GLEN ELLYN – Never before during his 12-year tenure had Glenbard West girls volleyball coach Pete Mastandrea fielded a team with only one senior.
Luckily for the Hilltoppers, their only senior is a good one.
Hannah Brodner is a jack-of-all-trades whose leadership has helped Glenbard West remain among the area’s elite teams.
“I’m really happy with Hannah,” Mastandrea said. “She’s battled injuries and she’s played almost every position.
“Last year she was a setter; this year she’s playing some right side, some outside, a little setter. She could have easily been our libero but we’ve got our junior (Katie Ryan) running it really nicely.”
The 5-foot-8 Brodner played on the outside against Benet on Oct. 4. She had two kills, one shy of middle blocker Ananda Patterson’s team-high three, as the host Hilltoppers (19-7) lost 25-10, 25-14 in a rare poor performance.
“They were just faster than us and they played harder than us,” Brodner said. “They run a fast offense so our block wasn’t always ready for it.”
The Hilltoppers knew they would be underdogs against the Redwings (22-2), a perennial power who have won three state titles since 2010. But they were riding a four-game winning streak that included a road upset of Joliet Catholic.
“Our past four games we’ve had all wins and they were on the road so that was kind of momentum going into this game,” Brodner said. “But this loss, I guess we should look at it as motivation for the postseason.”
Brodner has more motivation than most because this will be her final year playing volleyball. She and Patterson, a 5-11 junior, are the only players left who saw significant playing time on Glenbard West’s 2015 state runner-up team.
“I’ve never had (only) one senior, so (the juniors) are getting some valuable time,” Mastandrea said. “We’re 19-7 and I think we’re going to draw a top 3 seed in our sectional.
“You can say that this is the investment year, but like I keep telling them, this is our year. Anything you can get with a young team that’s good, you’ve got to build on, but we’ve got plenty to build on.”
That’s where Brodner’s leadership comes in.
“Everyone is looking up to me but I focus on the juniors, too, to help me with that job because next year I won’t be there,” Brodner said. “I want to be a leader for all of them and want the juniors to look up to me and use what I give them for next year.”
Meanwhile, this year still could be good for the Hilltoppers. They have the size and talent to make a run.
“Kaitlyn (Dumerer) is in her first season setting varsity, so what she’s been able to take on is good for her given what experience she’s had,” Brodner said. “And (middle hitter) Nina (Crawford) and Ananda have been playing really good, too.”
Where will it all lead? Possibly the state finals at Illinois State. The Hilltoppers are hosting their own sectional, which will not include Benet or Joliet Catholic.
“If we just play hard every game,” Brodner said, “we hope to make it to Redbird Arena.”