LINCOLNSHIRE — Stevenson’s girls volleyball team is figuring out how to play together this 2014 season. It’s just taking some time.
“We have nobody with experience. It’s the process of these girls just learning how to compete on the varsity level,” coach Tim Crow said.
On Sept. 10, the Patriots hosted Libertyville in the NSC Lake opener for both teams. The Wildcats took the first set 25-18 (winning the match 25-18, 25-22), but spurts of energy and focus in the second set lifted Stevenson’s hopes for the rest of the season.
An 18-12 deficit shrank to 22-21, with junior Morgan Berland and senior Dana Pflugradt largely responsible for the 9-4 run. The two back-row specialists initiated offense by digging out Wildcat kill attempts, which led to offensive opportunities often finished with a heavy swing from sophomore outside hitter Jori Radtke.
“Wherever they had her on the net, she was finding the holes, just kind of going off the top of the block,” Libertyville coach Greg Loika said of Radtke. “Our block is a pretty formidable block and she was going off the top of it.”
Radtke acknowledged that Stevenson still must work on finishing matches.
“We are trying to bring that intensity and have the mindset to have the will to win and to fight and push through those situations,” said Radtke, who finished the match with seven kills. “We don’t have that.”
Stevenson reached a Class 4A sectional final a season ago with a senior-dominated lineup. As a freshman, Radtke was in the rotation along with veterans Khaila Donaldson, Julia Osmond, Kara Maleski and Alexa Bykowski.
Playing time was earned, forcing Radtke to compete every day.
“I had to prove myself,” said the 5-foot-11 Radtke, who is now a left outside hitter after spending most of 2013 as a back-row passer.
Stevenson’s offense is at its best when Berland and Pflugradt are firing first touches in the direction of junior setter Corissa Kurth.
A backup to Bykowski last season, Kurth now is charged with lofting second touches to Radtke and junior hitter Isabella Milejczyk. Kurth said observing her senior teammates last year helped shape her leadership skills this season.
“How they reacted to situations impacted me a lot. I understand the responsibility of leading the team and keeping everyone calm and composed,” she said.
Kurth said the Patriots still need work on the court, but she is optimistic improvement will come.
“We have to flip the switch and find a competitive balance between experience and composure on the court,” she said. “I think we’ll feel more comfortable in those high-intensity situations.”