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Girls Volleyball: Sandburg ready to be a pace-setter

Sandburg's Sami Knight (7) sets ball as Kathleen Bolli(14) looks receive pass. | File photo

Sandburg's Sami Knight (7) sets the ball as Kathleen Bollito (14) looks to receive the pass. | File photo

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Updated: August 31, 2014 6:29AM



Born in 1975 and coach of Sandburg’s girls volleyball team for the past seven years, David Vales appreciates how difficult it is for any team not named Mother McAuley to advance to the state tournament from the South Side/south and southwest suburbs.

“I don’t remember a time when (the sectional title) hasn’t gone through (McAuley),” he said.

That doesn’t mean Sandburg won’t keep trying.

Led by a veteran setter and nearly all of their hitters from last year’s 31-8 team that lost to McAuley 25-20, 25-16 in a sectional final, Vales and the Eagles are well-armed to take aim at their 11th consecutive regional title but their first trip to the final eight since 2004.

Sandburg has lost just once in the summer league at Palos Courts, falling to De La Salle 15-13 in the third set while setter Sami Knight was absent. That same night, the Eagles were able to overcome Lincoln-Way North in another thriller, winning 19-17 in the third set.

“After that match, Lincoln-Way North coach Mary Brown came up to me and asked if I was breaking in a new setter,” Vales said. “I told her Sami was just gone that week. She said, ‘She hasn’t graduated yet?’ ”

Vales called Knight, a prepvolleyball.com third team All-American, the purest setter he’s seen at Sandburg since joining the coaching staff 14 years ago.

“She’s very deceptive,” Vales said. “At camp, our blockers would go to the right and she’d set left. Then the blockers would go left and she’s set right. I’ve never seen players going one way and a setter going the other. The blockers are going on their third year with us themselves, and they can’t tell where she’s setting.

“She also gives you the same ball every time. You tell her the ball you want, she’s going to make it the same wherever she is on the floor. Those are some great qualities to have.”

Knight will have a stable of hitters from which to choose, including 5-foot-9 outside hitter Julia Borcshel, middle hitters Kathleen Bollito and 6-3 Kristina Stoncius, and 5-10 right side Leah Lane. Add to that mix 5-10 junior Caroline Stefanon, who played club with 1st Alliance 16 Silver.

“Borschel is back after playing all last year and part- time her sophomore year,” Vales said. “Last year she had 10 kills and one error against McAuley. That’s what we expect from her this year. She’ll be our go-to outside. Lane, on the right side, is in her third year on the varsity.

“Bollito and Stoncius were part of a three-headed monster with Kelly Finlay in the middle, and Stefanon played outside with 1st Alliance but she’s played middle all of her life and is the most explosive middle I have.

“In the hitting department, we don’t lose a ton.”

Defense and passing, however, are concerns.

“We’re going to be a little younger there,” Vales said. “I do have two seniors coming back. If they learned from watching and practicing last year and a couple of juniors we have step up, we could be pretty formidable.”



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