Abby Hickey, sr., OH, DeKalb
Hickey recorded four blocks and five kills, many of which came in the second set of DeKalb's 25-18, 25-15 victory Tuesday over Sycamore.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Yorkville at Sycamore, 6 p.m. today
This is the first matchup between the co-Northern Illinois Big 12 East champions from last season.
Genoa-Kingston at DeKalb, 6 p.m. Monday
The Cogs made a point of improving their strength of schedule over the past couple of years and will get a great test on the road against DeKalb.
1. DeKalb (7-2, 2-0 NI Big 12 East) – Two huge wins over Kaneland, Sycamore
2. Genoa-Kingston (4-1, 2-1 Big Northern Conference East?) – Cogs off to good start in conference, stronger opponents to come
3. Kaneland (6-8, 0-1 NI Big 12 East) – Tough loss to DeKalb after winning first set.
4. Hinckley-Big Rock (6-5-1, 1-1 Little Ten Conference) – Royals trying to get healthy as conference play starts.
5. Sycamore (4-5, 0-1 NI Big 12 East) – Overwhelmed by DeKalb's hitting in two-game loss.
6. Indian Creek (2-5, 1-1 Little Ten) – Won first Little Ten game against Serena
7. Hiawatha (0-6, 0-1 Little Ten) – Young Hawks taking baby steps
Less than 24 hours after DeKalb rallied past Kaneland for a three-game victory at home to open the Northern Illinois Big 12 East schedule, the Barbs had to ready themselves to play against their biggest rival, Sycamore.
Because of the schedule, DeKalb played potentially its two biggest NI Big 12 East home matches back-to-back. And they handled it well.
The Barbs swept Sycamore, 25-18, 25-15, after struggling through the early parts of the first game.
DeKalb coach Ben Fisher credited his team's experience as one of the reasons DeKalb was able to flush out the Kaneland victory and refocus on Sycamore in such a short period of time.
"We have a lot of kids who play year-round so when they're on a weekend in club or something, they'll play nine or ten matches in three days so I think it's a lot easier for those types of kids who have that experience," Fisher said.
Dempsay steps up: Reserve players can often be positively effected by the home crowd and Indian Creek got a nice boost from its bench in its home opener this week.
Indian Creek junior Sarah Dempsay was a critical part of Indian Creek's three-game comeback victory over Serena to give the Timberwolves their first win in the Little Ten Conference.
"She played aggressively and consistently," Indian Creek coach Stephanie Crutcher said. "That was nice to see someone step up and play with some confidence."
Hiawatha making progress: It's been a tough start to the season for Hiawatha, but first-year coach Rick Koselke is starting to see some progress.
The Hawks had a season-high 13 kills in its two-game loss to Alden-Hebron.
A team that features only one player with previous varsity experience should only improve as the season moves on.
VIEWS: DeKalb proves itself as the early conference favorite
Last year everything came through for DeKalb at the end of the season.
Despite struggling in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, the Barbs won a Class 4A regional championship. Lessons learned with losses during the regular season paid off with wins in the postseason.
That hasn't been the storyline for DeKalb in 2013. The Barbs couldn't have started the conference season off any better with wins over Kaneland and Sycamore on back-to-back nights.
Despite the two victories, DeKalb coach Ben Fisher will be the first to say the Barbs are far from a finished product.
"We still have a long way to go. I think that's fairly obvious," Fisher said. "We need to have a lot more consistency. We're all over the map sometimes for certain things we're trying to do on the court."
Like last year, there are certainly things to clean up. Holding a large lead, DeKalb couldn't close out Kaneland in the first set of Monday's match, and the Barbs made a number of early hitting errors in the first set against Sycamore, allowing the Spartans to hang close.
But this season, the Barbs are winning and learning. And that makes them the early team to beat in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East.
• Ross Jacobson is the sports editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @RossJacobson.