Pam MacPherson has one more goal for the girls volleyball program to achieve before she steps down from her position at Evanston after 10 years at the helm.
The ETHS coach and the senior class have their eyes on a big prize this fall, the Central Suburban League South division championship. And in a sport where experience really does count, the Wildkits open their season Wednesday night versus Lane Tech with seven seniors expected to make major contributions to MacPherson’s last season.
It’s the most experienced group of spikers since MacPherson led the Kits to their only Elite Eight appearance in 2008. Whether or not they can supplant long-time league power New Trier at the top of the CSL South standings will depend a lot on team chemistry, according to the coach.
“I want a conference championship. We’re all hungry for it, and I think it’s time,” MacPherson said. “I love this group of girls and I know the juniors will be a great group for whoever is the next coach.
“I’m really excited about this senior class. These girls all played club ball in the off-season and we have great senior leadership. We’ll need to play as a unit to get where we want to be as a team.”
Two returning senior starters, outside hitter Ehize (call her Ze) Omighibo (Central Florida) and middle hitter Ruby Smith (New Hampshire) have already earned college scholarships and should form a formidable front line along with veteran outside hitter Nastassja Litinsky.
Another senior, 5-foot-9 Naydiia Gary, also returns after earning a starting job by the midway point of last season for a team that finished 19-17 overall. Also in the mix is senior captain Sarah Bogan.
At libero, senior Gabrielle Smith and junior Caitlin Sweeney should provide strong back row support no matter which one earns the most court time.
MacPherson’s biggest concern looking ahead to this season was finding a setter to quarterback the offense. Senior Sheridan Cleave made that decision an easy one when she realized that playing time at outside hitter would be hard to come by with so many veterans back for a last hurrah.
So she switched to the setter position in the off-season and has emerged as the starter ahead of junior Molly Conover and sophomore Samantha Kaiser.
“We really need Sheridan to play well, because she has a critical role in our 6-2 offense,” the coach said. “You don’t see a senior switch positions like that very often, but she’s a great leader and even though it’s a brand new position for her, I think she’ll be ready for it.
“Sheridan has great hands, she’s court smart and has good ball control. She trained really hard in the off-season and now I think we have three great setters.”
Help will also come from 6-foot sophomore Clara Siebert and junior Reed Frazel.