with a matchup with Belividere North or Huntley on the line.
Knights are regional favorite: Kaneland nabbed the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A Hampshire Regional after a 5-5 NI Big 12 East season. The Knights are fresh off of a second-place finish at the Spikefest Tournament last weekend, where they finished 4-1.
The Knights will play the winner of Genoa-Kingston and Elgin St. Edward on Tuesday. Kaneland could meet Sycamore in the regional final for a NI Big 12 East showdown.