It’s tough to beat experience.
St. Edward coach Jamie Dovichi traditionally has churned out some of the area’s better teams, and the Green Wave already is showing that having eight seniors back and five returning starters will make them one of the favorites for the final go-around in the Suburban Christian Conference.
“We’ve been working a lot on blocking,” Dovichi said. “We have to kind of quicken up our defense a bit. And we’ve been working a lot on a new offense. It’s the same setters as last year but some of the offense is new.”
St. Edward put up an impressive 25-16, 25-22 victory Thursday over a strong Class 1A Harvest Christian squad as Katie Swanson recorded nine kills and 12 digs.
“Our offense is really athletic,” Dovichi said.
Not all the players are seniors. Having junior Cece Rapp, who Dovichi said “sprouted up a little bit to 6-3,” is a help. And 5-10 sophomore middle Megan Barth is athletic enough that Dovichi is able to do some things with her offense that aren’t standard. Barth had five kills against Harvest Christian.
“Defense is what wins our matches,” Dovichi said.
From that end, the Wave is fortunate to have senior libero Allison Kruk and senior defender Clara McDowell. Also, junior Alyssa Saunders has proved herself in the back row.
The rest of the senior core includes setter Mallory Gross, right-side Cory Kelly, hitters Maria Von Ahnen and Shannon Igielski — and, of course, the 5-10 Swanson.
“She plays a lot higher than her height,” Dovichi said. “She really can jump.”
Harvest Christian hardly is planning to settle back into No. 2 status in the Northeast Athletic Conference behind new power Keith Country Day, the defending Class 1A state champ.
While the Lions lost several key players to graduation, they have one coming in to team with 6-2 Grand Valley State-bound Sydney Doby, who could help them challenge for a conference title, if not a state berth.
Freshman 6-2 middle Mikayla Robinson is doing more than open eyes for coach Kim Floyd’s team, which has been in the supersectional each of the past two years.
“Unbelievable,” she said of the Sky High club player. “Mikayla can jump and reach 10-foot-3, and that’s from a flat start. It was measured at her club.”
With Robinson available for the middle, Floyd is able to move Doby outside and all around after three years in the middle. She seems well suited for the move.
“I noticed she has increased her skill from last year, with a faster arm swing and improved blocking,” Floyd said. “She’s a great team leader. This gives us a lot more options.”
The Lions also have 5-11 Allie Franz and Rachel Oostdyk, so height won’t be a problem.
Elgin’s Abbey Pierre-Louis played middle last year, but the 5-10 junior will be on the outside this year.
“In some of our scrimmages she looked awesome,” coach Scott Stewart said. “She can jump out of the gym so we wanted her outside.”
Elgin’s biggest asset might be its overall athleticism. Stewart’s team also features seniors Melanie Berg, Lauren Alexander, Anna Eckholm, Taylor Hedl, Kelly Miller, Maggie Powers, Jessica Ramirez and Tanya Welch.
“We have a lot of athletes who’ve been successful in other sports and we’re hoping that type of varsity experience carries over to this season,” Stewart said.
Elgin lost Thursday to Upstate Eight Valley power Waubonsie Valley, but had its scheduled opener with Proviso East postponed as a result of hot gym conditions at Chesbrough Field House. That match will be played Tuesday.
This week’s top matches
Hampshire, Dundee-Crown and Jacobs play Saturday in the Jacobs Invitational, a tourney that annually features some of the best teams from the area and beyond. … Bartlett is at Larkin on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in a U46 crossover match. St. Edward is at South Elgin in a nonconference area match, also at 5:30. … Bartlett, South Elgin and Streamwood all play Saturday at the West Aurora tourney.