It’s how you finish.
The Crystal Lake crew opened the Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open with four consecutive losses and found themselves buried in Bracket D. But the girls won seven of their next 11 matches to work their way up to Bracket B.
Two losses Sunday – to Motion Volleyball 16 BLU and 1st Alliance 16 Black – sent Sky High Adidas 16 Red back to Bracket C when the Power League wraps up play next week. But it’s a far cry from where the team started.
“They’ve been playing extremely well,” said coach Becky Muff, who was coaching little girls’ volleyball in Libertyville in January when she was brought in to right the ship. “We just need to fight a little bit more.
“We’ll come in one day and be ready to win the national championship, and the next day we can be on Court 11 (the second-to-last court at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center).
“We’re mixing up positions and bringing in a few people during tournaments so they have to fight for their positions,” she added. “I think that’s what we need.”
Sky High Adidas 16 Red had its best showing of the season at the 2018 Asics Show Me Qualifier in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 7-9. The team won five of its first six matches in the USA Division before losing to Asics MAVS 16-3 30-28, 25-15 to finish ninth out of 71 teams.
“We showed up really well in Kansas City,” Muff said. “We knocked out the first two seeds.”
Energy, aggressiveness and a more positive mind-set have fueled Sky High Adidas 16 Red’s turnaround.
“The team is pretty good at being aggressive and being energetic on the court,” said Sky High Adidas 16 Red’s 5-foot-10 setter Dunja Masic from McHenry. “We’re all close friends on the court and we have real good chemistry.
“Everything has been a lot more positive over the past few weeks and that helps a lot, too,” she added.
In addition to Masic, Sky High Adidas 16 Red team members include 6-foot outside hitter Lillian Cozzi from Stevenson, 6-1 middle blocker Gabrielle Davis from Marian Central, 5-5 defensive specialist Alexis Kantner from Prairie Ridge, and 5-11 outside hitter Evynn Layshock from Cary-Grove.
Also, 6-foot outside hitter Natalia Rieger from Glenbrook South, 5-10 defensive specialist Ella Ruder from Belvidere, 5-11 outside hitter Alyssa Thrash from Lake Forest, 6-2 middle blocker Juliette Van Den Herik from Hersey, and 5-8 defensive specialist McKenzie Wilson of Crystal Lake South.
Rieger has been out with a concussion and was unavailable Sunday, and Davis sat out Sunday’s opener after missing practice last week with an illness.
“That probably affected us a little bit, too (in the loss Sunday to Motion Volleyball 16 BLU),” Muff said.
Layshock, Kantner and Wilson have been mainstays for Sky High Adidas 16 Red, Muff said.
“Layshock leads the team in kills and has been very consistent,” the coach said. “And we switch up our liberos (Kantner and Wilson), who have given us very consistent serve-receive … phenomenal serve-receive.
“That been great for us because our own setter doesn’t have to move at all and we can run offense,” Muff added. “Today, they struggled a little bit. They have their days.”
Sky High Adidas 16 Red did finish on a high note Sunday, rallying to defeat Illini Elite 16 Black 14-25, 25-21, 20-18. The team will wrap up Power League play next Sunday beginning with a match against WVA 16 Black at 9:00 a.m. on Court 6.
“We’ve come a long way,” Muff said. “We moved our way up. But the girls are still getting to know me. I’m a hard coach. There’s definitely a different philosophy now. It probably was a lot more fun before, but we’ve definitely had success.
“The way that they played in Kansas City showed them and everyone else that they’re capable of doing very well at a very high level,” the coach added.
For more results from Sunday’s Power League action and a schedule for the final round of league play next Sunday, go to https://www.advancedeventsystems.com/EventResults/(S(ribkdoit4i1cm5nzyc0bqo45))/Standings.aspx?e=PTAwMDAwMTM3MDM90&d=60257