Girls volleyball: Worden returns, leads South Elgin to record season
Last spring, Alyssa Worden made the difficult decision of bypassing her sophomore high school volleyball season at South Elgin to play club.
"It was one of the best decisions I've ever made," said Worden, who got the opportunity to play up for the renowned Sports Performance U-18 club team.
"My teammates were not just from our region," said Worden. "I had the chance to learn from players like Ella Wrobel (Plainfield North), Zayna Mayer (Wheaton Warrenville South), Morgan Rank (Metea Valley) and Ellie Watson (Sandburg) -- all (NCAA) Division 1 athletes."
Last August, Worden made another major decision -- she was returning for her junior season at South Elgin.
And return she did.
The 5-foot-9 outside hitter collected 387 kills, 264 digs, 60 aces and 45 blocks while helping lead the Storm to a school-record 31 victories and Upstate Eight Conference championship.
For her efforts, Worden was selected as the Captain of the Daily Herald's Fox Valley All-Area Girls Volleyball Team for the 2021 fall campaign.
"It is a tremendous accomplishment," said South Elgin coach Joni Plach. "All of her teammates and coaches are so happy for her."
Plach realizes a player like Worden doesn't come around often.
"Alyssa makes plays that I haven't seen in high school volleyball matches in my 17 years as a volleyball coach," said Plach. "She sees the court so well. She does things that you can't really teach.
"Earlier in the season, we were playing in a tournament in Sycamore. It was game point, and instead of waiting for the usual three hits, she gets a kill on the first hit."
Plach is a firm believer in her team recording a kill any way possible.
"A kill is a kill -- it doesn't necessarily matter how hard it is if it gets there," she said.
Like the mail carrier, Worden delivers the ball on time in all shapes and sizes.
"Obviously, she's a big hitter," said Plach. "But she does an excellent job of mixing it up. She has that rare combination of finesse and power."
As a freshman, Worden displayed her ability from the outset, recording a team-leading 315 kills and 54 aces during South Elgin's 28-win campaign that included a UEC championship.
"She was super talented coming in as a freshman," said Plach. "That's why we put her on varsity. She did amazing things but mentally, she was still a freshman."
Two years later, Worden has become a true leader for the Storm.
"I think I've improved tremendously since freshman year, both physically and mentally," said Worden. "I took on more of a leadership role this season."
From her spot on the bench, Plach viewed that as a bonus.
"It's like having another coach on the court," the coach said of Worden. "She leads the team onto the court. She encourages her teammates. She leads the team in a positive way as a coach would.
"I used to coach boys volleyball, and there were times where they'd all be yelling at each other. Alyssa has the maturity and shows leadership on the court without being in your face. Teammates respect her as a player and her ability to help the team."
This season, Worden made it a point of emphasis to help her teammates.
"She took (sophomore) Jazmine Binion under her wing," said Plach. "Alyssa knew what it was like to be the youngest girl on the team."
"I see a lot of potential in Jazmine," said Worden. "I did see a lot of myself in her."
"Alyssa is a very mature volleyball player," said Plach. "She understands she needs her whole team to be successful. She respects all 12 girls on the team. Some kids didn't see much (playing) time, but she respected them as practice players and the fact that they played hard in scrimmages.
"She's a 17-year-old junior but she knows it takes everybody to win matches. One of the things I love to watch is that she gets just as excited when somebody else on her team gets a kill."
Worden has the natural ability to take over a volleyball match from any spot on the court.
"Everybody sees those big hits but she's just as good on serve receive," said Plach. "She exerts just as much effort on defense."
Opponents know all too well about Worden's skill level.
"Alyssa is fun to watch," Bartlett coach Robert Schwantz said following the Hawks' 2-set loss to South Elgin last month in which Worden delivered a variety of hard-hit put-downs along with timely push and tip kills.
"You've got to be down at all times. She's really the only girl (for South Elgin) who can punish the ball, so you have to keep the weight on your toes and balls of your feet."
Easier said than done.
"She's going to go Division 1 -- she's amazing," said Schwantz.
Last month, Worden announced a verbal commitment to attend the University of Iowa in 2023.
"It was a tough decision," she said. "I visited the campus and it just felt like home to me. They have great academics."
Worden, who takes multiple honors classes at South Elgin, plans on majoring in sports psychology while playing in one of the nation's best volleyball conferences -- the Big Ten.
"I am looking forward to going to see her play at Iowa," said Plach, who made sure all 12 Storm varsity players received Iowa volleyball T-shirts after Worden's commitment.
