In almost 50 years of head-to-head competition, the girls volleyball teams from Evanston and New Trier have never played a doubleheader.
So the two rivals made some history Saturday morning at Beardsley Gym. But the outcome – a New Trier win – was just as predictable despite the unusual circumstances.
The Trevians continued their dominance of the rivalry in a “twin bill” caused by the rescheduling of matches due to the fact that two members of the Wildkits tested positive for the coronavirus earlier in the week. New Trier scored a 25-8, 25-16 triumph in the opener, but the hosts played better the second time around in a 25-12, 25-12 defeat.
Both rivals played short-handed due to spring break conflicts and the layoff from competition showed with ballhandling errors on both sides.
Unable to practice or play matches for an entire week – and minus starters Izzi and Amelia Darrah, who were in Florida on college visits – the hosts fell to 0-3 and now face a grueling schedule of matches over the next couple of weeks. That slate includes another “doubleheader” on April 10 at Maine South.
All told, the Wildkits face a schedule of nine matches in the next 10 days and head coach Liz Brieva and assistant Denise Rossa won’t even be able to hold practices during that stretch, unless they want to severely test their team’s depth and stamina.
All the Kits can do is make the best of the scenario in a shortened season.
“We’ll just use the games as the opportunity for us to grow, instead of practicing,” said Coach Brieva. “I thought we improved today from the beginning of the match to the end. We’ve taken a little hit from the virus, so now we have to adjust. This group of girls is flexible, and I think they work well together. We’ll make the best of this situation.”
“We have to keep our positive attitude,” added Rossa. “We have to look at this as an opportunity, not as a disadvantage. We just have a short amount of time to accomplish something. It’s now or never. We’ll just lean into it and do the best we can.”
New Trier toyed with the hosts in the first matchup but had a tougher time putting the Wildkits away after a short break between matches. A kill by Celia Ward (team-high five kills) pulled ETHS within 13-9 in the first set, but the visitors answered with a 7-0 run to pull away for the win.
In the second set, the two rivals were tied at 10-10 but the losers mustered only two more points – on Trevian mistakes – the rest of the way.
“We were better with our serve receive, and we were better defensively,” said Rossa regarding that surge early in the second set. “I thought we played a lot more confidently. We weren’t hesitating out there,” added Brieva.
“We had four girls [the Darrah sisters, Ashley Ruder and Kaelyn Howard] who weren’t here today, and that gave some of the others the opportunity to see what they could do.”
The Wildkits will host Central Suburban League South division rival Niles West on Monday at 6:30 p.m.