All posts by kristenkeller2019

Munster athlete becomes Under Armour First Team All-American

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

From a young age, 17-year-old Madison Horin wanted to be a basketball player like her mother. Little did she know that she’d become one of the best in the country as she wracks up assists and blocks in another sport.

The 6-foot-3 middle blocker from Munster, Indiana, is set to take her volleyball career to the next level as she recently signed a National Letter of Intent to play at the University of Southern California.

“I really tried hard to be critical of the school, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with it,” Horin said. “It really hit me when I was on the plane [heading home] and wanted to go back to campus.”

It took a lot of hard work for Horin to get to this point and committing to a nationally-ranked program. She began playing volleyball at 11 years old, but didn’t fall in love with it right away.

Growing up in Beverly on the South Side of Chicago, Horin loved basketball and wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Carrie, who went to the University of Illinois-Chicago on a basketball scholarship.

But not making the top team at the club Michio, when she was first started playing travel volleyball, stirred a competitive nerve she decided to commit to the sport.

“When I was 12, I literally made the lowest-level team for my age group,” Horin said. “Part of me is super competitive, so I worked really hard that season so I could make it on the best team.”

Photo courtesy of Madison Horin

She did more than just make the top team. Horin moved up in age, playing for the top 14’s team when she was supposed to play for the 13’s team based on her age.

Once she realized her capabilities, Horin gave up her basketball career, choosing to pursue volleyball instead, quitting basketball altogether in seventh grade.

From there, her volleyball career kept moving forward. Once her family moved to Munster, Indiana, when she was 13, Horin switched clubs, playing first for Epic United and then later with First Alliance.

As she continued to grow as a player and become more well known, Horin was able to make other dreams a reality with her volleyball career.

Following a series of tryouts, Horin made it onto the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team, which traveled to South America to compete in the FIVB Women’s U18 World Championship for two weeks. While competing with the team last year, she received the coveted role of captain.

“I think this is one of the biggest accomplishments on any team,” Horin said. “It was my first year playing [on the team] and was named captain. I had emotions coming from every angle.”

Photo courtesy of Madison Horin

But the girls met only two weeks before leaving to practice and prepare to compete at the highest level possible.

Following the two weeks of practice, they spent two weeks in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil, playing against some of the best teams in the world as the team finished seventh in the tournament. Horin got a lot more of the experience than just placing high on the world stage.

“Each country plays [volleyball] differently,” Horin said. “It was so beautiful to hear how they communicate on the court and see how their bodies play volleyball.”

Along with all of these other accomplishments, Horin added Player of the Year to her already impressive resume.

She finished the season with 310 kills, 70 aces and 88 blocks according to The Times.

“Coming into her last season, she was more than ready to finish as one of the top middles in the country,” said Brett Boden, head coach of Munster’s volleyball team. “She has such an energetic, genuine personality and was very driven on and off the court. Her teammates loved her and she gave her all to the Munster volleyball program. I can’t wait to see her compete in the Pac12. USC is getting a good one!”

Now that Horin completed her senior volleyball season for Munster High School, it isn’t quite over yet.

The volleyball standout also throws discus on the track and field team, and helps the community she’s in beyond athletics.

“She’s started for us since she was a freshman and has been a big part of our volleyball program for four years,” said Munster High School athletic director Brian Clark. “She also throws discus on the track team. Beyond that, she has great attitude and really nice kid. She’s always willing to help others and will be missed once she leaves.”

The standout for the Mustangs received another individual accolade: Under Armour First Team All-American.

“I was sitting at home eating Cheetos and about to start my homework when my mom called,” Horin said. “All she said was, ‘You’ve got some pretty big news, kid.’”

For Horin, this was a goal she’d worked toward throughout her career, and in some aspects, was an accomplishment she viewed as a dream. When looking at the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s website, 793 girls were nominated for this honor, with only 24 making it on the All-America First Team.

“I honestly can’t even put it into words,” Horin said. “Day in and day out, I was just doing my thing. Now that it’s all happening, it’s crazy. It means so much for me to receive the same award as women I’ve looked up to.

This prestigious award means Horin will play in the Under Armour All-America game in Minneapolis Friday.

But even as Horin continues to excel as a player, she stays grounded as she reminisces on her accomplishments and looks ahead to her future at USC.

“I am super thankful for the relationships, friendships and connections I made through this sport,” Horin said. “I am excited to move forward and be a part of the Trojan family at USC and be a part of the new culture the head coach has created.”

Photo at top: High school senior Madison Horin earned Under Armour First Team All-American honors and will attend USC to play volleyball in the fall. Photo courtesy of Madison Horin.

