Kira Conroy

Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Kira Conroy had focused her junior year towards eventually playing sand volleyball in college.

When those plans changed, she returned to the RBHS girls volleyball program under new head coach Caitlin Staib-Lipinski as the libero, a role that only plays in the back row.

“I felt like there was going to be a new atmosphere,” Conroy said. “All of my friends are playing. I thought it would be super fun to end high school with a senior season.”

Conroy proved to be a pretty strong player on a court, too. She not only established the Bulldogs’ new single-season record for digs but was named the Metro Suburban Conference Red Division Most Valuable Player.

Senior Reagan Mulcrone, junior Annabel Krueger and sophomore Sofia Owens joined Conroy in earning all-conference honors.

The Bulldogs shared the best MSC Red record with Bishop McNamara at 5-1 and had the best record for sets won and lost (11-2).

“Being recognized as MVP is huge. This usually isn’t given to liberos, so I’m really glad that I was able to play this position and still be noticed,” Conroy responded. “I told myself at the beginning of the season I was going to give it my all and work hard after not playing on the court for a year. My senior season ended on a really good note.”

The Bulldogs (13-20) also had a lot to be proud of after their season ended on Oct. 25 by losing to host Whitney Young 25-16, 25-19 in an IHSA Class 4A regional semifinal.  

“Overall, I really thought it was a successful season,” Staib-Lipinski said. “We’re excited to continue next season to build morale and the culture of the program.”

Conroy finished with 386 digs after breaking the record of 355 during the Bulldogs’ 31st match. She also was named a co-captain with Krueger following the team’s first tournament and had a team-high 306 serve receptions.

“[Conroy] just did a phenomenal job. In matches, you wanted to feed that ball to her every time,” Staib-Lipinski said.

Mulcrone led MSC Red players in attack percentage (.417) with 76 kills in 144 attacks with 16 errors for all matches. With some conference teams still alive in the playoffs, Owens and Krueger are among the top three players with team highs of 130 kills and 217 assists, respectively.

Other stat leaders included seniors Anasofia Zaper (82 kills) and Sophia Cozzone (80 kills, 140 digs) and Christina Savaglio (73 kills) and Elise Verdin (team-high 33 aces, 186 digs, 241 serve receptions), junior Addie Blomgren (team-high 54 blocks), Krueger (32 aces) Owens (50 blocks) and freshman Claire Cameron (163 assists), a mid-season call up when the Bulldogs switched to a two-setter offense with Krueger.

Nazareth advance to sectional finals

Having incurred the loss of several players due to graduation from last year’s IHSA Class 3A state champions, Nazareth Academy girls volleyball coach Melissa Masterson figured the road would be bumpy this fall.

“We’re pretty young and have played a tough schedule,” she said.

It’s taken some time, but the Roadrunners appear to have jelled just in time for the state tournament. Nazareth, the top seed in the IHSA Class 3A Little Village Sectional, rallied for a three-set victory over No. 4 St. Ignatius  21-25, 25-22, 25-14 in a semifinal on Oct. 31.

“We had a good feeling that we were going to win so we stayed calm,” said Nazareth senior Kitty Sandt, who had 18 assists, eight digs, and four kills. “After losing the first set, we got a grasp of what they were about and we knew how to stop them better.”

After dropping the opening set, Nazareth (19-16) held off a late rally by St. Ignatius in the second, then took command in the final set with a 10-2 run.

Junior Lauren Salata had 17 kills, junior Megan McNicholas four aces, and junior Reese Butkus eight digs for the Roadrunners, who advanced to the sectional final Nov. 2 against Fenwick High School.

Melvin Tate contributed to this report.