RICHMOND – Richmond-Burton volleyball coach Mike Kamholz sees plenty of reasons to be excited about the Rockets’ future. With a pair of promising hard-swinging underclassmen in Maggie Uhwat and Elissa Furlan, it’s not hard to see why.
Uhwat, a sophomore, and Furlan, a freshman, combined for 16 kills Wednesday to power the Rockets to a 25-22, 25-19 Kishwaukee River Conference victory over Marengo.
“Between the two of them and a lot of other freshmen coming up, we have years of some good volleyball going on,” Kamholz said. “We don’t have a very different team from last year. Problem is we just seem to have a lot of doubt at times.
“We have the tools to do the job. We just have to make sure we’re focused all of the time.”
R-B (5-8, 3-1 KRC) got off to a slow start against the Indians (5-9, 0-4) and did not take its first lead until late in the first set. Trailing, 21-19, R-B tied the score on back-to-back points by Uhwat, the first on an ace and second on a kill.
Junior middle blocker Madi Havlicek’s kill gave R-B its first lead at 22-21 and Furlan extended the lead with her fourth kill of the first set. The Rockets ended the first set on a dominant 8-2 run and jumped ahead, 6-0, in the second set on the strength of six straight service points and two aces from junior Kaitlyn Lehecka.
“We talked to each other a lot more, and we kept bringing each other up if something didn’t work,” Furlan said. “We really just tried to help each other. For me, personally, I saw Kaitlyn serving up all those points and it gave me a lot of confidence.”
Uhwat, who was second in the area with 114 kills during the COVID-19-shortened spring season, led R-B with nine kills and one ace. Furlan had seven kills and two aces, Lehecka served three aces, and senior Mia Finnen added three kills, five assists and one ace.
Furlan admits she was a little shy at first, but has adapted well to varsity.
“It was really scary because I didn’t think I’d make many friends, but I have a bunch of friends now,” Furlan said. “I like the pace of the game at this level. ... As long as we’re developing and improving each game, I think we’re doing good.”
It wasn’t that long ago when Uhwat was the freshman. There was no doubt from Uhwat that Furlan would fit in right away.
“I knew she was going to be something special for us, even better than expected,” Uhwat said. “She’s really been a breath of fresh air.”
Marengo was paced by junior Allie Brackmann with five digs and one ace, juniors Michaela Almeida and Mia Lulinski with five kills apiece, senior Abby Rohe with two kills and two blocks and junior Addie Johnson with five assists.
Marengo coach Rayne Hoey said the Indians normally aren’t quick starters, so Wednesday was a nice surprise.
“Starting off that strong and just going with the flow for the first set, the first 15 or 20 points, I was really really impressed with them,” Hoey said. “Richmond’s always a good team. It’s always fun to play them. They always bring some of the best competition that we see. I think we just kind of got into our heads a little bit, but some simple things to work on for tomorrow in practice.”
Uhwat hopes Wednesday’s win is the start of many more.
“Our start this year was slow,” Uhwat said. “We lost to a few teams we could have beat, but we’re getting there and picking ourselves up, doing better than we were.”