Maroon Volleyball Set Themselves Up for Victory

The varsity team poses menacingly for a team picture. From left to right: Top Row – Kate Young, Emma Rohrer, Emma Atkinson, Alyssa Olson, Dana Westfield, Taya Westfield, JD Young, Julia Deters, Madilyn Collins. Bottom Row – Maddie McMahon, Katie Sloniger, Virtuous Thomas, Audrey Akins, Kelley McDonald, Ariel Aimone. Photo: HR Imaging

The Central varsity volleyball team showed no mercy to the Peoria High School volleyball team as the Maroons eased into their thirteenth victory of the season on Tuesday, September 16th. Central was ahead in the first set 21-1, quickly finishing off the Lions 25-4. The first set lasted only fifteen minutes, with the entire match taking less than thirty minutes to complete.The second set was a bit closer, with the Lions managing to double their score from the first set, but it proved not enough to beat the Maroons. The second set ended with a final score of 25-8.

This has been the typical outcome for most of the varsity games, with Central dominating their opponents. With only losses to St. Thomas More, Lake Forest, and Lena Winslow, the rest of their matches have been heavily one-sided, with the Maroons making quick work of their opponents.

The varsity team’s record now stands at 18 wins and 3 losses. Projected as one of the best teams in the Big 12 conference, they have certainly yet to disappoint. Led by seniors Kate Young, Emma Atkinson, Alyssa Olson, Virtuous Thomas, and Madilyn Collins (redshirted because of a back injury), the team is working towards their goal of qualifying for State, something they fell short of last year. The team last year did not make it past Regionals, falling to Centennial in the regional championship after beating Mahomet in the first round.

Their 17 wins are not a fluke. Juniors Maddie LeGrande and Dana Westfield have stepped up this year to take over the offensive aspect of the Maroon’s game, both averaging 8 kills per per game. Thomas is the libero for the Maroons, meaning she has the specific role of passing, defending, and receiving serves. The libero can also substitute in for anyone at any time during the game, and wears a special jersey to help distinguish her from the rest of the team. Thomas averages around 12 digs per game.

This year, the team is more like a family. During the season, the girls spend almost all of their free time together. Evan Hook, the team’s head coach, attributes their success on the court to the amazing team chemistry. The girls have team bonding sleepovers, lunches, and other get-togethers that allow the girls to get to know each other better. They have also participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as a team, nominating the varsity football team to take part in the challenge.

Aside from the emotional aspect of the team, the girls are also physically fit. They run the Combes Gym stairs, a small tradition that started this year that Hook claims is another reason that they are so successful. With six returning starters, this year’s team is not only older but stronger, taller, and more experienced. With the six starters, the team has a nice balance of experience and new talent, helping the Maroons to perform well this year while also ensuring the future success of the program.

After their success in high school, a few of the players will continue to have volleyball play an active role in their lives. College commits Olson and Westfield have chosen to attend Elmhurst College and Temple University, respectively. LeGrande and Thomas are planning to play in college as well, but has not made the final decision as to where they want to go. LeGrande expects to redshirt her freshman year and is looking for a team where she can have a close relationship with her coach and with her fellow teammates.

The future of the team looks bright. With the great team chemistry and nice mix of experience and new talent, the Maroons pose a threat that no one can ignore.