Veronica Cribbs thrust into full-time role with Hinsdale South

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DARIEN — When the season began, senior Veronica Cribbs did not expect to be the primary setter for Hinsdale South’s girls volleyball.

Senior Lizzy Niestrom’s season-ending knee injury Sept. 16 changed everything for the Hornets. She tore the ACL and MCL in her right knee and fractured a bone. She plans on having surgery later this month after completing some therapy on her knee.

Suddenly Cribbs, her backup, was placed in an unexpected full-time role.

“My whole world took a 180 [that day],” Cribbs said. “I used to share some time with her and now on the varsity I was playing two rotations and I had to work harder than I already have.

“Lizzy is my rock. Team-wise, I’m always looking to her if I get stuck. During timeouts, she’ll always help me.”

Cribbs, who’s 5-5, is three inches shorter than Niestrom, but that can feel like a foot when trying to block taller outside hitters. That has been one of the challenges for the Hornets (8-21, 3-1 West Suburban Gold) now that Cribbs plays a full rotation.

When Niestrom was around, she was always a bigger blocking presence at the net with outside hitter Taylor Barnes or middle hitter Faith Sims.

Hinsdale South coach Lisa Tazelaar knows she does not have many other options at setter.

“[Cribbs] has a big role, but now we’re taking on a smaller sized setter,” Tazelaar said. “She has come into her own a little more with confidence. As a senior, she lacked a high level of experience, but she is getting it real quickly.”

On senior night Oct. 14 against Morton, Niestrom returned to the court for the first time since her injury. She served to open the match and also had the final serve when Barnes delivered a kill.

“It was very rewarding,” Niestrom said. “I really miss playing volleyball. It was so great to be on the court with my teammates.

“We watch video as a team, but I try to help Veronica a lot. I talk to her a few times to take that [leadership] role off her. She knows what the pressure is like 24/7 and being the quarterback of the team.”

The Hornets finished 22nd out of 24 teams at the St. Charles East Mizuno Cup Oct. 11 at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora. They’re the No. 11 seed in the Class 4A Mother McAuley Sectional and open the postseason against 22nd-seeded Kenwood at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the Eisenhower Regional. The winner plays sixth-seeded Hinsdale Central on Tuesday.

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