Under Head Coach Kimberly Denney, 20-win seasons have been as certain as death and taxes for the Lincolnwood High School volleyball program.
In Lincolnwood’s 295 games under Denney, which includes a one-year stint at the helm in 2000, the Lady Lancers have 206 wins and just one losing season, a 17-19 campaign in Denney’s first year back in 2013.
Over the last six years, Lincolnwood has averaged 27 victories, earning three regional titles in that span. That includes a 28-8-1 season last year, which yielded the third of the three titles.
The success has been a direct result of the youth program in Montgomery County’s panhandle. By starting players young, with programs such as the second-through-fifth grade Spikes and Tykes league, players are introduced to the game at an earlier age and develop necessary skills that some don’t develop until junior high or later.
The extra work has paid off not only at the high school level, but in junior high as well, where Lincolnwood has made eight IESA appearances since 2014. This year’s seventh grade team was undefeated going into the state tournament, which was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Many of the players on the 2019 Lincolnwood squad were some of the first to test the waters in the Spikes and Tykes league back in 2012 and 2013. The early introduction has paid dividends so far and hopes are high that the best is yet to come for a talented squad that will only lose two players to graduation.
The two losses, Maddie Krager and Kyra Shull, both played a part in Lincolnwood’s success over the last four years, with the Lancers winning 106 of their 147 games. After overcoming injury issues in the past, both Krager and Shull had solid senior seasons, with Krager finishing third in kills with 170 and Shull finishing sixth in service points and aces with 128 and 21 respectively.
Five juniors also saw playing time in 2019, four of them as starters. Cassie Krager, Lincolnwood’s Swiss Army knife, had 46 kills coming into the season but showed her versatility with a team-best 271 kills this year. Krager also led the team in aces (47) and was second in blocks (29.5) and digs with 327, giving her 1,146 in her career.
Maggie McClelland was just behind her classmate in the serving game with 44 aces and a team-best 204 points. The junior hitter also contributed on the offensive and defensive sides of the net, with 165 kills, 17 blocks and 264 digs, all of which put her in Lincolnwood’s top four for the season.
Like her two classmates, Lexie Millburg also led a statistical category, pacing the team in digs with 395 to more than double her career total to 643 digs. Millburg also had 31 aces and 161 service points for Lincolnwood.
Katelyn Payne would be Lincolnwood’s second leading hitter with 215 kills and led the team in blocks with 47, while Emme Weller provided a spark off the bench with 22 points, 51 assists and 29 digs.
Sophomore Sidney Glick also played a starting role for the Lancers and was consistent across the board. Her 38 aces and 201 points were third and second on the team respectively, while she also was third in digs with 283.
Rounding out the regular starters was freshman Avery Pope, who led the team with 440 assists. Pope also had 34 aces, 137 points and 202 digs for a stellar start to her volleyball career.
Pope and teammates Haelee Damm, Jasmine Vickery and Justine Seelbach, who also got their first taste of varsity volleyball, will help fill the gap left behind by the seniors’ departure.
While the wins and regional titles are nice, the Lancers have higher hopes in 2020. Lincolnwood’s last sectional title came in 1997, Denney’s senior year, and their last, and only, state appearance came in 1986. If everything can click in 2020, both of those streaks could be in jeopardy.