Gene Chamberlain’s volleyball notebook

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Excitement at Dundee-Crown this fall goes beyond the football team’s 3-0 start.

The Chargers’ volleyball team last weekend finished second at West Chicago’s Pass, Set and Spike tournament, going 4-1 to up their record to 8-6 overall.

Dundee-Crown appears improved and the program headed in the right direction under second-year coach Christine Hopkins-Muehl.

“Even last year with the baby steps the football team was taking, it was trickling over to the whole culture of the school,” Hopkins-Muehl said. “The soccer team is doing really well this fall, the football team. The success is exciting and it builds spirit and it does trickle over.

“We haven’t had a lot of experience with winning in girls sports and the volleyball program lately, so winning is something that’s an idea that can be hard to grasp onto. And we’re trying to establish that it can be done.”

With a 14-22 record last year, D-C laid some groundwork for this season by bringing up right-side hitter Ashley Raby, outside hitter Kiana Mays and setter Frankie Cavallaro. Outside Lauren Lococo, a junior, was already with the varsity last year. Sophomore middle Kailey Moll, 6-foot-1 senior middle Emily Michalski, junior right-side Payton DeLuga and senior libero Kaylee Sommers have all had big parts in the turnaround.

Lococo was coming off a shoulder injury and DeLuga a knee injury when the season started, but both have worked out well.

Michalski is the only 6-footer, but the Chargers have had success blocking to help out their back line, which was a question mark coming into the season. Moll has been a force at the net offensively and defensively.

“She’s probably led us the most in kills and blocks, but we’ve had balance for the most part,” said Hopkins-Muehl, who has been at the school 14 years and was a player and then assistant under former Chargers coach Tracy Williams.

Moll had 13 blocks and seven kills and Michalski 12 kills and nine blocks in the tournament, but the Chargers had numerous contributors. Cavallaro had 11 kills and 38 assists, while serving up seven aces.

“We’ve had a different starting lineup a lot of the time because we have a lot of girls who are pretty equal, interchangeable,” Hopkins-Muehl said. “We need to get more consistent, especially on defense.”

More involvement at the club level has been a big part of D-C’s turnaround. The Chargers’ numbers overall for the program are up, with 19 freshmen.

“We’ve got more players than we’ve ever had playing club — Sky High, Top Flight and a few at Fusion — but I wouldn’t say they have to be club players,” Hopkins-Muehl said. “If they are in other sports, too, that’s fine. As long as they are active.”

D-C has a big Fox Valley Valley test coming up Thursday at home against Huntley.

Challengers

Westminster Christian hosts rival Harvest Christian Thursday night and with only one loss coming into this week, the Warriors have made an early statement.

They’ve fought through a preseason ankle injury to middle Emily Beachler and are blessed with height in 6-2 Claire Spewiek and 6-footer Savannah Dutcher.

Coach Kathy Ramos, who returned five starters from last year, was concerned most with her setting heading into the season. But newcomer Emma Kovachevich has played well. Senior libero Cassidy Finnegan has provided backcourt stability for the defense.

Harvest Christian has played a tough slate, including a 16-25, 25-16, 25-16 loss to perennial power Marian Central and a 27-25, 25-14 loss to defending Class 1A champ Keith Country Day last week.

Showdowns

Thursday night, St. Edward (9-4) hosts unbeaten Montini, with the Green Wave coming off a Monday night win at Aurora Christian … Elgin-Larkin II, the crosstown battle, is set for Tuesday, Sept. 24, at Elgin.

Larkin beat Elgin in a pool -play match at last weekend’s West Chicago tourney en route to a fourth-place finish.

Rankings

1. St. Charles East 12-3.

2. St. Charles North 10-0.

3. Huntley 7-2.

4. Jacobs 5-5.

5. St. Edward 9-4.

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