Great Lakes 16 Super Open has this thing on the move

Teams moving out. Teams moving in. Teams hoping to stay put and desperately seeking a win.  

There was plenty of movement Saturday at the Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open.

But four teams staying put are Bracket A powerhouses SPVB 16 Elite, Lions 15-1, SPVB 15 Elite and Iowa Rockets 16R.

Iowa Rockets 16R earned the top seed in Sunday’s version of Bracket A by taking down SPVB 16 Elite 25-22, 25-19 in the “title” match Saturday.

The girls from Cedar Rapids jumped all over SPVB 16 Elite from the start, building a 9-1 lead in Game 1 despite a 15-minute delay as Iowa Rockets coach David Rodgers expressed his displeasure with the officiating of the working team from Motion Volleyball 16 BLU out of Wisconsin.

SPVB 16 Elite closed to within 23-22 to force a timeout, but the Rockets closed out the set and promptly built a 9-5 lead in the second.

“Iowa Rockets run a real fast outside set and did a good job of staying in system,” SPVB 16 Elite coach Erik Vogt said. “We just couldn’t get the other team of system. Our blocking kind of broke down, our serve-receive broke down those are usually two of our stronger suits.

“We couldn’t pass,” he added. “We couldn’t dig. It was one those games. Iowa Rockets came to play, and we weren’t ready to play. There’s a lot of strength in the top bracket, so I don’t think there’s any easy matches. The kids have to get a lot stronger.”

SPVB 16 Elite reached the finals by handing Lions 15-1 a rare loss. Lions was shorthanded – missing both its coach (Courtney Keefe was stranded in Arizona when her flight was cancelled) and outside hitter Madi Malone, who developed flu-like symptoms Saturday morning.

“It’s not a text you want to get at 6:30 in the morning, especially with the teams we’re playing against today,” Lions 15-1 assistant coach Melissa Vandrey said. “But we’ve been training (Hinsdale Central’s Nikolette Nedic) on the left side and on the right, and she stepped up today.”

SPVB16 Elite seized a 20-11 lead in Game 1 against Lions 15-1, but the girls from Western Springs went on a 6-0 run forcing Vogt to call a timeout to allow his team to regain its composure.

“Lions 15-1 is a real solid team,” Vogt said. “They don’t have many weaknesses. I know they’re missing one of their better hitters (Malone), but that’s a real solid 15 Open team.”

SPVB 16 Elite held on to win the first set 25-23 before pulling away late in the second for a 25-23, 25-16 win.

“The areas we improved on the most were we started to get more block touches and we started serving more aggressively,” Vogt said. “That combination really helped us out down the stretch, that and the serving of (Naperville North’s middle hitter) Linnea Dale.”

Lions 15-1 rebounded from only its second loss in Power League play to down Epic United 16 Elite 26-24, 25-10 in the third-place match. Lions 15-1 got solid performances all day from Kyla Kenney of Benet, Esma Ajanovic of Niles North and York’s Gigi Barr.

“This team is strong at every position,” Vandrey said. “Yes, we rely heavily on Maddie, but the other girls are talented, too. Serving is a big strength of our team. If we get back to the service line and have confidence and get other teams out of system, we’ll do well.”

SPVB 15 Elite bounced back from a 25-18, 25-19 loss to SPVB 16 Elite in its first match Saturday to defeat WI Juniors 16-1 25-19, 25-16 and Motion Volleyball 16 BLU 25-20, 25-22 and retain its place in Bracket A.

Notable by their presence in the SPVB 15 Elite lineup were setter Zayna Meyer of Wheaton Warrenville South and Joliet Catholic outside hitter Emily Wilson. Chief among Wilson’s supporters were her high school coach, Chris Scheibe, and Scheibe’s husband, Bill.   

“We’ve been a patchwork for so long, now we’re trying to make this our new normal,” said SPVB 15 Elite coach Luke Stapleton. “It’s not like (SPVB 16 Elite) completely overpowered us. We just need to do everything a little bit better across the board.”

Among the teams in Bracket B moving up are SPVB 15 C-Fed, which reached the finals before falling to FaR Out 15 Black 23-25, 25-23, 15-12, and SPVB 16 C-Fed, which took out Michio Chicago 16 National 24-26, 25-19, 15-10 to finish third.

Meanwhile, after losing to Michio Chicago 16 National 25-19, 18-25, 16-14 in its opener, Cyclones 16 Black Adidas maintained its position in Bracket B by dumping Wildcat Jrs. 16 Black 25-19, 19-25, 15-13 and Michio Chicago 15 National 25-22, 25-23 for fifth place.

“It’s exciting volleyball when you’re at this level,” Cyclones 16 Black Adidas coach Michael Schwerdtfeger said. “The playing field is pretty even. There’s some high-quality volleyball. There are a lot of games going extra time. These are not blowout games.”

“It just takes a couple of players coming up and making key plays in key moments and being consistent,” he added.

Two key players for Cyclones 16 Black Adidas on Saturday were libero Amanda Darling from Oswego and outside hitter Grace Franz from Kaneland.

“Amanda Darling played fantastic,” Schwerdtfeger said. “She had some saves that would make SportsCenter’s Top 10. And Grace Franz really carried us on the outside today. She’s a little hurt, but she took care of the ball from the pin today.”

Among the teams moving up to Bracket B are Illini Elite 16 Cardinal, which parlayed a strong second-place performance at last weekend’s JVA MKE Jamboree in Milwaukee into a third-place effort Saturday in Bracket C.

Illini Elite 16 Cardinal was knocked out in the semifinals of Bracket C on Saturday when Midwest Penguins 16 Black ran off 10 unanswered points in the third set of a 25-17, 14-25, 15-9 loss for the girls from Bloomington.

“The girls started to understand (in Milwaukee) that if they do their jobs, good things will happen,” Illini Elite 16 Cardinal coach Andy Erins said. “They can see that we’re better than we were three weeks ago, and we can be better three weeks from now. That part’s pretty cool.”

Two players who have been stepping up for Illini Elite 16 Cardinal recently are 6-foot outside hitter Madison Funk from tiny El Paso-Gridley and 6-foot outside hitter Alayna Crabtree from Normal U-High.

“Maddie got it figured out in Milwaukee,” Erins said. “She took care of the ball. She was passing and hitting. She figured out that if she’s always doing good things she’ll get to play more. Alayna only plays front row, but she the ball high and hit the ball hard and is feeling good about things.”

Sky High Adidas 15 Black wasn’t feeling too good about its 25-17, 20-25, 15-11 loss to Midwest Penguins 15 Black in its Bracket C opener Saturday, but the Crystal Lake crew was feeling better after beating VC United 161 Elite 25-10, 25-14 to finish fifth and avoid dropping to Bracket D.

“I don’t think we brought our best to start and we let (Midwest Penguins 15 Black) control the tempo,” said Sky High Adidas 15 Black coach Jill Rokosik. “Our libero has a concussion right now so were trying different people in that spot, and that makes a little bit of difference.

“But that’s not an excuse,” she added. “We should been fine, but …”

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