The excitement of having a new coach and the start of a new season came to a jarring thud Aug. 26 for Chicago Christian in a 25-15, 25-14 loss to Shepard.
But oh, how things have turned around since.
The Knights went through their season-opening tournament like a buzz saw and improved to 6-1 Tuesday in a 25-9, 25-14 victory over Oak Lawn behind five kills and five digs by Leah Kamp.
Leah Kamp, Anna Kamp and Sam Kubik are three key players who return from last year’s 28-12 team that reached the Class 3A quarterfinals.
The effort against Shepard was an eye-opener for both the new coach and players, Chrissy Gust said.
“The match at Shepard was actually my first time ever seeing the girls play in a match,” said Gust, who for six years directed a Christian volleyball club in Lemont. “I knew how they practiced, but I quickly noticed that there was a disconnect in how they practiced and how they played.
“After we lost I called them together to regroup and we unpacked the match almost play by play. Losing to Shepard really lit a fire under them and made them realize the only way they would be successful this season was if they worked together.”
The Knights went 5-0 to win their own tournament for the first time, beating De La Salle 25-22, 25-21 in the title match as Kubik had 15 assists and Leah Kamp eight kills.
For the record
She already has broken it twice, and as a junior, Shepard’s Caroline Graham will be looking to make it three years in a row she sets a school single-season standard for assists
In 2013, Graham had 639 assists (along with 36 aces and 98 digs). She went into Thursday’s match against Oak Forest needing one more assist to break the school career assist record of 1,250, held by Stephanie Korbakes.
“All great setters are competitors, commanders, composed and communicators,” Shepard coach Dan Grunauer said. “Caroline came in a competitor as a freshman and developed her composure and ability to command a team last year.
“She is slowly, but surely, honing the communication a setter must have with the head coach to push a team to the next level.”
Following her call
Jodi Frigo said her decision to leave Marist’s boys volleyball program to take a job at Lincoln-Way Central as a girls volleyball coach and a speech and language pathologist was a no-brainer.
“Seeing as Marist is a private Catholic institute, they did not have a teaching position in my area of special education services,” Frigo said. “Being able to pursue both of my passions in one location was a dream.
“When I walk the halls (at Central) and see both my special education students and my athletes together it’s surreal. I didn’t realize until now how much I was missing out on not being in my athletes’ world and the high school atmosphere.”
Player of the Week
Sami Knight, of Sandburg, is the SouthtownStar Girls Volleyball Player of the Week.
Knight, a senior setter, had 103 assists and 10 aces as the Eagles went 5-0 and won the Plainfield North Tournament. In a 25-18, 26-24 win over Lincoln-Way North in the title match, she had 26 assists.