Beacon-News’ girls volleyball notebook

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It’s “The Year After” for Kari Nicholson and the West Aurora volleyball program.

Consensus all-stater and Gatorade National Player of the Year Lauren Carlini has moved on to the University of Wisconsin and is starting at setter for the nationally ranked Badgers after missing time earlier this season with a hamstring injury.

The Blackhawks, who won or shared the DuPage Valley Conference title the past two seasons, are 6-13-1 overall and 4-5 in the league entering Tuesday’s home date against Wheaton Warrenville South.

“It’s different,” Nicholson said, “but Lauren wasn’t our only loss. We graduated nine seniors from last year’s team, both setters, both right sides, a middle and outside hitter.”

Add some injuries to the inexperience in the Blackhawks’ lineup and the drop off in record is understandable.

West returned only two players with varsity experience, current kills leader outside hitter Demi Heiss and middle blocker Abriya Zeitz, who was sick early in the season and missed some matches. Junior right-side hitter Alyssa Carlini suffered an ankle injury and missed some time and junior Mallory Jones, another experienced returnee, has missed the entire season.

“Mallory had (ACL) knee surgery in the spring,” Nicholson said of the 5-10 junior. “It will be six months since her surgery on Oct. 21 and that’s when she’ll be able to start running and doing more, but she won’t be able to play this season.”

Nicholson has utilized three different players at setter and has settled on a 6-2 offense with junior Sarah Vandorn and sophomore Kelly Townsend handling the duties. Juniors Kristin Fick (6-0, outside) and Lucy Currie (5-11, middle/right-side) have stepped up as expected.

“I don’t think our record says what we can do,” Nicholson noted. “On Monday, we went three games with Naperville Central. We haven’t played very consistent and we’ve had trouble finishing, but we have a lot of potential with this team.

“We’re playing better as the season has gone on and that’s what you want to do.”

Little Ten Tourney

Newark’s 12-2 record and 4-0 start in the Little Ten Conference season that included coach Tonya Grayson’s 300th career win helped earn the Norsemen the No. 1 seed in this week’s conference tournament at Leland.

It could be a tough road, though, for Newark, which was scheduled to open play Tuesday in the event against No. 8 seed Paw Paw.

The Bulldogs advanced from Monday’s play-in game against No. 9 Hiawatha.

Meanwhile, Grayson was scrambling to decide on a lineup that she said figures to include mostly junior varsity players after she suspended a number of varsity players for violation of team rules.

Senior outside hitter Kristina Nichols, Newark’s lone returning starter this season and the team’s kills leader, could be the only regular on the floor.

In other tourney action Monday, No. 3 seed Somonauk defeated No. 6 Serena 25-22, 25-23 and will meet the winner of Tuesday’s second quarterfinal between No. 2 LaMoille-Ohio and No. 7 Leland-Earlville on Thursday in the 7 p.m. semifinal.

In Monday’s other match, Hinckley-Big Rock knocked off No. 4 Indian Creek 25-23, 25-21 and will meet the winner of the Newark-Paw Paw match on Thursday at 6 p.m.

The title match is set for Friday at 7 p.m.

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