All season, the Stevenson girls volleyball team prepared for the postseason.
A North Suburban Conference co-championship shared with Libertyville, followed by a Class 4A regional title, the Patriots went into the playoffs as a No. 3 seed. They drew No. 2 seed Cary-Grove in the Nov. 4 sectional semifinals.
On a day when the Patriots needed to be at their best they played perhaps one of their worst matches of the season, losing to Cary-Grove 25-18, 25-16.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose and your season ends,” Stevenson coach Tim Crow said. “To take nothing away from Cary-Grove, we didn’t play well. Our serve-receive was poor and our floor game wasn’t good.”
Stevenson won 23 matches in 2019 with a multiple offensive attack that featured a strong outside hitter in sophomore Amanda Holsen (451 kills) and a consistent serve game (114 more service aces than service errors). But against the Trojans, the Patriots had five service errors, one more than service aces (four).
“We didn’t spread the ball out as much as we could have,” senior outside hitter Lily Cozzi said. “It’s a bummer with it being such an important match.”
In Crow’s 18 seasons as coach, Stevenson has won at least a share of six NSC titles and won 14 regional championships. This year’s group had Holsen, Cozzi, senior defensive specialist Abby Keevins and senior setter Grace Tully.
Tully was arguably the Patriots most complete player, finishing with 842 assists, 183 digs, 81 kills and 50 service aces.
Crow said what separated this season’s group is leadership. Cozzi, Keevins and Tully were the three captains and all brought unique skill sets to the captaincy.
“I’m very open with the kids. I’ll tell them, ‘I’m here, but eventually, you will shut me out. It’s important you hear from your peers as they are on the court battling,’” Crow said. “It’s truly a team effort to lead and how you deliver the message, even if it's intimidating.”
In late summer, the Patriots decamped at the Wisconsin summer home of senior Molly Bourbon. In-season team retreats are not uncommon for the Patriots. But the timing of this trip, at the start of the season, had a positive impact on the team’s chemistry.
“We went to Molly’s lake house and it was very helpful to do that early in the season. It got us close,” Cozzi said.
Co-NSC champions Libertyville returns almost its entire roster from a 4A sectional title team. But the Patriots will be formidable foes in 2020.
Along with Holsen, junior libero Emerson Kouri and junior right side hitter Makayla Uremovich return. Crow said Uremovich is a candidate to replace Tully at setter next year. Junior middles Stacy Maimur and Emma Potocki also return.
The future is built around Holsen, who’s number of kills in 2019 is second in school history behind record holder Jori Radtke (552).
“She (Holsen) didn’t play much as a freshman. For her to have the type of season she had is incredible,” Crow said.
“As the seniors leave, you want to not be taking a huge part of the team. You hope you leave an impact, and, as role models, they perform like us,” Cozzi said.
Jon J. Kerr is a freelance reporter for the Pioneer Press