written by Dennis Mahoney.
No more baby steps.
Evanston’s young volleyball team took a big step Thursday at Beardsley Gym. The Wildkits put every phase of their game together and turned the tables on a Maine South squad that had defeated them in three sets earlier in the year in Central Suburban League South division action.
Behind Christine Covode’s 15 kills, the Kits took down a Maine South squad that is seeded third --- three spots ahead of ETHS --- in the Class 4A New Trier Sectional tournament. Thursday’s 25-15, 18-25, 25-22 victory moved the Kits to 12-14 overall and evened their record in league play at 4-4.
Coach Pam MacPherson’s squad started strong, had their customary lull, but then regrouped down the stretch. The third set was tied eight times before the hosts pulled away.
With one of the squad’s regular setters, Keegan Joyce, sidelined all week due to illness, MacPherson chose to simplify matters in the rotation and get away from the typical 6-2 alignment used by Evanston. Setter Tess Brieva turned in an almost flawless performance running a 5-1 offense and may have planted a seed in her head coach’s mind moving forward for the season.
MacPherson likes the 6-2 because it involves more players --- but also acknowledged that some of the program’s best success (including a Downstate trip in 2008) has come using the 5-1 approach.
She may try it both ways this weekend when the Wildkits try to build some more momentum at the Maine West Pumpkin Tournament.
“Our two best years were when we ran a 5-1, and I loved the speed of it and the way we looked tonight,” said the ETHS coach. “And this is really a huge win for us. After the match we talked in the huddle about how that third game was like our entire season. We started to falter in the middle again --- but this time we fought through and won out.
“We had so many more digs, our passing was much better, and our defense improved a ton. We did a lot of good things tonight. This was the first time Tess (Brieva) has had to run the entire court, and I thought she did a good job. Her hustle and her defense were just phenomenal! She hustles everywhere out there.”
Meg Fitzpatrick added 7 kills for the winners as setter Brieva struck a good balance between the outside (Covode) and middle (Fitzpatrick) on offense. Ruby Smith, Wali Deutsch and Akilah Wilson each put down 4 kills.
Clara Gruger set the tone on defense with a team-high 16 digs to 12 for Brieva, and also fired off four ace serves.
Covode connected for five of her kills in the first set and Evanston never looked back after outscoring the visiting Hawks 16-4 to start the match. Evanston also started strong in the second set, building an early 7-3 advantage, but middle hitter Allie Fredrickson rallied the Hawks with a kill and a key block on Deutsch to make it 19-16 in Maine South’s favor.
Brieva fed Fitzpatrick for a kill that drew the Kits to within 19-17, but that was as close as the hosts could get. Maine South’s last two points came on hitting errors by ETHS.
MacPherson’s squad trailed 20-19 after a missed serve in the third set, but rallied as Wilson sliced a kill off the net that hit open floor. A Maine South error and a kill by Covode completed the mini-run, and Covode hammered down two more spikes to seal the victory.
Evanston opens pool play in the Pumpkin Tournament on Friday at 5 p.m. at Maine South. The Kits are part of a pool that also includes Oak Park-River Forest and Conant in the 24-team field.