Green Bay’s historic season ends with NCAA tournament loss to Wisconsin

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

Green Bay’s women’s volleyball team finished out their historic season by winning its first Horizon League volleyball championship and earning a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003.

Although the Phoenix lost in the first round of the tournament to the Wisconsin Badgers, the team ended the season with a 20-11 overall record.

Follow the timeline and take a look at just how Green Bay made this unforgettable season a reality.

Photo at top: The Green Bay Phoenix finished a historic season with  a trip to the NCAA tournament after winning the Horizon League championship. (Kristen Keller/Medill)

Green Bay wins Horizon League Championship

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

As the final serve crossed the net on Nov. 18, Green Bay’s women’s volleyball team prepared their defense against Northern Kentucky. When the Norse sent the ball soaring out of bounds, the Phoenix hit the ground, celebrating a victory they sought for years.

With the help of sisters Taylor and Jessica Wolf, Green Bay won the Horizon League women’s volleyball championship, earning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on Nov. 29.

“We stuck together, that’s really what the focus is,” said Green Bay head coach Abbey Sutherland. “I am almost speechless. I am so happy and so excited.”
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Green Bay, Northern Kentucky advance to the Horizon League finals

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

After two semi-final matches Saturday, the championship match for the Horizon League women’s volleyball championship has been decided. The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay and Northern Kentucky will face off Sunday at 2 p.m. to decide who wins the conference and gets the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

In the first match of the day, the No. 1 Phoenix took on the No. 4 UIC Flames, winning 3-1. The first three games were close matches, with both teams getting at least 20 points, while the fourth match ended 25-16.

Sophomore Taylor Wolf, who was named the Horizon League’s Player of the Year on Friday, led the way for Green Bay, tallying 24 kills and 11 digs. Her sister, Jessica Wolf, was second on the team in kills, finishing with 17.

“I’m just proud of us,” said Green Bay head coach Abbey Sutherland. “We’re going to continue to learn and continue to get better. That’s the goal.”

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UIC women’s volleyball players talk about winning rituals

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

Many sports teams and players pride themselves on their pregame superstitions and rituals.  Whether it’s doing a dance or packing together before a game, every team has their “thing.”

Players often feel that if the don’t do their “thing” before competing in a match, they could jinx the game. For that reason, they have their superstitions.

Watch the UIC women’s volleyball team before a game. Did their tradition before each match help them get to the Horizon League Conference’s women’s volleyball tournament this weekend?

Before the broadcaster announces the lineup, the Flames huddle in the corner of the gym, chanting “UIC, UIC” multiple times before the starters run to the end line to shake the opposing team’s hands.

The players have their own way of preparing. Some listen to the same song on repeat while others eat the same meal before each match.

Regardless of the person, the starters of the UIC women’s volleyball team each have unique superstitions that they follow before competing in a game.

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James, Witt lead UIC to win over Milwaukee

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

The UIC women’s volleyball team swept Milwaukee during their final match in the Flames Athletic Center Thursday. It took only three sets for the Flames to secure the win, with two UIC players finishing with double-digit kills.

“The win, the loss, that’s going to be a result of everything we put in during the game, but that of course is a reflection of practice,” said head coach Justin Ingram. “I think we had a decent week of practice and I think we are building from that.”

Milwaukee began the first set with the serve, but it wasn’t long before UIC libero Manuella Conte took the ball. During her first serving run of the match, she went on a five-point serving run from the help of teammates Kiera James and Ali Witt.

James recorded three kills during Conte’s run, while Witt also registered three kills during the first eight points of the set.

From there, the Flames and the Panthers exchanged points throughout the set, with UIC keeping a four-point lead. Not until Milwaukee’s Rylie Vaughn started serving did the Panthers bring themselves back into the set.

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UIC loses 3-0 to Northern Kentucky on Senior Night

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

Fans packed the Flames Athletic Center for the Nov. 2 game to honor two women who committed four years to the UIC women’s volleyball team on Senior Night. Hoping for a win, the Flames were unable to deliver, losing to Northern Kentucky in three sets.

“I wish we felt like ourselves,” said head coach Justin Ingram. “I think that part of our issues this year is growing up.”

When the young team took to the court Friday evening, the Norse started the match with the serve. Northern Kentucky took the the lead but the Flames kept it even for most of the game. Continue reading

Spieker leads Loyola-Chicago to 3-0 victory over Southern Illinois

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

Following a long weekend of travel, the Loyola University-Chicago women’s volleyball team returned to Gentile Arena to face Southern Illinois in a Missouri Valley Conference matchup Monday night.

Both teams were neck and neck throughout the entire match but, following all three sets, the Ramblers pushed to a 3-0 victory. Loyola continues to sit in fifth in the conference rankings while Southern Illinois has yet to secure a win in conference play.

