Girls volleyball: Metea Valley rebounds, sweeps South Elgin
Finding a setter has proved to be quite a challenge for Metea Valley this season.
One player decided to play club. Another is focusing on the beach season. Injuries have sidelined another.
Enter freshman Carolina Gutierrez.
Put into a 5-1 system that's new to her, Gutierrez is learning on the fly. She's getting better each match, and Wednesday she set 15 assists in the Mustangs' 25-13, 25-20 nonconference home victory over South Elgin.
"She's done a great job," Metea coach Dave MacDonald said. "She's battled, she's taken the constructive criticism from our seniors. She's done a great job of answering the call. She's kind of figuring it out along the way which is how this whole crazy season has been."
Senior Sam Rueda found herself on the receiving end of those sets more than anyone else, totaling a match-high 9 kills plus 2 aces and a block.
"Our connection is starting to go. Our freshman is really picking it up," said Rueda, who was pleased with how the Mustangs bounced back from a one-sided loss to Naperville Central on Tuesday.
"We were a little frustrated and aggravated by our loss last night but we came together as a team and talked it out," Rueda said. "We studied last night's game and really put that into this game. Our serve-receive was a lot better tonight. We cleaned up our whole game."
Metea Valley (2-5) trailed briefly in the opening set but began to pull ahead in part with strong play at the net.
Middle Skyler Raygoza, recently back from a sprained ankle, and Rueda teamed up for a block to put Metea ahead to stay at 5-4. Rueda followed by stuffing another shot.
"Our middles were doing a great job of tracking and we've been working on blocking a lot especially with the tough conference we have," MacDonald said. "Finally it started to click tonight and that was good to see."
Rueda closed the first set with back-to-back kills, including a vicious blast on set point.
South Elgin (3-4) stayed close throughout the second set. The Storm pulled even at 17 on an ace from Emma Pedres, and again at 18 before one of their seven missed serves on the night put the Mustangs up 19-18.
Metea Valley didn't let that lead get away, combining a couple kills from Keira Jannisch (4 kills, 1 ace) with South Elgin mistakes to close the match on a 7-2 run.
Maddie Shaner paced South Elgin with 4 kills and Maggie McGough added 3 aces and 10 digs.
"It's obviously been a way different type of season," said South Elgin coach Joni Plach, who lost a couple of her returnees to club. "Lots of matches, not much time to practice. Starting 2 freshmen and 3 sophomores, there's so much to work on in practice but there's no time and no space to do it. There are things that on the varsity level I've typically never had to work on."