Aug. 14, 2013
GALESBURG—Todd Winkler has something he hasn’t seen much in his 11 seasons as Carl Sandburg College volleyball coach — a good balance between returning sophomores and incoming freshmen.
A year after working with a team of three sophomores and nine newcomers, the 2013 Chargers boast six returning players and seven freshmen.
“This is one of those years it just happened to work out,” Winkler said. “I don’t think I’ve probably had that two times the whole time I’ve been at Carl Sandburg College. This is one of those rare moments, and I think it’s a good thing.”
Despite last year’s youthful group, the Chargers showed plenty of signs of promise. Sandburg had a .500 record in the final week of the regular season before dropping its last six matches to finish 13-19 overall and 5-7 in the Arrowhead Conference. Winkler hopes his veterans will learn from that experience to finish this year on a higher note.
“It is more calming to know the returning sophomores because you know their expectations, but it’s also nice to see the work they’ve put in and improved in one year,” Winkler said. “That’s the payoff there.”
Two of the Chargers’ top returners figure to be 6-foot middle hitter Caitlin McVay (Rockridge) and 5-11 setter Lexa Mahr (Macomb). McVay’s 161 kills last season were second on the team to all-conference and all-Region IV selection Caitlyn Godfrey. But with Godfrey gone to graduation, McVay figures to step in as the focal point of Sandburg’s attack.
“I trained harder (in the offseason) because I knew what to expect, and I decided to get ‘I can’t’ out of my vocabulary,” McVay said. “I know I can do anything if I can set my mind to it.”
Mahr handled the Chargers’ setting duties from the outset of her freshman season, racking up 865 of the Chargers’ 899 assists a year ago. Winkler said she’s one of the keys to the team’s success this year.
“She has the best hands I’ve seen and hasn’t changed that from last year. She has a lot of confidence, and as she goes, we go,” Winkler said. “She can read the court. I don’t have to tell her where the mismatches are. She can see that, and it makes my job easier. She knows who to set, when to set it, when to dump, the spots that are going to be open.
Rachel Barr (Mendota) and Samantha Roth (Stark County), a pair of 5-11 middle hitters, are among the newcomers who have opened eyes during preseason practices. The Chargers also have a trio of freshmen back row players in Justine Bodenhamer (Avon), Andrea Hendrix (United) and Brooklyn Wexell (Cambridge).
“Their work ethic is out of this world,” Winkler said of the freshman class. “If they keep this up, good things will happen to this team.”
The Chargers open the season Aug. 22-24 at the South Suburban Invite in South Holland. Sandburg’s home opener is 6 p.m. Aug. 29 against Lincoln at John M. Lewis Gymnasium.
“There’s 13 of us, so we are going to have to use everybody at some point in time. It might just be for a couple points, but that makes a big difference in a game when you have to play five sets,” Mahr said. “We have so much potential that we can just blow everybody out of the water. I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
Members of the 2013 Carl Sandburg College volleyball team are: Rachel Barr, Justine Bodenhamer, Andrea Hendrix, Kattie Haywood, Erika Hibberd, Lexa Mahr, Katie McGee, Caitlin McVay, Lorren Newingham, Sadie Van Norman, Samantha Roth, Brooklyn Wexell, Ashlynn Winkler. Head coach: Todd Winkler. Assistant coach: Rachel Kehr.
2013 Carl Sandburg College volleyball team — Front row (L to R): Brooklyn Wexell, Justine Bodenhamer. Second row (L to R): Lorren Newingham, Andrea Hendrix, Ashlynn Winkler, Erika Hibberd, Rachel Barr, Kattie Haywood. Back row (L to R): Head coach Todd Winkler, Caitlin McVay, Katie McGee, Sadie Van Norman, Lexa Mahr, Samantha Roth, assistant coach Rachel Kehr.