Timothy Christian must avoid sophomore slump; Neuqua Valley confident

Neuqua Valley won the Great Lakes Summer League title, shaking off two previous losses to Waubonsie Valley to defeat  the Warriors in the final.

School: Neuqua Valley
Conference: DuPage Valley
Head coach: Kelly Simon (18th season)
Last season’s highlights: 22-15 overall, 5-3 in conference (tied for third), finished third at Benet invite, finished fourth at Waubonsie Valley Warrior Blast, finished eighth at St. Charles East Scholastic Cup, lost 25-20, 27-25 to Benet in a Class 4A regional final.
Top returnees: 5-9 senior outside hitter Bella Aguilar (147 kills, 33 aces, 163 digs), senior middle hitter Brianne Pirkins, 5-8 senior setter/rightside hitter Karly Miller 230 assists, 35 aces, 80 digs), 5-6 junior libero Bailey Houlihan (316 digs, 42 aces), 5-11 junior outside/middle hitter Faith Johnson (102 kills, 63 blocks), 5-10 junior outside hitter Taylor O’Malley (85 kills).
Top newcomers: senior middle hitter Jennifer Pochyly, senior outside/middle hitter/defensive specialist Avery Beinhauer, senior defensive specialist Marysa Cristofaro, junior setter Ally Knapczyk, junior setter/rightside hitter Eva Topolewski, sophomore middle hitter Riley Ammenhauser.
Coach’s quote: “This team brings a level of experience, maturity and leadership in my six returning players. Add to this solid core six very skilled newcomers who allow for versatility but are still trying to establish their roles within the lineup. This combination creates tremendous anticipation about the talent this team possesses and the success they have the potential to achieve this season. We will depend on our defense to provide precise passing, as well as tenacious and relentless defense to compensate for our lack of height at the net. These girls are vocal, self-assertive leaders who never give up or lose their fight. I am seeing much more self-confidence and trust in each other at this time in the season compared to previous years.”
Outlook: Neuqua Valley had a very successful summer, winning the Great Lakes Summer League by defeating Waubonsie Valley in the championship despite two previous losses to the Warriors. Can they translate that success to the regular season?  

School: Timothy Christian 
Conference: Metro Suburban Blue
Head coach: Scott Piersma    
Last season’s highlights: 24-13 overall, 9-3 in conference (second place), lost 27-29, 25-19, 25-21 to Fenwick in a Class 3A regional championship match.
Top returnees:  6-1 senior outside hitter Heidi Westra (268 assists, 35 blocks in 2017), 5-6 senior libero Abygale Ahn (191 digs).
Top newcomers: 6-1 sophomore middle hitter Greta Hoogstra, 6-0 sophomore outside hitter Hannah Schuringa, 5-10 sophomore setter Campbell Marshall, 5-4 sophomore defensive specialist Alli Myers.
Coach’s quote: “We will be a young team on the court this year. Even though we have nine seniors, only four have court experience. The five sophomores that I pulled up will see a lot of time on the court, so there will be a learning curve for them to both learn to play with the seniors and learn the faster pace of the varsity game.”
Outlook: The new Metro Suburban Conference is loaded with the likes of St. Francis, Rosary, Chicago Christian, IC Catholic Prep and Riverside-Brookfield. It’s no place for youth, but Piersma will have his team playing well by the end of the season and looking forward to another deep run in the Class 3A state tournament.
Did you know? Abygale Ahn plays both tennis and volleyball during the fall for Timothy Christian. As a freshman and sophomore, she advanced to state finals and placed eighth. Last year as a junior, she finished second in Class 1A with doubles partner Cassidy Lee. She will play both again this year.

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