NORTHBROOK — Caroline Smith did something last year that it’s unlikely many upperclassmen would be willing to do.
As a junior, she passed up a chance to be on Glenbrook North’s varsity girls volleyball team and instead played for the program’s JV squad. Smith said it was a difficult decision, but one that paid off for all parties involved.
Instead of being buried on the varsity bench, Smith, a setter, got a chance to start every match and helped the JV Spartans to the CSL North championship. That experience helped her to become a varsity starter as a senior this season.
“I love volleyball, and I love the program,” Smith said. “I wanted to be involved in any way I could last year. I was excited to accept the challenge [of playing on the JV team].
“I definitely needed that year. It made me a more consistent setter, which is the most important part of the position. I improved dramatically.”
Glenbrook North coach Chris Cooper said Smith’s leadership was instrumental in the JV team’s success. It’s a quality she brought to this season’s varsity team.
“She was the heart of that team, and she brings so much energy to this team,” Cooper said. “She is such a team player and sets a great example.”
Smith opened the season as the starter, but she suffered a concussion in the second match against Mundelein. She only recently returned to action, and Smith made her first start since the opener in Monday’s 25-17, 25-16 win over Deerfield in Central Suburban North play. She finished with a team-high 10 assists for the Spartans (9-8, 3-1).
In Smith’s extended absence, juniors Lucy Davis and Sharon Zhao played the position. Smith said she had to re-earn her starting job.
“It was hard to sit out because it’s so important to be playing at the beginning of the season because that’s when everybody starts clicking with one another,” Smith said. “It’s a crucial part.”
Volleyball isn’t all that Smith does at Glenbrook North. She’s the school’s vice president and the executive editor of the Torch, the student-run newspaper.
“I have a lot of things on my mind, and then I had to work extra hard in practice to become the starter again,” Smith said. “It was frustrating to get back to where I started.
“I was worried, but I was determined to do it.”
• The Warriors (11-10, 1-3) held leads in both games before fading down the stretch. They lost nine of the last 11 points in the first game and got behind midway through the second game following a 10-3 run by the Spartans.
• Junior outside hitter Molly Nakahara had a game-best six kills in the loss.