Two tournaments, two titles. That’s been the story so far this season for the Riverside-Brookfield girls volleyball team which won the Maine East Demons Invite championship over the weekend. In mid-September, RBHS also captured the Leyden Invite title. Overall, the Bulldogs have won all ten matches they have played in tournament competition this fall.

At Maine East, the Bulldogs pulled out a 27-25, 22-25, 25-23 victory over Stagg in the championship match. Monica Kasper (10 kills), Kayla Noffsinger (eight kills) and Natalia Gheewala (13 digs) led RBHS. In the semifinals, RBHS edged Warren 25-18, 24-26, 25-20 as Kasper again paced the offense with 11 kills and Nicole LaBelle contributed eight kills. Gheewala dug out 20 balls and Olivia Gyssler dished out 24 assists for the victors.

RBHS racked up pool play wins over Trinity 25-15, 25-18, Niles West 21-25, 25-13, 17-16, and Leyden 25-16, 26-24. Against Trinity, Lelivelt and Noffsinger tallied six and five kills, respectively, while Gheewala led defensively with 10 digs. Gyssler totaled 44 assists combined in the other two pool play victories. Kasper and Lelivelt continued to dominate action at the net with several timely kills. Paola Lehman also played a key role defensively in pool play.

By comparison to its stellar tournament success, RBHS (11-4, 1-3 Metro Suburban Conference) has struggled within its league. The Bulldogs dropped a pair of conference matches to Glenbard South 18-25, 23-25 (Sept. 19) and to Timothy Christian 16-25, 23-25 (Sept. 17).

RBHS held an early advantage in the opening set against visiting Glenbard South, but an 8-0 run by the Raiders set the table for a sweep.

 “We needed to continue the way we started,” RBHS setter Amy Frey said. “We kind of let up in the middle of the games and got down on ourselves. I think just picking ourselves back up and stopping [Glenbard South] before they overpowered us is what we should have done.”

With the Bulldogs trailing 11-9 in the second set, junior middle hitter Lana Hermann got the ball over to Lelivelt for an emphatic kill to pull the Bulldogs within one point, but another pivotal mid-set spurt by the Raiders capped off by outside hitter Tara Valdez’s kill powered Glenbard South to a 15-10 lead. On the flip side, RBHS sputtered offensively at times with several miscues.

“We just didn’t get Amanda Lelivelt the ball enough,” RBHS head coach Dan Bonarigo said. “Our passing kind of broke down at times so it was tough to get it to her. It was just the timely mistakes that hurt us.”

Kasper finished with seven kills and five digs and no hitting errors against the Raiders. Gheewala led the team in digs with 10. Frey tallied eight assists, six digs and two kills.

“Our set distribution was good,” Bonarigo said. “Monica Kasper did a great job; I was really happy with her play. It was our best set distribution that we’ve had so far, and our setters had been working on that so it was good to see.”

Even though the Bulldogs didn’t win the match, Frey pointed to their competitive spirit as a good sign for the rest of the season.

“We definitely hustled a lot and picked up a lot of hits [Glenbard South] in the first game,” she said. “Our hitting spots were really on. We came together as a team more than we have so far. Even though we came out with the loss, we still played together and hung in there.”

Marty Farmer contributed to this story