Despite many new faces, the Riverside Brookfield High School girls volleyball team has quickly found offensive consistency. With senior Annabel Krueger and sophomore Claire Cameron both back, the Bulldogs most often use a 6-2, two-setter offense.
“It just kind of depends on who we’re playing, but most consistently we like to run the 6-2,” RBHS coach Caitlin Staib-Lipinski said. “We’re running a 6-2 because our hitters are doing well. It gives us more opportunities to get people in, but both Annabel and Claire are putting up great balls. And they’ve both worked on their defense, which is huge.”
Krueger and Cameron, plus junior third-year starting middle hitter Sofia Owens, made the all-tournament team Saturday as the Bulldogs finished fifth at the Rich Township Invitational, beating Argo 25-12, 25-12 in the Silver Division championship match.
RBHS (13-10) beat Rich Township 25-14, 25-15 in the semifinals. In pool play, the Bulldogs lost the Marist JV 25-19, 25-15 and Bradley-Bourbonnais 25-23, 23-25, 15-5 and beat Thornwood 25-8, 25-11.
Over the five matches, Owens (24 kills, 9 aces, 5 blocks), Cameron (59 assists, 10 aces) and Krueger (33 assists, 10 digs, 3 aces) were among the Bulldogs’ leaders.
Owens (7 kills) and Cameron (15 digs, 6 aces) had single-match invite bests against Argo. Other contributions were Kelley Tyler (14 digs, 14 service receptions), Lucy Boyle (8 kills), Elaina Harazin (4 kills), Krueger (4 assists), Owens (3 aces) and Mackenzie Sloger (2 aces).
“I like connecting with all of the hitters,” Cameron said. “I really like [our 6-2] because I get to see all of the hitters and it’s just fun playing with the offense when we get to run it.”
In the Metro Suburban Conference, the Bulldogs are in first at the halfway point at 3-0 after beating Westmont 25-6, 25-10, Sept. 20.
“Things are going well. Our goal is to win conference,” Staib-Lipinski said after that victory. “We’re executing things that we’re doing in practice. We’re working on crossing plays. We’re passing really well. We’re continuing to just better ourselves and not taking anything for granted.”
Cameron (250 assists) and Krueger (115) are getting several hitters the ball.
Owens has 101 kills. Boyle (92) and Sloger (74) also are averaging at least 1.5 kills per set, followed by seniors Addie Blomgren (49) and Emily Organ (36) and Harazin (30).
The balance—and success—should only improve exponentially.
“Our team is definitely different (this season). We almost have like a whole new team. A lot of seniors came out and we have a lot of younger girls,” Krueger said.
“Playing with new people is always an adjustment. Especially at the beginning of the season, we worked a lot on connections with the middles and just finding out where they want [the ball] and how fast the outsides want it, where they want it.”
Cameron is approaching the one-year anniversary of her mid-season promotion to varsity.
“I’m used to a lot of [the new varsity] hitters because I was on JV last year, too,” Cameron said.
The past two seasons, the Bulldogs have owned or shared the best division record in the MSC, which is down to one four-team league this season.
The 2021 Blue Division champions dominated Westmont behind Owens and Harazin (5 kills each), Tyler (7 digs), Krueger (11 assists, 3 aces, 5 digs) and Cameron (9 assists).
“We’re on a road to win conference. It was our goal last year and we fell just short (on a tiebreaker) so I’m hoping we can do it,” Owens said.
“The season’s not even halfway over, so I’m excited to see how much we can still improve as it progresses.”
The Bulldogs also played inspired ball against defending 3A state champion St. Francis but lost 25-22, 15-25, 28-26. Owens had nine kills in 20 attacks and four blocks and Cameron had five of the team’s 14 aces and Boyle had eight digs. Cameron (15) and Krueger (9) tied the team’s single-match high of 24 assists.