Girls volleyball: Plano tops rival Sandwich in season opener

Reapers win three-setter over Indians in first Kishwaukee River Conference match between rivals

Plano's Alexa Sobieszczyk (5) celebrates a point during volleyball match between Sandwich at Plano.  Aug 21, 2023.

PLANO – It was a historic and momentous night in the rich history of Plano and Sandwich high school sports.

The two longtime rivals that have seen decades of fierce competition within the Interstate 8 Conference, opened the 2023 volleyball campaign as members of the Kishwaukee River Conference.

Despite the change in leagues, that fierce rivalry didn’t let up, with Plano senior Emily Santolin leading the way during the Reapers’ 25-22, 19-25, 25-21 victory Monday, Aug. 21, in front of a raucous crowd within Reaper Gymnasium.

Santolin produced nine service points, including seven aces, along with 16 digs and five kills as Plano rifled off 18 aces on the night that countered a whopping 41 team attack errors and eventually paced her club to a hard-fought triumph over its closest rival, only 3 miles down the road.

“I actually had no idea that Sandwich was still in our conference, so it was very exciting for me to perform so well,” Santolin said. “Being a senior, I know I had to pick it up on the court and when I got to serve I wanted to make the best of it, especially against Sandwich in front if an amazing crowd.”

Santolin received great help from classmate Alexa Sobieszczyk, who was the main force for the Reapers in front of the service line, firing down a contest-best 12 kills while adding 12 digs and two aces.

“Our serving was excellent tonight and I got some great sets that I was able to put away,” Sobieszczyk said. “We went as hard as we could after we lost the second set and were able to get a huge win against Sandwich in our new conference.”

Plano also saw some fine efforts from junior setter Rita Lauro, who dished out 21 assists to go along with five blistering left-handed service aces. Senior Aleksa Martinez chipped in with 10 points and two aces, and classmate Angela Smithey popped up 17 digs and fired two aces in the winning cause.

Sandwich was headed by senior Lexie Randa with four kills and nine service points, while junior Brynn Ripsky added four kills. Senior setter Miya Klossing tossed up eight assists and eight digs as the Indians fought tooth and nail but could not contend with the Reapers’ service game.

“Plano showed that they’re a very good serving team and serve-receive will be something we’ll have to clean up after tonight,” first-year Sandwich coach Amy Rogowski said. “We battled hard in front of a great crowd with some great engagement with our rival, and I’m very proud of our girls for the fantastic effort in our first contest of the year.”

The first set was even at 19-19 before Santolin toed the serving stripe and fired off three consecutive aces before Martinez ended the set with an ace to give the Reapers the early advantage.

The Indians took control of the second set late when Plano committed 18 attack errors in the frame as the visitors evened up the match.

But behind 3-1 early in the third set, Santolin impressed again from behind the serving line, drilling four consecutive aces to put the Reapers ahead 5-3 for a lead they didn’t relinquish. Junior Kalia Young put away a tip-kill on match point to secure Plano’s win.

“[Santolin] is our kid and we know we can trust her when she goes back to the service line,” Plano coach Brittany Hill said. “Her confidence out there and our confidence in her rallied our team tonight for sure.

“Starting off with a win against our rival is sure a great way to set our season off on a fine foot with some new conference competition.”