Lockport’s Grace Juergens has been a constant for the Porters this season. The 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter helped lead the Porters to second place at the inaugural Barb Walaszek Invitational last week and has been a key component in the team’s 14-3 record.
Juergens won the voting for The Herald-News Athlete of the Week with 217 votes, beating runner-up Camyn Viger of Plainfield South’s total of 155. Kara Waishwell finished with 127 votes, while Plainfield North’s Cooper Allen had one.
JHN: How was the competition at the Barb Walaszek Invitational?
Juergens: It was a really good invitational. There were a lot of good teams there, and it helped us get ready for our conference season.
JHN: Your conference is pretty tough, but you won it last year. Is that a goal again this year?
Juergens: Oh, it definitely is. There are the two Lincoln-Ways (East and Central), us, and Bolingbrook. I think it might come down to us and Lincoln-Way East, which is great because I always like to play against them, and we have some good battles.
JHN: You won the conference last season, but the postseason ended sooner than you would have liked. Is the goal to go further in the postseason this year?
Juergens: Yeah, it is. The regular season was great. We had a 23-match winning streak and made some history there, but it didn’t mean much when the postseason was done before we wanted it to be. This year, one of our goals is to go further in the postseason. But we take matches one at a time and focus on the next match ahead.
JHN: How nice is it to play on a team as well-rounded as yours?
Juergens: It’s great. We have a lot of good hitters, and our setters are great at setting tempo balls anywhere on the court.
JHN: None of that happens without defense and good passing, right?
Juergens: Oh, for sure. I don’t think the defensive players get the recognition they deserve, so I always try to say ‘good job’ to them if they make a good pass to the setter.
JHN: Do you prefer hitting or playing defense?
Juergens: It’s great to get a big kill, but I really like playing defense, too. If you can bring a ball up and keep a point alive, that’s the same adrenaline rush. There are a lot of times when I will have a bruise from diving for a ball, and I like to show that off. It’s like a badge of honor.
JHN: Is your team a close-knit group?
Juergens: We are. We did lose a lot of seniors from last year, and that was a very close group. But the girls coming up from last year’s JV team have meshed really well with those of us returning from last year. It’s nice to have a close group, because if you are in a close match, you have a lot of confidence in them.