Like any sage third-year varsity player Katie Vondra is wise to the ways of volleyball.
Lessons like never letting your guard down with a lead, knowledge the Downers Grove South senior imparted to her teammates Monday.
“I told them we need to learn to push when we’re up, not just push when we’re down,” Vondra said. “It’s hard to know that when you’re up by so many points you actually have to finish the game. No lead is good enough.”
The Mustangs learned the hard way in blowing a Game 1 lead to Naperville Central in Downers Grove, but held their ground in the next two for a 22-25, 25-15, 25-18 win.
Downers South (19-13) didn’t let early disappointment linger, and its springy 5-6 senior was a big reason why.
Vondra had nine kills and nine digs, her smash off a Central defender setting the tone early in Game 2. She followed that with an ace and attack from the back row to give the Mustangs an 8-6 lead, and they never trailed again. In the deciding game Vondra’s block capped off a 6-1 start.
When she wasn’t going high for hits or going low for tough digs, Vondra was leading in the huddle.
“She’s a great captain,” Mustangs coach Trisha Kurth said. “She can speak for me when we’re in timeouts.”
A big rally in Game 1 got Central (15-18) off on the right foot. Trailing 19-13, the Redhawks roared back to tie it 21-21 on a Phoebe Havenaar block. The Redhawks took the lead on a Mustangs net violation, Samantha Herron’s kill from the left pin was blocked out of bounds and Havenaar pounded a slide play for one of her 11 kills.
That early momentum couldn’t carry over for the Redhawks, who also got seven kills and two digs from Herron, five kills from Kristina Bellavia and 24 assists from Andi Davenport.
“For us it came down to unforced errors,” Naperville Central coach Jeff Danbom said. “You need to be able to pass well, defensively be in position to make the best play. There were several times where we were out of position which didn’t allow us to even get a touch on the ball. Or we were off-balance and we couldn’t make the play we need to.”
Danbom still feels things are crystallizing for Central with regionals around the corner. Finally locked into a set lineup, the Redhawks took the bronze division at Glenbard East’s Autumnfest tournament over the weekend, winning all three Saturday matches in two games.
“Quite a bit this season we’ve been tinkering with the lineup,” Danbom said. “Saturday we had the same lineup and I think the girls found some consistency.”
Downers South, likewise, is whole at the right time — and most importantly, healthy. Rachel Schneider, a 6-3 right-side, is back from a shoulder injury and pounded 10 kills Monday. Sophomore Kiera James also had 10 kills.
“It makes a big difference to have (Rachel) back,” Kurth said. “Kiera adjusts well and she’s learning the game faster.”