Athlete of the Week
Ally Dion, Huntley, sr., OH
The Southeast Missouri commit came up big in a pair of Fox Valley Conference wins over Crystal Lake Central and Dundee-Crown, placing the Red Raiders at the top of the conference standings after the first week (tied with Prairie Ridge).
Dion smashed 17 kills and added 20 digs in a 25-22, 22-25, 25-19 win over D-C, and led the team with seven kills in a tight contest against Central.
Northwest Herald Power Rankings
1. Marian Central (2-0): The defending Class 3A state champions cruised to wins over Aurora Central Catholic and Rockford Lutheran in the first week. Next up is St. Francis on Wednesday.
2. Prairie Ridge (2-0): The Wolves have set high expectations for themselves and delivered in the opener with a three-set win over Cary-Grove. They followed with a win against Hampshire.
3. Huntley (2-0): The Red Raiders beat Crystal Lake Central, 25-23, 28-26, in the opener and defeated Dundee-Crown in three sets in the first week and have the look of a top contender in the FVC.
4. Cary-Grove (1-1): After dropping a three-set match to Prairie Ridge in the opener, the Trojans came back and beat a determined McHenry team, 24-26, 25-17, 25-11, never trailing in the final two sets.
5. Crystal Lake Central (1-1): The Tigers suffered a close loss to Huntley, but rebounded with a convincing win over Jacobs, 25-10, 25-14.
Schwallie commits: Marian Central libero Meghan Schwallie announced her commitment to NCAA Division-III Ohio Wesleyan this week. The 5-foot-8 senior plays her club volleyball with Sky High and is the 600th player from the Crystal Lake-based club to secure a scholarship since 1989.
Through two matches, Schwallie leads the Hurricanes with six aces and is second with eight digs. She's taking over for three-year captain Alex Kaufmann (Murray State), who also played with Sky High and is Marian's all-time leader in digs with 1,311.
Schwallie is the fourth Hurricanes player committed to playing at the next level, joining Sydney Nemtuda (Florida Atlantic), McKayla Wuensch (Nevada) and Lauren Hanlon (Houston Baptist).
Freshman confidence: In her 12-plus years of coaching at the high school level, Huntley coach Karen Naymola doesn't recall a time when a freshman was named team captain.
Until this year.
Taylor Jakubowski, 14, received that honor when she was chosen by her teammates. Naymola, however, wasn't that surprised. She knew what type of player Jakubowski was coming in.
"Once you see her play, you kind of understand exactly why she was voted as a captain," Naymola said. "She's probably one of the most competitive players I've ever coached."
Jakubowski certainly had no trouble fitting in against high school competition in her first two varsity matches. She recorded 15 assists and 12 digs against Crystal Lake Central in the opener, and dished out 40 assists and 20 digs against D-C.
"She's just such a smart player and uses her knowledge to help her teammates," Naymola said. "She can see the block when she's setting, and go around it to set up our hitters. She just plays so much older then she is. Sometimes you forget that she's only a freshman out there."
Warrior statement: When asked which teams might be among the top contenders in the area before the start of the season, Prairie Ridge coach Stefanie Otto listed a lot of familiar names: Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake Central and Crystal Lake South.
But one team she said to look out for was McHenry, a program without a winning record since 2009 and one with only two conference wins since 2013 (entering this season).
She may be on to something.
On Tuesday, McHenry matched its conference win total from last season, defeating Crystal Lake South in three sets, 25-27, 25-18, 25-19.
After Cary-Grove had to come back from one set down to beat McHenry on Thursday, C-G coach Patty Langanis saw a different McHenry team than she's used to – saying, "You can just see that those girls are fighters."
Warriors second-year coach Lexi Disselhorst said after its loss to C-G that McHenry can compete with any team in the FVC. It's very early, but other teams are starting to take notice.
This week's top matches
Cary-Grove at Crystal Lake Central
6 p.m. Tuesday, at Central Fieldhouse
Both are 1-1 in the FVC, and this should help paint a more clear picture of the conference hierarchy.
Marian Central at St. Francis
6 p.m. Wednesday, at Spyglass Athletic Center
The Hurricanes get their first big test of the year against St. Francis, the defending Class 4A state champions. The Spartans won the Class 3A title from 2013-15, but Marian came out on top in the last meeting between the former Suburban Christian Conference foes a year ago.
Prairie Ridge at Crystal Lake South
6 p.m. Thursday, at Gator Alley
The Gators eliminated Prairie Ridge in a Class 4A sectional semifinal last season. The Wolves have won 18 straight conference matches dating back to 2014.