LTHS defensive specialist Lydia Vulich (13) digs a ball during the Lions’ straight-set victory over Oak Park and River Forest on April 21 at Lyons Township North Campus. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

The Lyons Township High School girls volleyball team closed out its pandemic-abbreviated season April 22 by defeating host Downers Grove South in three sets.

After winning the first set 25-13 but then dropping the second 19-25, the Lions steamrolled the Mustangs 25-6 in the deciding third set. The victory gave LTHS a final record of 9-2 this spring. 

On April 21, the Lions defeated rival Oak Park and River Forest 25-20, 26-24. Afterwards, head coach Jill Keeve was pleased with her team’s showing.

“I think it was a great team effort for our last home match of the season,” said Keeve. “Defensively and with serve-receive, we were doing what we were supposed to be doing. We were able to run a lot of our offense, too.”

A pair of LTHS players leap to block an attempted kill by OPRF freshman outside hitter Grace Nelson during the Lion’s win over the Huskies on April 21. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

LTHS senior Molly Corrough said she was impressed with the Huskies’ standout freshman outside hitter Grace Nelson, who finished the night with 12 kills, nine digs and two aces.

“I was a little nervous going into this game because I knew OPRF had some good [outside hitters] we were looking out for,” said Corrough. “[Nelson] gave us a hard time. We knew about her and [OPRF captain] Chloe Gill and wanted to block them. They had initial success, but we were able to figure things out and put up a good block and defense.”

When it came to LTHS’ offense, the Lions had balance. Tia Kostic led the Lions with seven kills, followed by Kamryn Lee-Caracci with five, Adriana Vassek four and Corrough three.

Overall, Keeve believed the season was a success, despite the fact it wasn’t a normal one with the usual noisy atmosphere absent due to spectator limits.

“The gym has been a little quieter than normal, but the energy from the bench has picked up and made up for it,” she stated. “It’s been great to see our bench get more involved because we don’t have many people in the stands.”

RBHS falls in season finale

The Riverside-Brookfield High School girls volleyball team’s season came to a close April 24, and although it was not the outcome they would have wanted, there was a lot to be pleased with in the 2021 campaign. 

The Bulldogs (5-5) fell to St. Francis (25-20, 25-19) at RBHS, giving them a second-place finish in the conference. Sophomore Kira Conroy, named player of the game, led the team offensively with nine kills on 39 attempts while senior McKenna Sloan anchored the defense with 14 digs. She also earned two service aces.

As the season went on, the girls clicked more and more as a team, said coach Mary Pakosta, and notched victories against Elmwood Park, Bishop McNamara, Ridgewood, Aurora Central Catholic and, on Senior Night, Rosary.

“Throughout the season we really worked together as a team to earn wins that we may not have last season,” Pakosta said. “Overall, we had a more even record of wins and losses this season. Definitely looking forward to playing more matches.”

Senior defensive-specialist McKenna Sloan, who has started for varsity for three years, led the back line this season with 88 digs, averaging 3.6 per set while also notching nine aces. Senior outside hitter Annalisa Cinkay, also a three-year starter, was second overall in kills with 36 and had six blocks. Senior middle hitter Abbey Yager had 18 kills and six blocks.

The pandemic resulted unprecedented season, including having to quarantine for a time, Pakosta said she was proud of the way the girls handled the changes and made adjustments. 

“Overall, the athletes that participated in volleyball were super flexible,” she said. “They adjusted to their school schedule and some were even playing multiple sports, but they did a great job handling everything.”