It’s hard to watch someone else get the championship plate.
But Lockport pushed undefeated Barrington to the limit in Saturday’s final game at the Barb Walaszek Invitational.
Grace Juergens savored the positives and left with a smile.
“It’s a great feeling to know that we could face them, take a set away from them,” Juergens said. “It just makes you excited for the season and gives you confidence that you can go far as a team in the playoffs.
“I have great confidence in this team. Even though we are undersized, we know we can compete with the bigger teams.
Juergens, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, got off to a great start in her senior season.
The New Haven commit has 92 kills and 18 aces for Lockport (9-3). She also contributed 85 digs and six blocks.
In Saturday’s 16-25, 25-17, 25-17 loss to Barrington, she had nine kills. Six came in an impressive Game 1 performance that caught the eye of coach Nick Mraz.
This didn’t surprise him, however.
“Grace has been our go-to player – back row, front row,” Mraz said. “When we’re out of the system, we want to look to her for her leadership and smart decisions.
“She was attacking that block early on against Barrington and then our service reception kind of fell apart. But she still kept that positivity and made adjustments.
Juergens took the leadership reins in 2021, earning honors from all regions and conferences.
Even then, she was a fighter. In a game against Sandburg, she left the pitch with a bloody left wrist from a burn on the ground. Duct tape stopped the bleeding. Juergens’ courage did the rest as the Porters prevailed.
She is hard. And getting stronger.
“I worked out over the summer in the weight room,” Juergens said. “That’s what I like to do. I really wish we went further than we did last season in the playoffs.
“I’m delighted to take this team far as a senior.”
Fit perfectly: Andrew’s coach, Emily Connolly, had to wait until second-year MaTaia Lawson had fully recovered from an ankle problem to see her play.
But before the Marist transfer took the field for the Thunderbolts, Lawson was already contributing.
“Even when she was hurt, she had the best attitude,” Connolly said. “She was super cheerful for her teammates. And then the moment she arrived, she had a big impact.
Lawson led the way Saturday with seven kills and 23 digs as the Thunderbolts beat Oswego 26-24, 21-25, 25-15 in the fifth-place game at the Barb Walaszek Invitational.
For the season, Lawson has 70 kills, 164 digs and 15 aces for Andrew (7-7). A dual-sport athlete, she also plays softball at an elite level for the Iowa Premier.
In volleyball, she plays in a club for First Alliance. She started her career as a defensive specialist and libero before adding an outside hitter to her resume at the Nationals.
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“For here, I like playing outside,” Lawson said. “I’ve always played defensively. But hitting has been my favorite thing since last year.
“I love volleyball. Would I see myself playing in college? Probably not because of softball. But I’m really happy right now.
Powerful way: Mother McAuley ended a successful trip to Kentucky by sweeping the field at the Louisville Invitational Tournament. The Mighty Macs beat longtime rival Assumption 25-19, 23-25, 25-21 for the title.
Michigan rookie Ellie White led the way with 92 kills in five games, but middlemen Ellery Rees and Jillian Moonan also drew rave reviews from McAuley coach Jen DeJarld.
In the final against Assumption, Rees and Moonan combined eight kills and eight blocks.
“We were playing against a 6-4 midfielder and a 6-1 midfielder,” DeJarld said. “They were probably two of the best we’ve seen. They fixate a lot. Ellery and Jill did a great job against them.
“Obviously we had Ellie, but we don’t want Ellie to hit every ball. Our setters did a great job moving the ball around and our setters did a great job. Our middlemen did an amazing job.