Sycamore volleyball player Ratasha Garbes knows full well how much leadership, or lack thereof, can affect a team.
Coach Debbie Klock brought the setter up to varsity late in her freshman campaign in 2009, when a team full of veterans finished fourth at the state tournament.
Two years later, a team with no seniors floundered.
Heading into her senior year, the normally soft-spoken Garbes knew if her team was going to succeed, she would need to raise her voice.
“This year, she was more spoken out in how she wanted things done, in running the warm-up and things like that,” coach Debbie Klock said. “When she didn’t talk, the team wasn’t responsive. When she was loud and positive, the team fed off of her.”
Garbes galvanized her team and led the Spartans to their first Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East Division title, baffling defenses with her intelligent and athletic play along the way. For her individual play and Sycamore’s team success, Garbes was named the Daily Chronicle Girls Volleyball Player of the Year.
The foundation to her success in 2012, though, was largely built during her junior season.
“We needed more leadership from the team, more teamwork. It was a growing year for everyone,” Garbes said. “I gained a lot of leadership experience as a junior, having no seniors. I had to step up and be that leader of the team.”
Klock has known that Garbes would be a key cog on a successful Sycamore team ever since she coached her at the club level in the sixth grade. Early on, she identified her as a setter as she eased the Sycamore program into a new philosophy of finding setters early.
“We focused more on getting setters first and then fill in the other kids around them because the setter’s the hardest person to find,” Klock said. “It’s kind of like finding a quarterback, somebody that can run an offense, that can think like you and has great hands.”
Immediately, she excelled at the position, and when she was a freshman she was named All-American at the AAU national championships, spurring early interest from colleges.
That recognition cemented Garbes’s desire to focus entirely on volleyball, and Klock said that led to a surge in her development.
“It was important, because there were a lot of coaches there,” Garbes said. “I always wanted to go on and play sports in volleyball. I really liked volleyball and I decided to pursue that and go to college and play volleyball.”
While Garbes led the pack, her classmates, Hannah Knox and Brittany Huber, were there every step of the way, and the trio gelled throughout their years together.
Their senior season came to a disappointing end when the Spartans lost to Kaneland in the regional final after Garbes suffered a concussion. But their conference title, along with a win over DeKalb after five consecutive losses to the Barbs, marked a resurgence in Sycamore volleyball.
“You can’t go back and change anything we did, and I don’t want to,” Garbes said. “We won the conference and played so well against teams that we hadn’t in the past. We came out and beat DeKalb after losing to them [five] times in a row. It was a really great feeling to have accomplished that as a team. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
DAILY CHRONCILE ALL-AREA GIRLS VOLLEYBALL TEAM
Sycamore, sr., setter
The Daily Chronicle Player of the Year helped lead the Spartans to their first Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference title in her third full year on the varsity squad. Garbes had 692 assists and 150 kills with a 50.7 kill percentage.
The Illinois State commit was the unanimous MVP of the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference.
Sycamore, sr., outside hitter
Huber had 235 kills this season and was a unanimous All NI Big 12 First-Team selection. The hitter’s strengths extended to the defensive end of the floor, where she was crucial in serve-receive and tallied 196 digs.
“She is the defensive backbone to the team on serve-receive,” Klock said. “She is the go-to person when we need a score and has been the 100 percent practice player for the last two years voted by her teammates.”
DeKalb, jr., outside hitter
The Wisconsin commit is the area’s most explosive hitter, piling up 270 kills this season. One of two contributors to return from last year’s squad, she was crucial during DeKalb’s run to another third consecutive regional championship.
Next season, Bemis will return to a lineup that brings back all five of its Daily Chronicle All-Area selections.
DeKalb, jr., setter
Lord was DeKalb’s other holdover from last year’s squad, and her experience was huge for a team that struggled late in the regular season before pulling it together and making a strong playoff run. The junior had 458 assists in her second year as a varsity starter.
“She contributed to our team in every aspect and deserves high recognition,” DeKalb coach Ben Fisher said. “Not only do I think she is one of the best setters in the area, but one of the best volleyball players in the area, too.”
Genoa-Kingston, jr., libero Cotton was a leader for a G-K team that had a strong season, and she was the area’s top libero in 2012, tallying 435 digs. The three-year varsity starter will return to a Cogs team that should be even stronger in 2012.
“Her ability to interpret an opposing team’s strength as motivation to play at a higher level is unparalleled in my 19 seasons as a head coach,” G-K coach Keith Foster said.
Kaneland, jr., outside hitter Dunn was a vital piece of the Knights’ surprising season. The junior piled up 216 kills and 42 blocks and the Knights added a regional title plaque to their trophy case. Dunn will be a key piece as the Knights look to contend for their first Northern Illinois Big 12 title in 2013.
SECOND TEAMLyndi Scholl Kaneland, sr., outside hitterLauren Banbury Kaneland, sr., middle blockerKeri Groen Kaneland, sr., middle blockerHannah Knox Sycamore, sr., outside hitterCourtney Wagner DeKalb, jr., middle blockerChristina Dailey Sycamore, jr., liberoKate Thuestad Indian Creek, sr., outside hitter
Ashley Prost Kaneland, sr., setterAbbey Hickey DeKalb, jr., outside hitterNicole Schladt DeKalb, so., liberoVanessa Garza Genoa-Kingston, sr., outside hitterBeth Klein Hinckley-Big Rock, sr., middle blockerLauren Paver Hinckley-Big Rock, jr., outside hitterDani Clark Hiawatha, sr., outside hitterDallas Boehne Indian Creek, sr., setter