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Volleyball preview: Indians already ahead of 2012 standard

Published: Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013 2:54 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:55 p.m. CST
Caption
Erica Benson-ebenson@shawmedia.com Lemont's Katie Klein sets the ball in a recent match against West Aurora at the Benet Invitational Saturday.

LEMONT – The Lemont girls volleyball program has had a great run of success under head coach Chris Zogata.

And one shouldn’t expect anything different this time around from the Indians, who return a talented group to the court in 2013.

“I feel like we are definitely ahead of the game from where we were at this time last year,” said Zogata, whose team finished with a 26-13 record last fall. “Everyone has really upped their level of play. This group wants to be successful and they want to play at a higher level.”

Any talk about Lemont must start with senior middle Kelly Ferguson, who has verbally committed to Austin Peay. A year ago, she contributed 173 kills, 88 blocks and 32 aces.

Also back is senior right side Cara Howell (159 kills, 46 blocks in 2012), junior libero Haley Sullivan (249 digs), senior defensive specialist Jenna Walaszek (94 digs) and junior defensive specialist Tess Cannon (108 digs).

“We make a lot of subs,” the coach said, “and I feel like we have kids who can play the front row and kids who can play the back row.”

The Indians lost an experienced setter in Megan Litoborski, who has continued her career at California University of Pennsylvania. Lemont will use a 6-2 offense with two setters this fall, with senior Katie Klein and junior Shae Millinowisch handling the setting.

“Everybody is getting in sync with each other,” Zogata said. “Once we start jelling, I think offensively we will be tons better than last year.”

Lemont, which started off the season with wins against Joliet Central and Hillcrest before going 3-2 at the Benet Invite, has dominated the South Suburban Conference in recent years. As a result of that success, Zogata has made sure to enter the Indians in strong invites throughout the campaign.

“We have a lot of teams in our conference who are improving,” the coach said, “and that’s a good thing.

“And what I’ve really tried to do is get us in the most competitive tournaments that we can possibly get. Luckily we’ve been able to get in some of the top tournaments in the state.”

That success has carried over the postseason, where the Indians were bumped up to Class 4A a year ago.

“It’s a big accomplishment for Lemont volleyball,” the coach said, “that no matter whether we are in Class 3A or 4A, we’ve been very competitive in the playoffs. We won three playoff matches last year. The fact we were still so competitive, that’s a tribute to the girls and the work they put in.”

The one disappointment has been seven straight postseason losses to private schools, which includes multiple defeats to powerhouses Joliet Catholic and St. Francis. In 2012, Lemont lost in a sectional final to eventual state champion Benet.

“We have to keep showing up there, just keep making it to that point,” Zogata added. “And eventually we will overcome that hump.”

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