CRYSTAL LAKE – The collared jerseys were sitting in a box somewhere in the basement at Crystal Lake Central, and the Tigers volleyball team was determined Friday night to find them.
Once they did, Central’s players grabbed their respective numbers and showed the jerseys to Central coach Lisa Reddish. When the Tigers asked Reddish if they could wear the vintage uniforms instead of their sleeker, newer ones, Reddish didn’t hesitate.
Central coach Doug Blundy, for whom Saturday’s tournament was renamed, would have wanted it that way. Blundy had liked the collared shirts so much, he ordered them nearly every season despite his players’ quiet disapproval.
No other team wears jerseys with collars, Blundy’s players often had reminded him.
No other program is quite like Central’s, he responded.
Between the throwback jerseys, the empty chair on the bench and other subtleties, the Tigers brought memories of their coach back Saturday. Then Central made sure Blundy, who died in January 2011, would have been proud.
The Tigers won the Doug Blundy Memorial Tournament, beating Marian Central, Sycamore, McHenry, Richmond-Burton and previously undefeated Rockford Boylan. It was the second straight tournament championship for Central, but perhaps the most important five matches the Tigers have played all year – particularly the victory against Boylan.
“We’re crediting him with that win,” said senior middle hitter Lauren Leverenz, who started as a freshman for Blundy during his final season in 2010. “He was looking down on us and wanted us to get that win. We could tell he was there.”
Leverenz and Krissy Pratt keyed the Tigers’ offense in Game 1, particularly during a blistering 11-5 run, and libero Annie Fox helped the Tigers turn in one of their best defensive performances of the year.
Central won the first set decisively, 25-12. Boylan matched the Tigers point for point in Game 2 until Central pulled ahead for good, 22-20, on Kassi Dvoracek’s ace. Leverenz and Pratt each had kills to help close out the set, 25-22.
R-B and Marian each finished 2-3 in the six-team round robin tournament. The Rockets beat Sycamore and McHenry, and the Hurricanes pulled out wins against R-B and McHenry. The Warriors went 1-4 overall with a win against Sycamore.
R-B outside hitter Ali Frantti led with 77 kills and Kelsey Burlini had 101 assists. Libero Jenna Mazur added 52 digs. Outside hitter Frankie Taylor (42 kills) and setter Alex Kaufmann (79 assists) led Marian.
Outside hitter Kayla Chancellor (19 kills) and middle hitter Kasie Floden (13 kills) led McHenry, which had one of its better tournaments despite its record.
“Before [losing to Central], we had a fantastic day,” McHenry coach Jeff Brunstrum said. “We played some of our best volleyball of the year.”
Marian coach Laura Watling, who played for Blundy at Central, appreciated the day’s sentiment.
“I thought it was cool to change the name of the tournament,” Watling said. “This was one of his favorite tournaments.”