But first Worden will return for her senior year at South Elgin in 2022.
"I love the high school component of volleyball," she said. "It's especially fun to play with your friends in front of cheering crowds."
THE ALL-AREA TEAM
Name Year Position School
Mya Bajramovic Sr. MB Cary-Grove
Brooke Biggins Sr. S St. Edward
Madison Buckley Sr. OH Kaneland
Madi Danielson Sr. OH Geneva
Avery DeBlieck Jr. MB Huntley
Mia Dela Merced Sr. OH St. Charles North
Maggie Duyos Jr. S Huntley
Rylie Hahn Sr. OH Burlington Central
Madison Hankins Sr. S Bartlett
Mielye Hardersen Sr. S West Aurora
Jacey Lambert Sr. MB Hampshire
Hayley Martin Sr. OH Harvest Christian
Meghan O'Sullivan Sr. S Kaneland
Jessie Proszenyak Sr. OH Crystal Lake South
Mia Regillio Sr. MH Crystal Lake South
Taylor Riddiford Sr. S Rosary
Lia Schneider Jr. L St. Charles East
Kyra Taylor Sr. OH Batavia
Ireland Van Stone Sr. OH Jacobs
*Alyssa Worden Jr. OH South Elgin
*Fox Valley Captain
Honorable mentionLuma Acevedo, jr., L, Huntley; Bella Archulita, sr., MB, Streamwood; Lauren Benson, jr., MB, Geneva; Alyssa Burke, fresh., OH, Harvest Christian; Alexis Crossen, jr., OH, St. Charles East; Kayla Davern, jr., OH, St. Charles North; Leah Delgado, jr., OH, Streamwood; Vianna Duarte, sr., MB, Aurora Central Catholic; Mackenzie Ewen, sr., L, Kaneland; Meredith Giustino, sr., L, Jacobs; Kate Goudreau, jr., OH, St. Charles East; Marisa Hauserman, sr., MB, Streamwood; Yoanna Hernandez, sr., S, Larkin; Hannah Hockensmith, jr., OH, Aurora Christian; Emma Hunter, sr., S, South Elgin; Madalynn Johnson, fresh., OH, Aurora Christian; Morgan Jones, soph., OH, Crystal Lake South; Rachel Kaczorowski, sr., S, Jacobs; Alexi Kagel, jr., S, Hampshire; Tricia Kennedy, jr., OH, Cary-Grove; Lainey Kovarick, sr., S, Aurora Christian; Megan Langdon, sr., MH, Crystal Lake South; Abby Lester, sr., OH, Aurora Central Catholic; Bria Lomax, jr., MH, Bartlett; Kylie Loquercio, sr., OH, Rosary; Taylor Martin, fresh., L, Harvest Christian; Maggie McGough, sr., L, South Elgin; Emily Mohr, jr., S, Hampshire; Riley Moreno, sr., OH, St. Charles North; Isabella Mosquera, sr., MB, St. Charles East; Addison Nava, sr., OH, Burlington Central; Nikki Novak, sr., OH, Cary-Grove; Amanda Otten, jr., S/RS, Batavia; Ally Panzloff, jr., OH, Huntley; Jessica Parker, jr., S, St. Charles North; Madeline Pogorzelski, sr., MB, St. Edward; Jaclyn Poirier, sr., OH, Jacobs; Maureen Pokryfke, fresh., OH, West Aurora; Bella Rio, sr., OH, Kaneland; Katherine Scherer, soph., OH, St. Charles North; Isabelle Strader, jr., S, Cary-Grove; Karolina Tiu, sr., DS, Hampshire; Kailey Treiber, sr., OH, St. Edward; Izabel Valadez, sr., L/DS, West Aurora; Samantha Vanda, fresh., OH, Geneva; Francesca Ventimiglia, sr., OH/DS, St. Edward; Kylia Waltmire, sr., L, Aurora Christian; Hope Wehrli, sr., MB, Rosary; Makena Wesol, sr., OH, Dundee-Crown; Lizzy Williams, soph., OH, Huntley; Emily Willis, jr., OH, Huntley; Gabby Wire, soph., OH, Crystal Lake South; Anna Withall, jr., OH, Westminster Christian; Alyssa Wysuph, jr., MB, Elgin; Alyssa Yost, jr., S, Elgin Academy; Alyssa Zagroba, sr., DS, Crystal Lake South; Karina Zamudio, sr., OH, Larkin.