Tony Baranek’s girls volleybook notebook

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For Shepard coach Dan Grunauer, it’s all about playing the best competition.

To that end, he couldn’t have looked happier Saturday after his Astros completed their debut appearance at the Rich East Invitational.

“I was pumped for this,” he said. “I was dying, begging to get in.”

And although his players weren’t the picture of glee when they walked out of the building at 3-2 after a 25-16, 25-22 loss to Lyons in the Silver Division title match, Grunauer was a pretty satisfied coach.

“I think they were exhausted from the weekend,” he said. “We played Wheaton-St. Francis well Friday (a 25-20, 25-16 loss), and against Downers Grove South (a 25-20, 25-12 Shepard victory) they played really well. Lemont (a 28-26, 22-25, 25-13 Shepard win) was a marathon match.

“They were disappointed that they finished second in the Silver Division. But when you think about it from where Shepard started to where they’re playing now, I don’t know if they’ve ever finished this high at this caliber of a tournament.”

The Astros (19-5) are sitting atop the South Suburban Red at 7-0 record.

Over the weekend, they may have added another piece to what already is a vexing puzzle for opponents.

Senior Chasz Wells stepped up in the middle for Shepard with an eight-kill effort against St. Francis, and added seven kills and seven blocks against Lemont.

“Chasz had kind of a breakthrough weekend,” Grunauer said. “She’s starting to connect with (setter) Caroline Graham. We’ve been outside heavy (hitting-wise), but now we’re starting to become more complete with a full offense.”

Wells finished the weekend with 26 kills and 14 solo blocks. Caroline Graham (97 assists), Kendall Yerkes (49 kills, 16 digs) and Abby Graham (36 kills, 37 digs, 6 aces) also had an impressive tournament for the Astros.

Asics is coming

Mother McAuley laid claim last season to two wins in three tries against national powerhouse Assumption (Kentucky).

The one loss, though, came in the title match of the Asics Challenge, a 25-19, 25-9 trouncing.

Revenge likely will be one of the Mighty Macs’ goals in this tournament, but Assumption is one of several nationally ranked teams that will be making the trek for the Friday-Saturday gathering in Mount Greenwood.

“Sacred Heart of Kentucky is very, very strong,” McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “We have Corona Del Mar of Newport Beach, California. Lone Peak from Utah is very good. Hillcrest of South Carolina won state last year. Catholic Memorial of Wisconsin will be really strong.

“And we have the normal roundup of strong Illinois teams (such as) St. Francis, Sandburg, Cary-Grove and Marist. I don’t know if across the board it’s the strongest tournament (ever), but some of these out of state schools will definitely bring a lot of (quality) to the tournament.”

The Mighty Macs beat Sacred Heart in a tournament in Kentucky earlier in the season. They missed Assumption in the Louisville tournament and are taking a one-year hiatus from their annual night before Asics meeting.

The line continues

Homewood-Flossmoor freshman Delaney Herkert is the third in her family to start at setter for the Vikings. Shannon Herkert was a two-year starter and graduated with all-conference honors in 2009, while Nikki Herkert was a three-year starter who graduated in 2012.

Player of the Week

Simona Tomczak, of Oak Lawn, is the SouthtownStar Girls Volleyball Player of the Week.

Tomczak, a senior outside hitter, had 10 kills and 13 digs as Oak Lawn rallied to post a dramatic 27-25 27-25 victory over crosstown rival Richards.

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