OPRF’s Meg Valenti goes all-in with volleyball

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LA GRANGE — Oak Park-River Forest senior Meg Valenti has come a long way in a short period of time.

As a middle hitter, Valenti is the team’s force at the net, leading the team in blocks. However, she grew up playing multiple sports and also pole vaulted for the Huskies track and field team her first two years of high school.

But she grew to love volleyball much more and now she’s 100-percent committed to just one sport.

“Going into freshman year I played with a very laid-back club team,” Valenti said. “It’s fun when you’re successful at something, and I decided I wanted to be more successful in volleyball so I started playing with a more serious club team.”

After her sophomore season Valenti joined First Alliance/Lyons Juniors before moving to Powerhouse last summer.

Valenti’s teammate and best friend, senior setter Natalie Haber, has watched the transformation over the last couple years.

“She’s gotten so much better and her hits are so much harder,” Haber said. “Now she can jump really high, which is awesome for the block and it’s especially good for me setting. You can set the ball a little higher and they have the advantage of being able to hit over or around the blockers.”

Valenti also got a nudge towards volleyball from her brother D.J., who played volleyball for OPRF and graduated in 2012.

“He definitely influenced me,” Meg Valenti said. “I remember going to his games and saw his team and how close they were. He taught me how to keep my elbow up while hitting and he’s given me a lot of advice. Whenever he’s home, he comes to as many of my games as he can. We still play in the backyard and pepper with each other a lot.”

OPRF head coach Don August coached both D.J and Meg Valenti. He said Meg Valenti has been an important force at the net while starting each of the last two seasons.

“She has a really good knack for blocking and blocking is such a difficult skill because you need timing and you need to be in the right spot,” August said. “She picked that up very well and is one of our leading blockers the last two years.”

What makes Valenti so special is that she’s not just a defender, she also has two-way ability.

“She’s also one of our leading hitters and has a good feel for where the block is when she’s hitting and she’s able to get the ball past them, especially on the quick attacks.” August said. “She has a very high hitting percentage and her movement ability and her ability to read the play lets her have a big impact on the game.”

The Huskies have hovered around .500 this season and earned the No. 5 seed at the DeLaSalle Sectional. They were set to open the playoffs on Tuesday at the DeLaSalle Sectional. If they get past their regional semifinal match, they could run into Trinity at 6 p.m. Thursday for the championship.

“We’re struggling a little bit,” Valenti said. “We’re so up and down right now, but we’re hoping to hit our stride for playoffs. We have so much individual talent on our team, we just need to learn how to work together.”

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