“I’m really proud of the team for winning a kind of gritty match,” said head coach Amanda Berkley. “I wouldn’t say we played our best, but I think they made plays when it counted at the end.”

The match began with the Salukis at the service line, but that faded fast. A hitting error from Southern Illinois’s Emma Baalman gave the serve to Loyola’s Quinn Spieker, putting the Ramblers in the lead to start the match.

From there, the points went back and forth until the Salukis took the lead in the middle of the set. By the time Loyola called it’s first time out, Southern Illinois was up by two points.

But that didn’t stop the Ramblers. After going down four points in the last half of the set, Loyola came back swinging with middles Ella Van Grinsven and Heather Kocken leading the offense. The two finished the first set with five kills each as the Ramblers won 25-23.

Heading into the second set, Loyola setter Delilah Wolf started at the service line to begin the match.

Again, it was an even match, with neither vigilant team letting the opponent get more than two points ahead.

Long rallies and plays kept the action at the net, and the Ramblers continued to maintain the lead throughout the match, even if only by two points. By the time Southern Illinois used both of the team’s timeouts, the score stood 19-17 in favor of Loyola.

After that, the Salukis managed to even up the score, but Spieker played harder. The outside hitter finished off the game with back to back kills, ending the second set 25-21.

As the third set began, the Ramblers were up two sets to one on the Salukis. Both teams were out of system throughout the entire match, not performing well on defense, and making a lot of errors at the net. The winner of this match would be the team that cleaned up their game first.

And that team was Loyola-Chicago.

The Ramblers came out big in the third set with Spieker recording two service aces from the start. From there, libero Alex Nunez took over from the back line, going on a three-point serving run along with adding an ace to the stat sheet.

As the game progressed, neither team pulled away from the other. The Salukis closed the gap the Ramblers built, managing to take the lead when the media timeout came around. The two teams exchanged points up until Spieker made her way back to the service line at 21-19.

Once she started serving, Southern Illinois was unable to respond. The Salukis fell apart in the last four points, getting called on a double contact, being out of rotation on the serve receive, and hitting the ball into the block of Kocken and opposite Gabi Maciagowski.

With that, the Ramblers closed out the third set, winning 25-19 and sweeping Southern Illinois three sets to none.

Spieker led the way for the Ramblers, adding another double-double to her resume with 14 digs and 12 kills. She also served up four aces, which is her new season-high.

“Every play, there is an opportunity to do something when you touch the ball, so I try to make it my best,” Spieker said. “It’s been working out.”

Other Ramblers also contributed heavily to Monday’s win. Van Grinsven was second on the team in kills with 11 on the night. Wolf created the offense with 39 assists while Nunez notched 14 digs. Heading into tonight, Nunez only needed 135 more digs this season to reach 1,000 career digs, which she aims for as the season continues.

“I think it was good that we won this match,” Berkley said. “We’ve got to make sure that we execute a little better when we play Friday.”

Loyola-Chicago will be back on the court this Friday as they take on Valparaiso at Gentile Arena. Both teams look for a win to stay in the rankings and continue to fight for the six spots available in the conference tournament.

“This match was important to keep us in fifth place at the moment,” Berkley said. “Every match here on out matters and we’ve got to come focused and ready to play every time.”

Quinn Spieker registers 14 digs and 12 kills to lead the Ramblers in a victory over the Salukis Oct. 29. Photo by Kristen Keller | Medill Reports.

Loyola-Chicago defeats Indiana State 3-1 in conference matchup

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

A five-game losing streak put the Loyola University-Chicago Ramblers against a wall. They fell out of the top six rankings in Missouri Valley Conference play and needed a win to regain their spot.

The Ramblers went into Friday night’s matchup against Indiana State knowing the obstacle in front of them, but they came out on top against the Sycamores, winning three sets to one. Continue reading

James helps UIC Flames defeat Oakland Grizzlies 3-1

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

The UIC Flames took to the court Friday night against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies of Oakland University. During this Horizon League matchup, the Flames swept the last three sets after falling to Oakland in the first set.

Outside hitter Kiera James and opposite Clara Lamb led the offense during the first set with seven and four kills, respectively. Libero Manuela Conte also contributed on the defensive end, racking up six kills during the first set.

The Flames fought off the Grizzlies for most of the match, but their offensive efforts were not enough to keep Oakland from winning the first set 26-24. UIC attempted to close out the match, but Oakland’s Krysteena Davis registered two kills at the end of the set to push the Grizzlies ahead.

During the second set, the Grizzlies came out strong but it was short-lived once setter Marija Borcic stepped to the service line. Borcic went on a four-point serving run, racking up an ace during the run. Continue reading