NOTES: Genoa-Kingston coach Keith Foster could see it during Olivia Cotton’s freshman year.
Cotton was on the varsity as a freshman, but didn’t act like one. Foster said she led by example and then, as a sophomore, started to be more vocal. The older players, to their credit, followed the underclassman.
“Olivia Cotton is just one of the strongest leaders I’ve ever seen,” Foster said. “They respect it. It’s unbelievable to watch as a coach.”
Foster says that leadership has continued to grow as Cotton has become an upperclassman.
“We have leaders that really get us out of [a funk] and it doesn’t really last very long,” Foster said. “At this point it’s not bit us. We’re starting stronger, we’re finishing stronger.”
Hiawatha still learning: Hiawatha is still sorting things out early in the season as a young team has been taking its lumps in the first few weeks of the season.
Hiawatha first-year coach Rick Koselke thinks it comes down to self-confidence.
“They’ve got the talent, they’ve got to realize it and believe in themselves,” Koselke said. “We started out fine [Monday] and then we just sort of deflated.”
Koselke did note that Monday’s loss to Christian Life was the first time this season the Hawks have recorded more kills than hitting errors.
VIEWS: Crazy NI Big 12 play about to start
It was tough for anyone to figure out what was going on in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East last season.
Sycamore and Yorkville tied for the conference title at 8-2, but neither of them won a regional champinoship. Sycamore ran into Kaneland, a team that was only 5-5 in conference, in the regional final and the Knightrs swept the Spartans in two sets. Yorkville was ousted in the regional quarterfinals after moving up to Class 4A.
DeKalb, perhaps the most talented team last season, posted a 29-9 regular season record, but was only 6-4 in conference play. When the postseason rolled around, the Barbs won a regional championship in Class 4A and barely lost to Rockford Boylan in two tough sets in the sectional semifinals.
At one point or another in 2012 everything was flip-flopped and we can likely expect similar results this season.
Sycamore and Yorkville will have to rebuild after losing strong senior classes, including the conference co-MVPs in Sycamore’s Ratasha Garbes and Yorkville’s Rebecca Nauman.
DeKalb brings back a strong core of players from last season and will be more familiar in its second season with coach Ben Fisher. Meanwhile Kaneland has to learn under a new coach in Kerri McCastland.
Conference play starts on Monday with DeKalb and Kaneland and continues with another strong matchup between Sycamore and DeKalb on Tuesday.
Who comes out on top at the end of the season is anyone’s guess. The only almost-certainty is there will be plenty of twists, turns and entertainment along the way.
Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lord recorded 60 assists and seven aces over four games at the Geneva Invite last weekend. The Barbs went 2-2 to finish third.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Sycamore at DeKalb, 6 p.m., Tuesday
The two rivals split their two-game series last year and will face off for the first time in 2013 on Tuesday.
Genoa-Kingston at Burlington Central, 6 p.m., Tuesday
A huge match for G-K in its bid to prove it can contend in the Big Northern Conference.
1. DeKalb (4-2) – Barbs took third at Geneva Invite.
2. Genoa-Kingston (3-0, 1-0 Big Northern Conference East) – Won first conference match in two sets against Harvard.
3. Kaneland (4-5) – Most recent loss came on road to LaSalle-Peru.
4. Sycamore (3-4) – Split four matches at West Aurora tournament last weekend.
5. Hinckley-Big Rock (5-4-1) –Royals have stumbled of late after a strong start.
6. Indian Creek (0-1) – Timberwolves fell in opener to Plano.
7. Hiawatha (0-5) – Hawks still searching for first win.