Illiana Christian’s tall front line overpowers Ridgewood

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LANSING — The Illiana Christian girls volleyball team cruised to a comfortable 25-16, 25-16 Metro Suburban East victory over Ridgewood on Thursday evening.

The Vikings did so in spite of nine service errors, which they overcame by playing well in all the other facets of the game.

“I feel like we’re well-rounded enough to be able to get back into it,” Illiana Christian junior Sydnee VanBeek said. “Just shake [the missed serves] off, say, ‘You made an error, but you can fix it with a pass.’ Or, ‘You made an error, you can fix it with hitting.’ We’re a good enough team to where we can come back from a serving error.”

Illiana Christian (11-9, 5-2) proved that on Thursday, especially when it came to feeding the ball to its tall front line.

The Vikings recorded 19 kills against Ridgewood (10-15, 3-4), and it was 6-1 outside hitter Jamie Petrarca and VanBeek who were the most effective. Petrarca, a senior, had a match-best seven kills. VanBeek, a 6-2 outside hitter who has verbally committed to Ball State, had five kills.

Illiana Christian jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the first game and Ridgewood never threatened. The Rebels did a better job of hanging around early in the second game, however. They rattled off five straight points to tie the match 7-7, but Petrarca responded with a kill to give the Vikings an 8-7 lead.

Then, after Ridgewood went up 9-8, Petrarca ended the next point with a kill to tie the match. Illiana Christian finished the second game with a 16-7 run, and Petrarca’s kills were an important reason for that.

“I do feel like I’m supposed to be the leader for all of the young [girls],” Petrarca said.

Even though his team lost, Ridgewood coach Dave Wlodarczyk was encouraged by what he saw from the Rebels.

“We’re very young, but I think we played with them,” Wlodarczyk said. “I’m proud of the way we played.”

Ridgewood is starting three sophomores and two freshmen, yet they didn’t seem intimidated by VanBeek and Petrarca. That was especially true of 5-9 middle hitter Sandra Dybala and 5-11 right-side hitter Alyssa Malicki. They often were tasked with trying to block Illiana Christian’s outside hitters.

Dybala and Malicki held their own — Dybala, a sophomore, had four blocks — yet there’s only so much a relatively undersized front line can do against hitters who are as talented and tall as VanBeek and Petrarca.

“We were taking away the line from them,” Wlodarczyk said. “But they were going over the top of us. It’s hard to block that.”

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