Crystal Lake South’s Carly Nolan gets her kicks at the net

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When Carly Nolan’s mother convinced her to give up soccer and focus on volleyball, the Crystal Lake South junior decided to become a setter like her mom.

The experiment didn’t last long.

“I was actually a big soccer player,” Nolan said. “I love soccer. But then my mom switched me into [volleyball] and I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I want to set so bad,’ and I tried setting and I was awful. I was so bad at it. My mom was happy I was a hitter.”

Her mom isn’t the only one who’s happy she switched. Nolan, a three-year starter, leads Crystal Lake South (21-2) in kills and recently led the Gators to a second-place finish at the McAuley Challenge and the title of the Elk Grove Invitational.

Nolan has developed a reputation for stepping up in critical situations.

“In an intense match, she’s the one who will take the team on her shoulders at that moment and really carry it through, which is usually when you’re getting all the kills and all the good stuff,” Crystal Lake South coach Jorie Fontana said. ‘‘The thing about her is that she keeps her composure.

‘‘She’s not a player who gets swayed by the game or the momentum. She just stays Carly. She plays nice and strong. She’s got a great swing, but she’s smart and she adjusts. She can read the defense.”

Nolan’s calm confidence comes with being raised in a volleyball environment. Her mother is former Texas Tech setter Mary Loescher, who is fourth on the school’s all-time list for career assists.

“[The volleyball court] is Carly’s home,” Fontana said. “She’s a true competitor, from being the first person on the bus to being the first person to try something at practice. She competes in everything she does.”

Nolan also competes with herself, driving herself to improve her all-around game.

“I’ve really worked to improve my back-row passing and serve-receive,” Nolan said. “I’ve gotten a lot stronger and improved my hitting from the back row, too. [Coach] Fontana makes us take weightlifting during the school year, so we’re lifting like three times a week.”

Nolan is strong enough to carry Crystal Lake South a long way when the state tournament kicks off in a few weeks. But win or lose, she still has her No. 1 fan in the stands.

“My mom’s my No. 1 fan,” Nolan said. “I can hear her from the stands, and my dad, when it’s dead silent. I can hear my dad. It doesn’t bother me.”

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