Behind Claire Grove, Neuqua Valley makes short work of Bolingbrook

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Neuqua Valley needed a quick night.

The Wildcats were pushed to three games in all three of their matches Saturday at the Wheaton Classic. They were dealing with a rash of illnesses.

Head coach Kelly Simon was away from the team for personal reasons.

Just what the doctor ordered Monday, Neuqua made short work of host Bolingbrook 25-17, 25-12.

“It was nice to have a day off Sunday,” assistant coach Shannon McGowan said. “They definitely had some tired legs. There were some things to overcome, but they did a good job.”

Claire Grove had 10 kills, Kaelan Haag added eight kills and eight assists and Emily Krachenfels totaled 14 assists for Neuqua (10-8), which trailed 1-0 in both games but only one time thereafter.

Two Grove kills blocked out of bounds and a Grove crosscourt kill keyed a 5-1 run that opened up Game 1. Back-to-back Grove kills followed by consecutive Sarah Daneliak aces touched off a decisive 11-0 stretch that gave the Wildcats a commanding 13-2 Game 2 advantage.

“We did a good job of making adjustments and controlling our side of the court,” McGowan said. “After Saturday we focused on when we get a lead don’t get too comfortable. [Monday] we continued to build on it.”

Grove, complimenting her back-row teammates, singled out Neuqua’s improved defense as an essential to its consistency. Caricia Rodriguez set the tone for that hustle early in Game 1, lunging for an outstanding save which led to a Haag kill.

“We want to have that mentality that we are going to pursue every ball,” Grove said. “We kept the energy up and we had a few of the players come in from the back row give us a boost.”

Bolingbrook (4-5) was its worst enemy, giving away 11 points on errors in Game 1 — including five straight that allowed Neuqua to pull away from an 18-15 lead.

Megan Bielawski and Juliana Wober each had four kills and Nicole Gambon five assists and four digs for the Raiders, who had only played two matches in two weeks coming in. Their coach felt it could have been a contributor to a lackluster showing.

“That might have something to do with it — I’m not sure what happened,” Bolingbrook coach Andrea Bercot said. “We are way more competitive than what we showed. Offensively we are better than that; way too many hitting errors. Usually we find the court better.”

Grove, a junior outside, is finding the court just fine in her first full varsity season. Called up for the playoffs last year, she feels much more at ease with another club season under her belt .

She is emerging as one of Neuqua’s most consistent threat from the pins.

“Offensively she’s just really consistent,” McGowan said. “She’s a smart player and she finds the open spots on the court.”

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