Beating the Riverside-Brookfield High School volleyball team is a tall order (literally and figuratively) for teams, considering the Bulldogs are led by 6-foot-8 All-American senior outside hitter Dana Rettke.
Oak Park and River Forest found out how difficult containing the Wisconsin-bound Rettke can be when she rained down 20 kills to power RBHS past the host Huskies 25-21, 26-24 on Sept. 22.
After a kill by senior opposite/right-side hitter Gia Cinkay gave RBHS a 23-21 lead, Rettke closed out Game 1 emphatically with two aces.
OPRF led late in the second game, 23-20, but the Bulldogs rallied with a 6-1 run to close out the match. Junior middle hitter Vasara Kulbis had the game-winning block.
Junior outside hitter Mireya Garcia led OPRF offensively with 11 kills, two assists and an ace. Ale Sleuwen (6 kills), Megan Kirkau (12 digs), Ella Dunavan (6 digs) and Zora Barnett (3 kills, 2 blocks) also contributed for the Huskies.
Although the Huskies were short-handed without starters Abby Zarosl and Bella Perez, RBHS held a slight edge the majority of the match.
“This was a great win for us,” Cinkay said after the OPRF game. “Coach (Dan) Bonarigo talks to us about playing aggressive but controlled volleyball. We’ve struggled at times but I think we’re really coming together as a team now.
“I knew coming into the season we were going to be really strong on offense. We continue to show that every match. We’re excited about the rest of the season.”
With all due respect to the dynamic Rettke, the Bulldogs are far from a one-player team.
Maria Gonzales, Maggie Shereck, Maya Diaz, Claire Swiatek, Olivia Louthen, Leah Rettke, Cinkay and Kulbis have played key roles in the team’s 14-4 start this season.
“Our setters (Gonzales, Leah Rettke) are doing a great job of not only putting Dana in different places but using our other middles and outsides,” Shereck said. “Eight of us played together last year and gained a lot of experience during the season and the regional. This year, I think we’ll have a really good idea how to win (the regional).”
In seven matches last week, Dana Rettke had 89 kills, 16 aces and 52 digs, while Cinkay (53 kills, 33 digs, 5 blocks) and Gonzales (61 assists, 20 digs) and Leah Rettke (68 assists, 8 digs) also posted solid numbers.
“Maria is such a great decision-maker,” Bonarigo said. “She knows when its crunch time where to get the ball. We’re also getting Leah (Rettke) on board and bringing her along although she is a young player.
“We need people to step up here and there to support Dana. When we do that, we’re pretty successful.”
The Bulldogs earned wins over Immaculate Conception, OPRF, Andrew, Lockport and Staff and finished 9th out of 16 at the Rich East Invite last week.
RBHS hosts Glenbard South on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 5:30 p.m. in a Metro Suburban Conference match. The Bulldogs then compete at Saturday’s Oswego Invite with the tournament beginning at 9 a.m.