Steady as she goes
Lubic provides senior leadership during year of transition
KANELAND—Jenny Lubic knew going into the 2013 volleyball season that changes aplenty were in store for the Knights.
Kaneland had graduated several seniors from the 2012 squad who helped them chalk up 23 victories and capture its first regional championship since 1991. Lubic also was aware she would be the lone senior on this year’s squad.
Furthermore, the Knights’ setter and her teammates would have to get acclimated to a new coach, Kerri McCastland, and learn the nuances of her offensive and defensive systems.
Lubic realized the young Knights would be looking to her for leadership, and that McCastland—although a veteran coach with successful stints at Plainfield North and Plainfield South high schools—would need to develop camaraderie with Lubic as McCastland put her system into place.
“I knew that I had to take on a role of being a leader and that people we’re going to look to me for advice,” Lubic said. “I was excited for it.”
Lubic’s relationship with McCastland, as well as her leadership qualities, are such that McCastland wishes the season could go on quite a while longer. McCastland said it can take a long time to build trust and a relationship between the setter and her coach, yet they’ve managed to do all this within the time frame of the regular season, which is just over 30 days old.
“We came to respect each other right out of the gate,” said McCastland, who replaced eight-year coach Todd Weimer. “It’s sad because in another 30 days it could all be over.
“Hopefully we’ll win the state tournament,” she added with a laugh.
Lubic said she and the team, with a core that’s made up of sophomores, have embraced McCastland’s coaching style and upbeat approach.
“Coach has a lot of new energy and is positive,” Lubic said. “We’ve become better teammates to each other. I also think we work hard and all have that attitude now to work hard and get things done.
“It was definitely an adjustment, but a good adjustment. I really like how she coaches. I think she’s helped me become a better player just in short amount of time she’s been our coach.”
The setter has been compared to a quarterback in football, and Lubic concurs with that comparison.
“I talk to my hitters and communicating with them is huge,” she said, “and also communicating with my defense so we’re woven together. You have to have a good defense to set up the offense.”
McCastland said she’s pleased with how Lubic has gone about her on-court responsibilities.
“Being the only senior, to be able to keep everyone in the system, set balls and instill trust is something that doesn’t go unnoticed,” McCastland said. “Whether she’s setting up a kid like (junior) Ellie Dunn, who’s a Division I talent, or a freshman or a sophomore, no matter who you’re setting it’s the same set and same system, and she leads with intention of wanting to win. I think the girls appreciate that.
Lubic, a three-year varsity player, was voted captain by all of of her teammates and also was endorsed by the coaching staff to fill this role. She’s taken the younger players under her wing.
“I help them figure out difference between the levels of play (between frosh-soph and varsity) and how the game is played at a different speed,” Lubic said. “Other than that, I’m trying to bring us all together and help them out whenever they need help on the court.
“They’ve adjusted really fast. I think especially with the hard workouts we had in summer it helped them catch on really fast.”
McCastland agrees with Lubic’s assessment.
“They’ve really learned a lot of things in a very short period of time,” she said. “I think candidly that they’ve done an amazing job of learning and being able to execute under expectation. They’ve sort of been learning under fire. I watch a lot of it play out in the matches. The educator in me wanted them to learn and process it. If it happened in a match, great, practice great, but the fact is that it’s happening.”
The Knights have been hovering around the .500 mark recently, yet they did earn the top seed at the upcoming Class 3A Sandwich regional.
“I think that a lot of nerves and tension has gone away (since the beginning of the season),” Lubic said. “We’re starting to play as a team and learning from each other. We have more confidence. There’s a lot of new and great energy, and we haven’t taken a step back.”
Lubic hopes the club can repeat at regional champs. That would complement her favorite memory as a Knight: winning last year’s regional.
“That was awesome,” she said.