Trevian volleyball stays hot against GBN

Following 2-1 victory, girls volleyball takes blow from conference-leading GBS

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Lange

Girls Volleyball huddles up during a match against Loyola on Sept. 8. The girls lost in three sets 2-1

Led by junior Alison Smith, New Trier defeated an unimpressive Glenbrook North team this past Monday in three sets, but it meant little in comparison to Wednesday’s match against GBS. Featuring Northwestern commit Ava Pratt, the 16-1 Titans have been the team’s toughest test so far, defeating the Trevians 2-1.

The team, especially junior co-captain Ana Vetter, expected it to be a tough matchup, similar to their previous matchup at Loyola. With so many dominant players on the GBS roster, the Trevs knew they had to be perfect, but were less than that Wednesday, falling apart in the third set.

The season has shown major bright spots along with less-impressive play. The season began getting blown out at Libertyville, but since then the team has won nine of the last twelve games, putting them in a tie for second in the conference before falling to GBS.

Head coach Hannah Hsieh is impressed with the improvements, but not surprised.

Obviously, we’re going to be dealing with adversity all season long, so we need to realize everyone’s working their butts off for their teammates and focus on that.”

— Natalie Mills

“We’ve gotten better with the connection between our hitters and setters,” says Hsieh. “And I think one of the things with having two new defensive specialists who haven’t set is that the defense is going to get better.”

Setters Jenny Perkins and Alex Belak have taken on the role of the new setters somewhat unexpectedly. With last year’s setters leaving the team, including star Nicole Cornell moving to Texas, there was a void near the net for the Trevs, but with each game Perkins and Belak got better as new setters.

“Never in my 29 years of coaching have we had brand new centers at the varsity level,” says Hsieh. “It’s hard without five or six years of setting reps behind them, but they’re great athletes and they’re picking it up quickly.”

Injuries have certainly hurt the team this season. Most notably, middle Sophia Gabuzzi hurt her knee during a game, and following her surgery will miss the rest of the season. Co-captain Natalie Mills has remained healthy this season as a key defensive specialist.

“The injuries are annoying, but still we are getting better every day,” says Mills. “Obviously, we’re going to be dealing with adversity all season long, so we need to realize everyone’s working their butts off for their teammates and focus on that.”

Controlling what they can control has helped the team improve throughout the season. Volleyball, as much as any sport, requires vocal players on the court and on the bench. Vetter has focused on this aspect while starting as a right side hitter.

“We call it making lemonade with what we’ve got, meaning we don’t really have all the parts and we can still do what we need to do,” says Vetter. “Volleyball is energy based, and cheering a lot is going to get the adrenaline going and help us.”

Loyola did present a struggle just a few weeks ago for New Trier, who before that had won six of their previous seven. With a close 2-1 loss, it was a disappointing showing, but one that nonetheless prepared the team for their GBS matchup, who despite being ranked 8th in the state also lost to the Loyola squad.

“Our team will be able to beat them as long as we keep pushing ourselves in practice each day,” says Mills. “We usually focus a lot on the setter’s and middle’s connection, which is huge for winning these games.”

While it may be a bit of a stretch for a younger team, the goal for players and coaches remains to compete at the state level later on. Winning conference, let alone competing for the school’s first state title in nearly 50 years, will be tough, but Wednesday will be telling for the future of the season.

“I don’t know if going down to state is going to happen just because of the cards that we’ve been dealt,” says Vetter. “But it’s really tough competition in Illinois, and I think we just need to be able to walk into any gym knowing we can beat a team.”