By Randy Whalen
Sandburg is off to its best start in a long time.
What’s the key to the Eagles being undefeated entering this week?
“Everyone on the bench can contribute,” Sandburg senior libero Rachel Krasowski said. “The whole team is very family-based. It’s awesome.”
The latest in the line of Eagle victories was a 25-20, 25-20 win over Joliet Catholic on Sept. 12 in Joliet.
That win kept Sandburg (10-0) undefeated while it was the third loss in four matches for the Angels (9-4), who are without five players due to injury, including starting junior outside hitters Jillian Gray and Emily Wilson.
Sandburg senior outside hitter Shelby Stefanon (10 digs) and junior outside hitter Sidona Rao led the Egales with eight kills apiece. Junior middle hitter Jordan Paddock (four kills, two blocks) and junior right side hitter Raven Falls (two kills, two blocks), who is a transfer from Homewood-Flossmoor, along with sophomore setter Bianca May (18 assists) and Krasowski (15 digs) also contributed for the Eagles.
Bella Ray, a senior middle hitter, had 12 kills and junior outside hitter Emily Surin smacked 11 to pace JCA. Junior setter Ryan Hinshaw (25 assists, nine digs), sophomore libero Bella Dixon (10 digs), and sophomore outside hitter Riley Hungate (nine digs) also contributed for the Angels.
Rao is a newcomer to the Eagle lineup.
“We are still getting our starting lineup together,” Rao said. “I really felt like this would be an important match for me to show what I’ve got.”
She did that and Krasowski, who is listed as being 5-foot-3 and is often the smallest girl on the court, kept the steady defense going.
“I’m happy I’m listed as that and I will take it,” Krasowski said. “But I’m probably 5-foot-2. I’ve played it [libero] since I was 13, so I have many years under my belt. I just stay calm out there and I know the team has my back.”
Sandburg coach David Vales knows the huge value Krasowski.
“She sets the tone in practice and it goes over to the games,” he said. “Last year we were 33-5 and that’s when she really started to step up. Our hitters don’t fear hitting it into the block because they know she’s behind them, ready to dig it up.”
The opening set had nine ties through the midway point. Trailing 14-13, the Eagles went on a 10-3 burst to take the lead for good. Rao and Stefanon had a pair of kills in the stretch.
Sandburg jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second set and led the whole way, extending it to 15-7. The Angels closed to 23-20 but a kill by Stefanon and a an ace from junior defensive specialist Jillian Macinnis ended it. Throughout the match, Krasowski was moving around to keep the defense under control.
Vales said the 10 consecutive wins to begin the season marks the best start in his 13 years at the helm in Orland Park.
“It’s probably our best start since 2002,” Vales said. “We knew our back row, our defense, would be good. But we had to see how far our hitters would come and they have done well. I can move someone like Jordan Paddock from right side to middle to outside depending on the match.”
The day prior, the Eagles defeated Class 2A power Chicago Christian 25-18 25-12. Krasowski was everywhere with 21 digs while Shelby Stefanon owned the second set with three blocks and four kills in the span of about 10 points.
Sandburg opened last week with a 25-14, 25-23 win over Plainfield Central. Shelby Stefanon and junior right side hitter Keegan Carey paced the attack with five kills apiece, while May passed out 15 assists.