As the Riverside-Brookfield High School new girls volleyball coach, Aubrey Dondlinger is looking for progress as much as results. That’s why a 25-17, 25-17 loss against state-ranked Mother McAuley at the Rich East Tournament is actually a performance to build on.

“We took them by surprise and played lights out,” Dondlinger said. “The girls played absolutely incredible. I am extremely proud of their performance.”

While the team is striving for more consistency, Dondlinger knows the Bulldogs’ identity.

I believe our team’s strength lies in its defensive ability,” Dondlinger said. “The team is extremely scrappy and does a great job of blocking and digging as well. Our areas of improvement lie in our accuracy on serve receive, being able to get a consistent 2.0 serve receive percentage every match, and being able to execute more efficiently on offense.”

The Bulldogs certainly aren’t lacking for talent. RBHS went 19-16 overall and 8-4 in the Metro Suburban Conference last season.

A group of solid senior returners lead the team this year, including setter Leah Rettke (465 assists, 72 kills, 33 aces), middle Kaiann Nash (72 kills, 17 blocks), outside hitter Joy Greco (90 kills, 40 digs) and defensive specialist/libero Audrey Santora (100 digs, 40 aces).

Junior middle Julia Brom has 41 kills and 18 blocks this season. Freshman Colette Barnes and sophomore Annalisa Cinkay are top newcomers.

“We have a few key players who have the potential to lead us to the top of our conference this year,” Dondlinger said, “as well as give us a shot at a sectional championship.”

RBHS hopes to win its conference and regional this season. Both goals remain in play.

“We are 2-1 in conference with wins against Ridgewood and Elmwood Park and a loss against Fenton,” Dondlinger said. “Timothy Christian, Rosary, Chicago Christian and Fenton are the top teams in the league. Our goals are to finish high and win the conference and regional championships.”

Reflective of their overall record, the Bulldogs play to the level of their competition at times.

“As far as attitude, effort, and performance goals this season that is something that has been very up and down as far as the season goes,” Dondlinger said. “We have the ability to play up to a high-level opponent when our attitude and effort are high, which in return means our performance is high as well.” 

Prior to coaching at RBHS, Dondlinger had coaching stints at Homewood-Flossmoor, Marist and Downers Grove. She also coached at the 1st Alliance Volleyball Club. An accomplished player in college, Dondlinger played at Southeast Missouri State, Parkland Community College and Lewis University.

“Being a new coach, the girls have to buy into the competitive edge and technique/skill training I am bringing into the program,” she said. “Having five returning starters gives us a huge advantage going into the season.”

The Bulldogs host St. Edward Tuesday, Oct. 2 at 5:30 p.m.