Athlete of the Week
Riley Seagren, Hampshire, sr., OH
Seagren and the Whip-Purs are already more than halfway to their win total from last year, winning the Rockford East Invite and picking up wins over Larkin, McHenry, Jacobs and St. Edward in the first week.
Seagren led the Whips (8-1-1 overall, 2-1 Fox Valley Conference) with a match-high 13 kills in a win against Jacobs. The 5-foot-8 Seagren also led Hampshire in attacks against McHenry (eight kills), St. Edward (nine kills) and Crystal Lake South (seven kills).
Editor's note: Shaw Media will host its 2019 Most Valuable Athlete Awards Night on June 12 at Northern Illinois University's Convocation Center. All Athletes of the Week are invited to sign up here.
Northwest Herald Power Rankings
1. Prairie Ridge (4-0): The nine-time FVC champions look like a strong contender to finish atop the FVC standings again. Prairie Ridge is off to a 3-0 start in the FVC with victories over Crystal Lake South, Dundee-Crown and Crystal Lake Central. Prairie Ridge beat Central, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21, ending a six-match losing streak to the Tigers.
2. Huntley (4-0): The Red Raiders finished runner-up in the FVC last season, one game behind Central, and are a top FVC contender. So far, Huntley is 3-0 in the conference with wins against D-C, Cary-Grove and McHenry. The Raiders won the FVC outright in 2016.
3. Crystal Lake Central (1-1): The defending FVC champions lost four starters from last year's Class 4A third-place finisher, but return a very talented group – led by juniors Madde Blake and Camryn Hausler – capable of winning another conference title.
4. Cary-Grove (2-2): The Trojans lost their first two matches of the season to Huntley and St. Charles East (both regional winners last year), but bounced back with wins over Crystal Lake South and Grayslake Central.
5. Hampshire (8-1-1): The Whips are off to a fast start after finishing 14-18 last season, going 4-12 in the FVC (seventh place). Hampshire went 4-0-1 at the Rockford East Invite to take first and looks to climb the conference standings under second-year coach Ramon Borrero. The Whips' lone loss is to Crystal Lake South.
New position: Central's Camryn Hausler has helped form a powerful attack for the Tigers in her first two years at outside hitter, but the junior is being asked to play a position she's never played before: setter.
The Tigers lost setters Megan Kelly and Olivia Doak to graduation, so Hausler has stepped into the new role in Central's first two matches. Coach Lisa Brunstrum has been impressed with her development in such a short time.
"This is the second match she set for us in her high school career, and I think she's doing a really nice job," Brunstrum said. "Obviously, there's going to be some growing pains, but I'm really happy with the decisions she's making. I'm really proud of her for stepping into that role and doing what she needs to do for the team."
Hausler was second on the team last year with 193 kills. She'll still get plenty of opportunities for attacks in Central's 6-2 offense.
Learning curve: Cary-Grove fell in its first two matches but have since won two in a row. Trojans coach Patty Langanis said there will be some early adjustments with a young team.
"We have a lot of new kids setting, so it's them learning the game and how to control offense," Langanis said. "We have to have a more productive offense from more attackers. We have to work on our blocking a little bit more, and get quicker to be ready for the speed of the (FVC)."
Quick start: Marengo is off to a 5-2 start as the Indians look to improve on last year's 15-13 mark. Junior Lillie Simons is averaging five kills and three blocks a game and Hannah Ritter, who was a finalist for Northwest Herald Softball Player of the Year last spring, is the team leader in kills. Both played on the Indians' Class 3A softball championship team in 2017.
This week's top matches
Jacobs Invite, Saturday: Crystal Lake Central is the defending champion, going 5-0 last season. Jacobs, C-G and Marian Central also will be in competition. The Hurricanes were third in 2017 after winning back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016.
Woodstock North at Richmond-Burton, 6 p.m. Tuesday: The Thunder and Rockets open Kishwaukee River Conference play. R-B was third last year, while North placed fifth in the conference standings and had its winningest season in school history.
Hampshire at Prairie Ridge, 6 p.m. Tuesday: The Whips will have a tough road test against the Wolves in FVC action.