CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central senior Brecken Noennig never had played anything but defensive specialist on the varsity volleyball court until Tuesday.
Noennig, who started at outside hitter and shuffled all over the court Tuesday, was one of eight seniors on the Tigers to play for the duration of their 25-17, 25-20 Fox Valley Conference victory over McHenry on senior night.
Noennig took advantage of the chance to play a position with a little more flare.
“It honestly means the world to me because this is my last year playing volleyball,” said Noennig, who had two kills, two aces and five digs in the victory. “I’m not playing club, so it felt really good to win, especially on our home court.
“We all played for each other. We we all got happy for each other’s success on the court, and I think that helped us get the win.”
Central coach Amy Johnson said she didn’t know Noennig had any experience at outside hitter until this week.
“I never knew she could swing. And so this week in practice, she said she was an outside hitter until last year when she was told she was no longer one,” Johnson said. “I was proud of her for stepping up. I was proud of the whole group tonight. You can just see that they really jelled tonight, and it was really fun to watch.”
Noennig was one of three senior starters to record two kills for the Tigers (13-20, 8-9 FVC). She was joined by Mary Grace Gallagher (two blocks, one ace), Courtney Schober and Avery Munn (two aces).
McKenna Timmerman, who will play next year at Division I Gardner-Webb, led all players with eight kills and eight digs and put away the first-set and match winners.
Paige Keller, who took over as the team’s setter after Lauren Klutke suffered a season-ending knee injury, led Central with 14 assists, while Molly Vittetoe started at libero. Klutke served the match’s opening point, despite her injury, before leaving the court.
Central was coming off a 1-4 finish at the Plainfield Harvest Fest Tournament on Friday and Saturday, so Tuesday’s win was a nice change of pace. Entering Tuesday, the Tigers had dropped 11 of their past 17 matches.
“It’s been such a roller coaster since we lost Lauren,” Central coach Amy Johnson said. “The frustrating part is that we see them improve in practice every day. We see it every day, and it hasn’t been translating into competition.
“I knew it was important for the morale and also to send off these eight young women who have been dedicated to this program for so long. For them to come out and play that way, I’m just really proud of them.”
The Tigers ended the first set on a 7-1 run, which is what McHenry coach Hilary Agnello said was the biggest turning point of the match.
“When they went on the run, it absolutely rocked our confidence,” Agnello said. “When we’re not feeling confident, it can be really hard to get them back into a competitive state of mind. I think that caused the rest of the match to really feel on edge for us.”
Ella Boland led the Warriors (17-17, 6-11) with six kills and an ace, Mollie Hobson had five kills, and Abbie Honkala had four kills. Aspen O’Brien collected 13 assists, nine digs and one ace, while Kendall Krumsee had six digs.
Gallagher said Tuesday’s win for the Tigers was especially important with the playoffs starting next week.
“This win was amazing. We had eight seniors out there, and we just jelled and connected,” Gallagher said. “It was really fun and exciting. Going into regionals, I really think we needed this win. It gives us a lot more confidence and the ability to be more confident in ourselves.”