Volleyball: Offseason work pays off for Lady Hubs

Juniors Jesenia Solano (left) and Afi Gati (right) will each be eligible to return for the Rochelle varsity volleyball team next season. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Rochelle ready to rebuild after setting single-season wins record

ROCHELLE — The recent surge in success from the Rochelle volleyball program stems from work the Lady Hubs put in over the offseason. That work was evident as the purple and white set a new single-season wins record this fall while reaching the IHSA 3A Regional Championship match for the second time in two years.

After winning 16 matches in 2018, the Lady Hubs returned this season and compiled a 21-16 overall record that included a second-place silver finish at the Sterling Invitational and third-place finishes in both the E-Rab Invitational at Rockford East and the Lady Hub Invitational. Rochelle went 7-7 in its first season as a member of the Interstate 8 Conference.

“It was a fantastic season,” head coach Molly Sly said. “Our seniors wanted to win every match they took the floor for and that’s the reason they were able to make history this season. It was fun to be around them each day.”

The Lady Hubs went 8-2 to start the season before cooling off near the start of conference play. Rochelle carried a four-match winning streak into the regional final against Belvidere North, where the girls fell just short of the school’s first title since 1995. Senior Katie Van Hise led the Lady Hubs with 267 kills this season, while junior Clare Green recorded a team-high 458 assists and senior Maggie Duval totaled 224 assists, 156 digs, 119 kills and 22 aces all around.

“I think our success is a result of the work these girls put in over the offseason,” Sly said. “They give it their all every time they’re on the floor and they go after every single ball. A lot of the girls play club volleyball so they’re putting the work in outside of the high school season and we get to reap those benefits. These seniors came to all of our open gyms, they made every league match and they helped out at all of our camps.”

Rochelle will graduate a talented senior class that features Van Hise, Duval, Allison Seebach, Emma Smith and Caitlin Hensley. The Lady Hubs will return a portion of its varsity roster including junior Afi Gati, who led Rochelle with 30 blocks this season. Sophomore Sylvia Hasz emerged as a cornerstone after compiling team-highs in digs (243) and aces (35) while adding 207 kills and 13 blocks. Junior Ellie Kinn finished with 206 digs and 28 aces as a first-year libero.

“We’re expecting to have another successful season next year,” Sly said. “We have a good core group coming back but we’ll have to fill some shoes and some of the returning girls will need to step up and work hard on their game.”

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