Jul 28, 2014
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Two Special Wildcats on Libertyville's Volleyball Team

Libero Kristen Webb and setter Cindy Zhou lead this Wildcats team

Two Special Wildcats on Libertyville's Volleyball Team Two Special Wildcats on Libertyville's Volleyball Team Two Special Wildcats on Libertyville's Volleyball Team

Sure Stevenson coach Tim Crow was in a good mood after his team came back to beat Libertyville on Wednesday night.

But then he thought for a moment and remarked that both setter Cindy Zhou and libero Kristen Webb were the two top players in the conference.

It was just last fall when these two sophomores broke into coach Greg Loika's starting lineup. .

Off to college are the two special hitters Paige Hopper and Catie Steffen. It's a new season for the Libertyville volleyball team.

Tested veterans in Zhou, Webb

And it's a good thing that the Wildcats have two tested veterans in Zhou and Webb.

"I think they are maturing into the leaders they are, and this year they will be looked to in that light, much more than in seasons past,'' Loika said. "Cindy and Kristen I think are feeling the weightiness of really being the go-to players. Last year, they really shared that role with Steffen and Hopper, and I always need to remind myself (that) despite their experience, they are 16, only juniors."

Zhou is a special setter. Even though she has nearly two seasons of Libertyville volleyball left, she's already verbally committed to take her setting skills to the University of Michigan.

Webb gives the team solid play in the back row.

"Kristen has been the rock in the back row as she's always been,'' Loika said. "She even suited up as an outside hitter for the Zion match where she led the team in kills, which just lets us know she can be versatile if we need her almost anywhere."

New Faces: The Wildcats (8-5) don't lack in the height department. There are some tall girls on this team. In the middle there are seniors Nicole Kruckman (6-foot-1), Katie Waehner (6-0) and Kerry Risley (6-0). Look on the outside to find 6-footers Taylor Zant and Julia Smagacz. Eileen Knauff is back for her senior season after an injury-plagued junior season.

Also hoping to help out this fall are Rhiannon Prentiss, Ali Gattone, Kelly Cypher, Dana Kym and Kayla Silverman. Senior co-captain Molly Moon is back for another campaign.

Recap: All was well after game one on Wednesday night. The Wildcats had home-standing Stevenson on their heels after a 25-17 romp. And then seemingly the air went out of the balloon. Libertyville fell at Stevenson 17-25, 25-18, 25-18.

"We felt pretty good after that first game,'' Loika said. "But we gave away too many points. We didn't play well enough to win."

Loika was disappointed with the loss but has high hopes for this year's squad.

"As long as we learn from this, it will be a meaningful moment in our season,'' he said  "After a long conversation last night, I believe it will be. I believe this team will achieve some things when it's all said and done, we haven't come close to our potential yet, and as they grow together, we are excited about what we think these girls can do."

In better news for this team, the Wildcats won four of five matches at the Wheaton Classic last week. The only loss was to Benet Academy which is the top team in the state right now. That meant the Wildcats went home with a Silver Division title.

In the numbers department, Zhou notched 60 assists while Webb had 47 digs. The hitting department had good balance. Risley (18 kills), Zant (15 kills), Smagacz (14 kills), Zhou (11 kills) and Kruckman (9 kills).

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