Kathleen Sweeney sets table for Geurin senior hitters
Updated: October 21, 2012 2:21PM
RIVER GROVE — Jackie Bartnicki, who graduated last spring, belonged to the minority on the Gators’ girls volleyball team last season.
Bartnicki, a setter, was a senior on a team whose starting lineup consisted of several junior hitters. Bartnicki currently plays for College of DuPage. A new setter, junior Kathleen Sweeney, now belongs to a new minority.
The same quality of play is expected of Sweeney as Bartnicki last year, but her place on the team has been much different. Instead of running the offense with the confidence of a senior, Sweeney has stepped into the role and admits to feeling a little bit of pressure distributing the ball to established seniors.
“I was more on the second string last year and this year I’m the starting setter, so it’s a big change,” said Sweeney, who is in her second season on the Gators’ varsity team. “I’m playing with all seniors, so I think it’s a little bit of pressure.”
Sweeney has worked to alleviate that pressure through repetition in practice and playing club volleyball in the offseason. Sweeney and Bartnicki’s younger sister Becky, who’s a junior middle hitter, played for Guerin coach Dominic DiSilvio’s F.O.C.U.S. Club program in the offseason.
That experience helped Sweeney and Bartnicki develop an on-court relationship that has carried over to this season. It also allowed Sweeney to accumulate more repetition as the maestro of an offense and the on-court leader of a team.
“It was kind of bad because I was used to her (setting),” said Becky Bartnicki, regarding how she felt seeing her older sister graduate. “But our new setter, I’ve gotten used to her too. (Sweeney) is really good. She wants us to communicate and she gives us spots for where to hit and what we should hit. She’s been the leader for us.”
Both Sweeney and DiSilvio recognize that the junior has room to improve, specifically in improving her blocks and being confident in making split-second decisions on the court.
But as DiSilvio has seen, Sweeney has grown into her role and, like Jackie Bartnicki, figures to grow more comfortable in running the Gators’ offense as time progresses and she gains more experience.
“She’s filled in very, very well as a varsity setter,” DiSilvio. “She’s young and she’s got a lot to learn yet. She’s got to learn when to tip the ball over and when to not. She has to improve her timing on her blocking. Other than that, she controls the offense. She’s starting to make so many better choices.”
Guerin (7-8) fell in its match against Montini 25-20, 25-18 on Sept. 17. Sweeney led the team with five kills and six assists.