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Ask affable Riverside-Brookfield girls volleyball coach Dan Bonarigo about the Bulldogs and you’ll likely get a very defensive response. After all, RB (5-4) has already successfully established its Bonarigo-devised defensive style of play by winning the Leyden Invite on Saturday.

Tourney participants RB and Westmont both won four of five matches over the weekend; however, the Bulldogs’ 25-18, 26-24 victory over Westmont clinched the round-robin Leyden title for RB.

“We played well at Leyden,” Bonarigo said. “Our strength is our defense. A lot of teams we face that are good offensively don’t always expect the ball to come back over. That’s what we do really well by getting digs, being all over the floor and just getting the ball back consistently.”

Maggie Zeleny led the charge for the Bulldogs with five aces and had an eight-point run to start the first game. She also added six digs. Elena Duve finished with seven kills and eight digs, while Kelsey Egger tallied three kills and four blocks in the winning effort.

Egger, a 6-foot middle hitter, is one of the Bulldogs’ key returnees this season along with Zeleny and junior setter Alleigh VandeMerkt.

“We really have a good team dynamic,” said Bonarigo, entering his third season as the RB coach. “It’s a really nice group that works hard and likes being around each other. There is definitely a ‘we are all in this together’ vibe with these kids.”

Prior to capturing the Leyden Invite title over the weekend, RB dropped three of its first four matches. Illiana Christian edged the Bulldogs 28-26, 23-25, 25-19 (Sept. 2) and Nazareth beat RB 25-18, 25-19 (Aug. 31). During that challenging four-game stretch, the Bulldogs’ stats leaders were Duve (31 kills), VandeMerkt (58 assists), Zeleny (37 digs) and Egger (10 blocks).

Riverside-Brookfield has several big matches coming up, most notably a rematch against Illiana Christian (Sept. 23) and a meeting with Metro Suburban Conference newcomer Glenbard South (Oct. 7). The Bulldogs will also compete in the loaded Maine West Pumpkin Tournament (Oct. 15-16), which features powerhouse teams like Lyons, New Trier, St. Francis and Evanston.


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