First-year Evanston girls volleyball head coach Paris McFall knew in the preseason that the best-case scenario for his struggling program was to sneak up on a few teams that might not be expecting the Wildkits to be more competitive than in the past.

One of the teams the Kits hoped to challenge was archrival New Trier. But Evanston couldn’t quite pull off its first win over the Trevians since 2014 on Wednesday night at Beardsley Gymnasium.

Instead, an average Trevian squad earned a 30-28, 25-13 triumph in a Central Suburban League South division matchup and left the hosts still in search of their first league win after also losing Monday to league favorite Glenbrook South.

Evanston fell to 8-7 overall, and at this point McFall likely wouldn’t give his squad a good mid-term grade if he was a classroom teacher.

On the other hand, the Wildkits still have half a season left to get their act together – and they have the talent to overcome the inconsistency they’ve shown so far.

“The positives so far are that are youngest athletes [four sophomores on the varsity roster] have been our best contributors from a leadership standpoint,” McFall said. “They’ve shown us the drive to want to push us forward and drag us to where we want to be – and that’s to win.

“We have the talent. Consistency is the issue. Teams like New Trier and Stevenson and Buffalo Grove are teams we can beat when we play our best volleyball. We have many players who are not used to playing at a high level, and the benefit to that is that as long as we’re playing our best volleyball at the end of the year, that’s what matters.”

Missed serves – six coming in the first set – and poor passing derailed the Wildkits after they broke out to an 8-1 advantage in the first set.

New Trier, which has seen its talent level dip over the past five years, suffered a big blow when a two-year starting setter moved to Texas and no likely successor emerged at that key spot. The visitors struggled to get their offense in gear early in the match, and a pair of kills by ETHS sophomore Kylie O’Connor and senior Sophie Lechleitner, plus a tip by Carter Aaron on an over-pass, helped Evanston build the early lead.

But the Trevs recovered to take leads of 16-12 and 20-16. The Wildkits did play defense at a high level most of the match, and that’s what helped them climb back to within 20-17, with a Lechleitner kill accounting for the 17th point.

From that point on, the losers missed four serves – including three in a row – but somehow managed to pull even anyway at 24-all when junior setter Emma Philibert fed Lechleitner (team-high eight kills) for a put-away shot.

However, with the two teams deadlocked, a service attempt by Claire Henthorn sailed long and New Trier outscored the hosts 5-4 down the stretch. The Trevs scored the final two points via net violation and a kill by Katherine McGregor.

In the second set, the Kits fell behind 7-1 and never really recovered.

“If we don’t miss all those serves, we pull off a win that first set,” McFall pointed out. “Tonight was a huge step back for us. Our first two servers [Maya Valentine and Lechleitner] have most of our aces this year, but tonight our serving got worse. We had to make safe serves instead of aggressive serves, and half of those were just standing floaters – and we still missed.

“Since the first loss we experienced this year we seem to find comfortability in NOT wanting to improve. The quote starters are not stepping up and responding to what it entails to be a varsity starter.” 

Leave a comment

The RoundTable will try to post comments within a few hours, but there may be a longer delay at times. Comments containing mean-spirited, libelous or ad hominem attacks will not be posted. Your full name and email is required. We do not post anonymous comments. Your e-mail will not be posted.

Your email address will not be published.