Athlete of the Week
Crystal Lake Central, jr., L
Crystal Lake Central coach Lisa Brunstrum has emphasized defense during her team's 7-1 start in the Fox Valley Conference that has the Tigers in first place heading into the second half of the schedule.
Lownds has been a key member of that defense, including in FVC victories last week against Dundee-Crown and Prairie Ridge. Against the Chargers, she recorded a team-high 12 digs and led the team with 18 service points and eight aces.
Against Prairie Ridge, Lownds again led the team with 13 digs and added six assists and two aces as the Tigers (12-5) swept Prairie Ridge, 25-17, 25-21.
Northwest Herald Power Rankings
1. Marian Central (17-1): The Hurricanes won their first 16 matches before falling to St. Charles East at the Mother McAuley Preview, ending a 24-match winning streak dating to last year.
2. Crystal Lake Central (12-5): The Tigers handed Prairie Ridge its first Fox Valley Conference loss of the year and finished fourth at the McAuley Preview, losing to Marian Central in the third-place match. They have Tuesday off and play Huntley on Thursday.
3. Huntley (6-1): The Red Raiders picked up FVC wins over McHenry and Crystal Lake South. Huntley plays Prairie Ridge on Tuesday and Crystal Lake Central on Thursday.
4. Prairie Ridge (7-5): The Wolves have lost five in a row, going 1-4 at the Wheaton Warrenville South Classic, after a 7-0 start, and face Huntley on Tuesday and Cary-Grove on Thursday.
5. Cary-Grove (5-5): The Trojans have won three in a row in the FVC and face Crystal Lake South on Tuesday and Prairie Ridge on Thursday. They are fourth in conference at 4-3.
Good news: Prairie Ridge dropped its first conference match to Crystal Lake Central Thursday, but the Wolves did have some positive news in the return of sophomore middle blocker Sammi Lockwood and junior libero Mackenzie Garis.
Lockwood (back), who committed to Notre Dame in the summer, played in her first match since Aug. 25, and Garis (hamstring) returned last week after being sidelined for 10 days.
"(Lockwood) really hasn't practiced much, but I just wanted to try to get her some blocking because they (Central) were swinging so aggressive," Wolves coach Stefanie Otto said.
"We thought (Garis) tore her meniscus, but it was her hamstring that was causing her problems. We thought she was going to be done, and she was allowed to play again."
The Wolves are on a five-match losing streak, but remain one of the top contenders in the FVC.
Thunder records set: Woodstock North set a pair of single-match records in last week's 23-25, 26-24, 25-23 Kishwaukee River Conference loss to Johnsburg. Junior defensive specialist Sami Long set the record for digs with 30, and senior middle blocker Alayna Reyes recorded six blocks.
'Canes rising: Marian Central (17-1) moved up four spots from No. 15 to No. 11 in last week's MaxPreps.com's top-25 high school rankings, which are updated every Wednesday.
The Hurricanes were one spot behind Geneva for the top ranking in Illinois, but lost their first match of the year to St. Charles East at the Mother McAuley Preview on Saturday.
Geneva (13-0) remains perfect after winning the Wheaton Warrenville South Classic over the weekend with a 31-29, 29-27 win over Benet in the championship. Geneva plays St. Charles East on Tuesday.
This week's top matches
Huntley at Prairie Ridge
6 p.m. Tuesday
The Red Raiders and Wolves are both 6-1 in the FVC. The winner will be tied for first place with Crystal Lake Central.
Richmond-Burton at Johnsburg
6:30 p.m. Wednesday
The Rockets and Skyhawks are the co-leaders in the KRC at 3-0. They split the season series last year, 1-1.
Crystal Lake Central at Huntley
6 p.m. Thursday
The Red Raiders handed the Tigers their only FVC loss, 25-23, 28-26, in both teams' season opener on Aug. 23. The Tigers have since won seven straight conference matches.