Volleyball insider: Crystal Lake Central's Annie Fox player of the week

Athlete of the week

Annie Fox

Crystal Lake Central, sr., libero

Fox’s play in the back row has been a big reason for the Tigers’ 23-3 overall record. Fox helped lead Central to first place in last weekend’s Elaine Lonergan Memorial Tournament at Antioch High School, contributing 40 digs, 14 assists and four aces. Fox had nine digs and four assists against Hampshire on Thursday to keep the Tigers undefeated in the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division. Should Central beat Grayslake Central on Tuesday, it will clinch at least a share of the division title.

Noteworthy

Working the middle: Marian Central setter Alex Kaufmann, a libero during the club season, has adjusted to running the Hurricanes’ offense. Part of the result has been dominant play from middle hitters Hannah Davis and Rachel Giustino.  

Davis and Giustino combined for 28 points in the Hurricanes’ three-game semifinal match against Huntley during last weekend’s Huntley Tournament. Giustino, a sophomore, fueled a big run in the middle of the second game with two kills and a block that put Marian ahead 11-6. 

“They're playing really high level right now,” Marian coach Laura Watling said. “I do think that's one of the things that will set us apart. It's one thing to have one good middle. But when you have two, and you know you always have a fast threat at any time, that helps us so much. It's the turning point in a lot of games. I think it's consistency with Alex too. She's finally getting to know her hitters and getting comfortable with her sets, which makes a big difference.”

Stepping up: When one of the best players in the nation is on the other side of the net, opponents typically step up to the challenge or shrink. Jacobs setter Mackie Traub rose to the occasion Friday against Boylan setter Bryanna Weiskircher, ranked No. 13 in the country by prepvolleyball.com.

Despite the loss to the Titans during pool play at the Huntley Tournament, Traub’s confidence was obvious and made Jacobs coach Lisa Dwyer realize using Traub to run the show in a 5-1 offense was the right decision. Now Traub has come into her own, Dwyer said. 

“She’s not as intimidated anymore,” Dwyer said. “I think [running a 5-1] has made her a better setter. She realizes how important her role is and she’s learned to step up to the competition. She takes ownership out there and really is our quarterback.”

Tough roads: Regional seeds were announced last Thursday, with Crystal Lake South earning the top seed in the Dundee-Crown Regional, which may be one of the state’s most difficult to maneuver. 

Six teams with a combined record of 89-51 will play for the right to advance to the Belvidere North Sectional. Crystal Lake Central (2), Prairie Ridge (3), Cary-Grove (4), Jacobs (5) and Dundee-Crown (6) complete the field. 

Huntley earned the second seed in the 4A Jefferson Regional, and McHenry is seeded second in its own regional. 

In Class 3A, Johnsburg earned the top seed in the Woodstock North Regional, where Marian (2), Richmond-Burton (3), Woodstock North (4), Woodstock (5) and Harvard (6) also will play. Marengo, seeded fifth, and Hampshire (4) are assigned to the Genoa-Kingston Regional.  

Alden-Hebron (3) and Faith Lutheran (5) will play in the Class 1A Harvest Christian Academy Regional.

This week’s top matches 

Crystal Lake Central at Grayslake Central, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

The Tigers will clinch at least a share of the FVC Fox Division title with a win against the Rams. Central has either won or shared the division title six of the last seven years. 

St. Francis at Marian Central, 6 p.m. Wednesday

The Spartans are ranked No. 16 in the country and gunning for another Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division title. The Hurricanes have a chance to hand St. Francis its first division loss. 

Burlington Central at Richmond-Burton, 6 p.m. Thursday

Should R-B beat Burlington, it can stay in contention for a Big Northern Conference East Division title. Burlington is undefeated in division play and handed R-B its only division loss this year. 

CL Central at Johnsburg, 6:30 p.m. Thursday

This match could determine the outright winner of the FVC Fox Division title. 

Huntley at CL South, 6:30 p.m. Thursday

The Gators could clinch the FVC Valley outright with a win against the Red Raiders. 

Maureen Lynch

sportsdesk@nwherald.com