Abbreviated NCAA fall volleyball season concludes for handful of Illinois girls

Belvidere North’s Class of 2019 outside hitter BrookLyn Messenger and her Air Force Academy teammates are expected to begin their COVID-19 delayed season in February.
Notre Dame junior and Mother McAuley graduate Charley Niego

While Illinois high school teams sit idly until February due to the COVID-19 pandemic, several NCAA Division I college teams featuring Illinois Class of 2020 graduates are wrapping up the fall portion their schedules.

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved a plan in late September to conduct 2020 fall championships, including women’s volleyball, in the spring of 2021.

Some Division I schools conducted an abbreviated fall season, and those schools, along with the rest of the NCAA membership, will resume their seasons with practices beginning January 22 and the national championship conducted April 23-25.

Among the teams hoping to make a splash when the scaled-down 48-team bracket is announced is No. 6-ranked Notre Dame (6-1), which suffered its only loss to No. 10 Pitt, 23-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-17, on October 18 before bouncing back to take a pair of matches from Boston College last weekend.

Libero Hattie Monson (Benet Academy), who was named Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Week earlier this fall, had 24 digs for the Irish in their 25-17, 25-20, 25-23 win on Friday and 23 digs and 11 assists in a 25-19, 22-25, 25-11, 25-16 win over the Eagles on Saturday.

Monson finished the fall campaign with 128 digs in 26 sets, good for third in the ACC.

However, Monson is not the only Illinois product making a major contribution for Notre Dame. Class of 2018 Mother McAuley graduate Charley Niego had 16 kills in Saturday’s win and 9 kills in Friday’s three-set romp.

Also seeing the court was 2019 Mother McAuley graduate Nancy Kane, who chipped in an ace in both wins. Rounding out the Illinois contingent for the Irish is 2019 Prairie Ridge graduate Sammi Lockwood, a 6-3 middle blocker, was has yet to see the court in 2020.

Boston College (0-8) features four former Illinois high school players – 2020 graduates Katie Kaburov (Hersey) and Alayna Crabtree (Normal U-High), 2019 graduate Payton Hielscher (New Trier) and former Geneva middle blocker Ally Mullen.

Meanwhile, the fall ACC season has also not been kind to Clemson (1-3), which will wrap up the fall portion of its schedule this weekend when Wake Forest visits for a pair of matches Friday and Saturday.

Clemson features four Illinois products, including 2020 Marist graduate Camryn Hannah and 2019 St. Charles East graduate McKenna Slavik. Hannah has contributed 35 kills in 15 sets (2.33 kills per set) while Slavik has dished out 126 assists

Meanwhile, Clemson freshman Cate Long, who toiled for Aurora Christian before moving to Florida her senior year in high school, has added 38 kills and 8 aces in 15 sets for the Tigers, who also have Class of 2019 Wheaton North graduate Ani Clark on the roster.   

NCAA Division II and III championships in fall sports for 2020-21 were canceled, with most women’s volleyball teams rescheduling their seasons to begin in February. NAIA schools also pushed back their fall women’s volleyball schedules until the spring.

Read more about Monson, Hannah and Kaburov at

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