Olivia Cotton is one of the best liberos in the Big Northern Conference, but her job is being made easier by the development of one of Genoa-Kingston’s front-line players.
Lindsay Sunderlage had five blocks in Tuesday’s two-game victory over Marengo and G-K coach Keith Foster said her development has forced opposing teams to hit in predictable patterns, allowing G-K to play some good volleyball.
“She’s come around strong at the right time. She’s providing front-line defense that allows our back-line defense to do their jobs better,” Foster said. “Teams are starting to notice her body in the middle.”
Kaneland learning: Kaneland coach Kerri McCastland didn’t recognize the team that fell to DeKalb in two quick games Tuesday at home.
During the weekend, Kaneland had played in a tournament in Iowa and battled Bettendorf, a top team in the state, before losing late in the match.
“It amazes me because 48 hours ago in Iowa, we’re against the No. 1 team in Iowa, who just won a state championship last year in 4A and we’re playing point for point to go into the semifinal,” McCastland said. “It’s just a night-and-day moment.”
McCastland attributed the change to her youthful team, one of the youngest in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East. But she was hopeful they would turn it around before long.
“Sometimes you have these matches, you’re job is just to live through them, let them not define you,” McCastland said. “You’ve got to learn how to get up from it and you’ve got to play Thursday.”
Errors OK for DeKalb: The Barbs played almost error-free volleyball in the first game of their road victory at Kaneland on Tuesday.
But coach Ben Fisher said that wasn’t a main theme in the Barbs’ tournament championship at Glenbrook North.
“We made our fair share of errors over the weekend. The way we want to play we’re going to [be aggressive at the net],” Fisher said. “The difference is we’re moving on, not dwelling on the fact that we made an error, weren’t in the right place for a bar or missed a serve.”
Fisher said he wants his team to serve aggressively and expects to make some service errors. But the Barbs have been cleaner on offense, not committing as many unforced hitting mistakes.
“We’re not making those errors offensively so when you take that away it gives us more room to go ahead and miss those serves and maybe get aced here and there,” Fisher said. “It’s OK because we’re not making the silly errors.”
VIEWS: Barbs coach thinks his team can still improve
DeKalb’s win over Kaneland seemed effortless. Almost too easy.
Compared to a month ago when the Barbs were forced to go to three games at home, DeKalb looked completely different.
Does DeKalb coach Ben Fisher think DeKalb is playing its best volleyball of the season right now?
“Without a doubt,” he said.
DeKalb is on a roll and the Barbs’ healthy 24-3 record is impressive. Although the Barbs will once again be in the Class 4A playoff bracket, their regional matchups set up well for another long postseason run.
With only three conference matches remaining and a couple weeks until the postseason, DeKalb is peaking at the right time. However, Fisher thinks his team can keep improving.
“We have a good balance right now in our mentality,” Fisher said. “We’re probably playing some of the best volleyball we’ve played, but I think we can play at a higher level, I really do.”
• 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.
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Bemis led the Barbs in kills during the weekend as DeKalb went 5-0 and won the Glenbrook North tournament title.
What to watch
Sycamore at Kaneland, 6 p.m. today
Big Northern Illinois Big 12 East match for both teams looking to carry momentum late in the season.
Richmond-Burton at Genoa-Kingston, 6 p.m. Tuesday
Genoa-Kingston will look to avenge one of its three Big Northern Conference East losses when it hosts the Rockets.
1. DeKalb (24-3, 7-0 NI Big 12 East) – The Barbs are playing relaxed and confident.
2. Genoa-Kingston (13-9, 7-3 Big Northern Conference East) – The Cogs rebounded after a loss to Burlington Central.
3. Kaneland (9-12, 3-4 NI Big 12 East) – The Knights had a good weekend in Iowa.
4. Hinckley-Big Rock (9-8-1, 4-3 Little Ten Conference) – The Royals split two tough matches against LaMoille.
5. Sycamore (13-13, 2-5 NI Big 12 East) – The Spartans lost tough three-game matches to Yorkville.
6. Indian Creek (8-11, 4-2 LTC) – The Timberwolves picked up a nonconference win over Mooseheart.
7. Hiawatha (2-16, 0-7 Little Ten) – Hiawatha is going through a tough season with a young team.