Photos: Senior captain Jenny Lubic will provide leadership for first-year coach Kerri McCastland’s Lady Knights. Photo by Patti Wilk
McCastland era begins with mission to duplicate success
KANELAND—It’s a different look to the ladies of the court for Kaneland.
There’s a change at the top, with experienced head coach Kerri McCastland taking over the reins left to her by Todd Weimer. KHS also has to offset the vacancy of six seniors from a year ago that helped pave the way to a 23-13 record and sectional appearance.
With a newly structured roster in place and action underway, McCastland is pleased with how the rigorous prep has left the volleyball team.
“It’s been a run out of the gate with excitement,” McCastland said. “The kids are hungry to learn and hungry to get after what they’re coming to do. They’ve bought in at every level, whether it’s the physicality of the game or the skill part of the game, and we’re excited to play.”
Having to turn the page from the only system the program has known since 2005 can be a major adjustment, but the KHS crew looks to be game to learn as quickly as possible and solidify the lineup.
“It’s been hard work, but these are their words, ‘but it’s been good work’. That’s a great testament to the kids,” McCastland said.
McCastland realizes the stakes as a new coach coming into a team that achieved notable heights a year ago.
“It’s both ends of the sword, they graduated an awful lot of seniors from that successful team and left a great legacy. We have a young team, and a new-formatted team, with some freshmen and sophomores, a large majority of juniors and a senior setter who’s going to lead the whole pack,” McCastland said.
Senior Jenny Lubic brings a wealth of experience, and experience as a captain, continuing the Lubic production cycle begun by sister Jessica under Weimer.
Juniors include Ellie Dunn, Brittany Grider, Riley Hannula, Rachel Kintz, Regan Prost and Anna Senese. Sophomores are Vanessa Gould, McKenzie McMullan, Kathy Nguyen and Bridget Ransford. Freshman on the squad are Alex Anderson and Hannah Nauert.
“There’s joint passion. Thirteen players are hungry and interested in learning in a hot gym. They want to be great,” McCastland said.
Trying to match a 23-13 record and sectional appearance will happen in large part due to mistakes avoided on the court, as well.
“They need to avoid falling back into old habits. I would love for them to embrace the learning that has occurred and trust in it and be consistent in it,” McCastland said.
With the journey having already begun with a gathering of teams at Wheaton North, Kaneland looks to have its hands full with members of the Northern Illinois Big XII.
“I have great respect for the conference right now,” McCastland said. “As an official in the conference last year, you know a little bit of who graduated. I hear Sycamore’s new coach is very good, and that’s exciting. I think Morris has always generated a good team. I think Yorkville has a fiery and knowledgeable coach, and you can’t underestimate them. DeKalb has a very seasoned club coach who has a lot of leadership. Entering every conference game, we have to prepare for the team we’re going to face.”