Athlete of the Week
Sydney Nemtuda, Marian Central, sr., OH
The 5-foot-11 outside hitter led the Hurricanes with eight kills in a sweep over St. Francis, the defending Class 4A state champion, Wednesday and smashed 19 kills in a three-set victory Thursday over Kaneland.
She added 46 kills in five matches at the Jacobs Invitational on Saturday, leading the team with 10 kills in a semifinal win over Hersey and a final win over previously unbeaten Stevenson. For the season, Nemtuda has 85 kills and a .399 hitting percentage.
Northwest Herald Power Rankings
1. Marian Central (9-0): The Hurricanes swept St. Francis and knocked off Kaneland in three before going 5-0 over the weekend to win the Jacobs Invitational for the second straight year. Marist, one of three teams to beat Marian last year, is next up for the 'Canes on Tuesday.
2. Prairie Ridge (4-0): The Wolves defeated McHenry and Crystal Lake South and lead the Fox Valley Conference with a 4-0 record. They get Dundee-Crown on Tuesday. Junior Emily Baudin leads the team with 46 kills and 32 digs.
3. Huntley (3-0): The Red Raiders have yet to lose in the FVC and picked up a win over Jacobs last week. Next on the schedule are Cary-Grove on Tuesday and Hampshire on Thursday.
4. Crystal Lake Central (6-3): The Tigers improved to 3-1 in the FVC with wins over Cary-Grove and Hampshire, and went 3-2 in the Jacobs Invite to take seventh place. They'll jump right back into conference play this week with McHenry on Tuesday and Crystal Lake South on Thursday.
5. Dundee-Crown (2-2): The Chargers fell to Crystal Lake South, but picked up a big win over Cary-Grove, 25-12, 25-22. D-C has a challenging week ahead with Prairie Ridge on Tuesday and McHenry on Thursday.
Familiar feeling: Marian Central coach Laura Watling couldn't find the words to describe her team's past week, which included big wins over 12-time state champion St. Francis and Kaneland in consecutive days and the team's second straight Jacobs Invitational title.
"It's hard to think of good words anymore," Watling said. "It's extremely exciting to start the season this way."
Now, the Hurricanes are in a familiar position – heading into Tuesday's East Suburban Catholic Conference opener against Marist without a loss for the second straight year. Last year, Marist became the first team to knock off Marian, storming back in a 15-25, 25-12, 25-18 victory.
Marist (5-1) took second in the ESCC last year, Benet won conference and Marian took third. The Hurricanes are hoping to contend for a conference title after two of their three losses last season came in the ESCC.
"It's been fun, that's about it," senior setter McKayla Wuensch said of Marian's 9-0 start. "The hitters have been doing phenomenal, defense is insane – our serving is one of the things that I think we do really well in."
Fitting in: Crystal Lake Central lost a lot of varsity experience to graduation, but the Tigers are not short on a talent. Juniors Olivia Doak, Megan Kelly, Emily Kelly and Kendall Lownds all are back from last year's regional champion, and the Tigers already are getting a lot of production from their freshmen newcomers.
Three of Central's five freshmen – Camryn Hausler, Madde Blake and Olivia Anderson – started in last week's sweep over Cary-Grove. Central appears to be a top contender for the FVC again.
"It's really nice," Tigers coach Lisa Brunstrum said of having impact freshmen. "The team really welcomed them with open arms right away. ... They're communicating well with our setters, so the team chemistry is getting better and better every time we step out on that court."
THIS WEEK'S TOP MATCHES
Cary-Grove at Huntley, 6 p.m. Tuesday
The Trojans beat Huntley in both of their conference matches last season and eliminated the Raiders in the Class 4A Jacobs Regional final – all wins in straight sets. Huntley is looking to keep pace with Prairie Ridge in the FVC.
Marian Central at Marist, 6:15 p.m. Tuesday
The Hurricanes are off to an 8-0 start heading into their ESCC opener. Marist was one of three teams to top Marian last year.
Crystal Lake Central at Crystal Lake South, 6 p.m. Thursday
Conference realignment gives this rivalry even more meaning now that both teams are fighting for the same title.