My favorite story of 2009

When you watch sports for a living, on occasion you get a special feeling about a team you cover. I inherited the Glenbrook beat in February, but the more research I did over the next few months, the more I liked what I saw about Glenbrook South’s girls volleyball team. They turned out to be the real deal and never disappointed me. Sure, I had some doubts along the way.

I’ve watched a lot of volleyball in more than 20 years of covering high school sports and I have rarely seen a team reach the state finals without a dependable right-side hitter. The Titans (37-5) did it. Heck, most of the time GBS didn’t even field a right side. For those unfamiliar with the sport’s nuances, the majority of a team’s kills come from the strong side to left of the setter since it is easier for a right-handed hitter to strike a ball passed at her instead of passed across her body. The right-side hitter is usually left-handed, but helps keep defenses honest by spreading out their blocks.

GBS’ part-time starting right-side hitter, junior Jessica Campobasso, had only 20 kills on the season. You don’t see that very often. Pioneer Press North Stars player of the year, Ellen Chapman (463 kills), had a career-high 21 kills in a single match this season.

My other major concern with the Titans was serving, or lack of quality serving. There were many times when I thought serving would cost GBS a match. For the most part, it didn’t happen despite the team’s 216 aces and 197 service aces. That ratio would keep less talented teams out of the sectionals.

How excited was I about GBS? I couldn’t wait to see its season opener, a three-set win over York Aug. 31. I saw many of their matches and personally saw three of their five losses during the season. I was about 30 minutes late seeing their only loss at GBN Discovery Oct. 10 against Lyons.

The seniors were such a talented bunch for coach Katie Hoover, a GBS grad. The program should be very proud of 2010 graduates Nicole McJilton, Allie Roemer (above, right), Elise Cregg (above with headband), Miami, Fla.-bound Emani Sims, Columbia-bound Colleen Brennan and Meredith Nuber.

The Titans finished third in the Class 4A state tournament, but it will be hard to forget that GBS had match point against eventual state champion Cary-Grove in the semifinal. The Trojans’ big hammer, Kelly Lamberti, didn’t want to lose either with three kills down the stretch.

My honorable mention favorite stories of the year, in no particular order, belong to:

The GBN boys volleyball team’s run to a sectional final loss, one win away from state.

GBS’ Class 8A state quarterfinal football team, but the Titans lost twice to eventual champion Maine South.

Devin Miller pitched Loyola to its first Class 4A state softball championship to the team’s anthem of “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi.

GBS sophomore Quinlan Prchal shoots to his way to the Illinois Junior Golf Association’s player of the year championship for its Junior Division.

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