FRANKLIN PARK — Leyden setter Autumn McGee is just a sophomore but she played an instrumental role Wednesday in the Eagles’ 25-15, 25-15 nonconference win over Elmwood Park on Senior Night.
McGee had 24 assists to help get the Eagles one game closer back to a .500 record (13-14). Her rapid ascension to a pivotal spot on varsity is even more incredible considering she just began setting last year.
“She came in as a freshman and wanted to swing and she has a great arm,” Leyden head coach Danielle Kowalkowski said. “But she has great hands and knows the game. We don’t have a ton of athletes that come into Leyden with club experience and she does. She has such good court awareness and knowledge of the game that I knew she would be our setter.”
McGee was a little unsure when she was asked to be a setter, but she trusted her coaches.
“Last year we only had one other setter on the sophomore team and the other setter on varsity was a senior,” McGee said. “I think at tryouts they just saw my setting skills were standing out more than my hitting skills.”
But what makes the 5-7 McGee so dangerous is that she does have those hitting skills. She had a couple of blocks against Elmwood Park and can even bring down the hammer if need be.
“She’s definitely one of the most talented girls in the program, hands down,” Kowalkowski said. “She has a great jump serve, big hands and a great block. She passes the ball well on defense and whenever she passes the ball we make sure she gets the third touch because she has a great swing too.”
With a year of varsity experience, McGee has also been able to step up and take a larger leadership role on the team.
“When they moved me up it was hard to transition and fit in because I was with older kids,” McGee said. “It was kind of scary but as the season went on I got the hang of it. When we went through summer league I got to know my teammates even more and it’s a lot easier to speak up now. Now I’m a captain and I have to be one of the most vocal players on the court and I have to make sure were playing as a team.”
Having McGee for the next two seasons bodes well for Leyden and the Eagles may even add another McGee next season. Younger sister Camryn, a freshman, is playing on the sophomore team as a right-side hitter.
“I think next year she’ll be moved up for sure,” Autumn McGee said. “I think the chemistry will be good because we’re so close. She would be a good leader too and being on the same team would be really cool.”
Camryn McGee is excited about the prospects of playing with her older sister.
“We always practice together at home so it would probably be pretty easy to play together,” she said. “Plus it would be great to be on varsity for three years, because that’s something that colleges look for.”
- Other contributors in the win over Elmwood Park were Emily Steininger (10 kills, 2 aces) and Camille Lazzarotto (6 kills, 3 aces)
- Leyden begins the IHSA state playoffs on Oct. 28 when it faces Whitney Young in the Class 4A Whitney Young Regional semifinals.