Monday, October 28, 2013

Hawks End Regular Season on High Note at Kankakee

Volleyball: Morgan Peterson 2013
Peterson (4) and Messner (10) played big roles in the wins over Kankakee and Lewis and Clark. (Jim Cummins)
Box Score 1 | Box Score 2

KANKAKEE, Ill. – The Harper College volleyball team finished the regular season strong, winning matches against Kankakee Community College and Lewis and Clark Community College at the Kankakee Trimatch on Saturday.

Harper vs. Kankakee Community College

The Hawks (29-20) beat a strong Kankakee squad in four sets on Saturday morning (25-17, 25-14, 18-25, 25-18).

In the first set, Harper maintained control throughout, holding leads of 8-5, 15-10, 18-11 and 22-15 before picking up the victory. Outside hitter Alex Messner (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd) played a strong set with four kills and four digs while setter Lindsey Murphy (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Crystal Lake South) directed the offense with 10 assists and added four digs.

The Hawks carried over the strong play into the second set, building a lead of 19-12 on their way to a relatively easy victory. Messner contributed six more kills and five digs while Murphy had 15 assists in the win.

Harper dug itself into a 19-10 hole and used strong serving to cut the deficit to 22-18 but could not pull out the win. Sophomores Veronica Dabrowski (Mount Prospect, Ill./Rolling Meadows) (four kills) and Kelly Spychala (Des Plaines, Ill./Elk Grove) (seven digs) led the Hawks statistically.

Looking to close out the match in the fourth set, the Hawks built a 15-10 lead and went on to win comfortably. Spychala once again displayed her defensive excellence with 13 digs while Messner, Melina Villaber (Chicago, Ill./Taft) and Morgan Peterson (Roselle, Ill./Conant ) each had three kills.

"We played virtually a perfect match. I didn't ruin it by talking to them during timeouts and between games," said Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet. "I watched some of the best volleyball from the best seat in the house. This proves that coaching happens at practices, not during the matches."

Messner (13 kills, 18 digs) and Murphy (11 digs, 42 assists) both tallied double-doubles in the victory. Dabrowski put down 10 kills to go with a team-high four service aces. Peterson was 20-for-20 hitting with seven kills and also a perfect 17-for-17 serving. Spychala continued to add to her nation-leading digs total with 27 more digs.

Harper vs. Lewis and Clark Community College

After a well-played match against Kankakee, the Hawks started off slow against Lewis and Clark but rebounded nicely for a four-set win to end the regular season (17-25, 25-8, 25-19, 25-19).

Harper struggled in the first set, falling behind 13-9 and 22-17 before losing. Outside hitter Alyse Kolner (Crystal Lake, Ill./Marion Central) paced the Hawks with three kills and four digs.

Harper made some adjustments in the second set, and they paid off with a blowout victory. Peterson was a perfect 6-for-6 serving with an ace in the win. The Hawks won a tight third set as Messner caught fire with five kills and 8-for-8 serving with an ace.

In the final set of the regular season, the Hawks held leads of 4-1, 11-6, 14-18, and 20-15 en route to victory.

For the match, Peterson and Messner led Harper with 11 kills apiece. Defensively, Dabrowski (16 digs) and Spychala (15 digs) provided a lift while Murphy notched her sixth consecutive double-double (11 digs, 41 assists) to end the regular season.

Playoff Time

The Harper volleyball team opens postseason play with a Region IV Quarterfinals match at home on Wednesday against Triton at 6 PM. If the Hawks win, they will move on to face either Rock Valley or Milwaukee on Saturday morning in the Region IV Semifinals.

If Harper was to win that match, they would move on to face the winner of No. 1 Madison vs. Joliet/DuPage in the Region IV Championship at 1 PM on Saturday, with a berth to nationals on the line.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dabrowski Dominating in Second Year

Athlete of the Week: Veronica Dabrowski 2013
PALATINE, Ill. – Harper sophomore volleyball player Veronica Dabrowski (Mount Prospect, Ill./Rolling Meadows)possesses all the attributes of a volleyball player. She's tall, strong, mobile, coordinated, skilled, experienced, coachable, smart and possesses a great vertical jump.

As Dabrowski is playing the final stretch of her Harper volleyball career, she continues to show off her repertoire of skills while being an exemplary teammate. Dabrowski is at or near the top of several NJCAA statistical reasons and has been named the sixth Harper College Athlete of the Week for the 2013-14 school year.

A natural outside hitter, Dabrowski has played middle hitter for much of the year because the Hawks had a need at the position. 

"Clearly, she is playing not only for herself, but for the team's success," said Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet. "She puts the team's goals above her own goals and has elevated our team to be able to defeat other very strong teams such as D1 Kaskaskia and D1 John A. Logan."

She has improved majorly in her two years with the Hawks, becoming a well-rounded player with her hard-hitting, smart tipping and blocking and two lethal types of serves – a booming jump serve with topspin and a jump-float that can hit all spots on the opponents' court.

Vilsoet's confidence in her is apparent, as she leads the nation in matches played (46) and sets (151), sitting out only seven sets this year. She is third in the nation in total kills (427) and total attacks (1138) and is also fourth in the NJCAA with 94.5 blocks. Her hitting efficiency, which was 21.5% in 2012, is at 24.3% in 2013. Finally, Dabrowski ranks second in the NJCAA for with 584.5 points, a stat that combines kills, blocks and aces.

While her stats have been off the charts in the 2013 season, Dabrowski brings more to her team than what a box score shows.

"She is friends with everyone on the team. She makes everyone around her feel at ease," Vilsoet said. "She laughs with the rest of the team, keeping us all in a good frame of mind. She is part of a team dynamic that is just outstanding."

Dabrowski thinks her team has come a long way from its 12-14 start to the season. Since that point, the Hawks have gone 15-6 and are ranked
Veronica Dabrowski File
No. 5 in the nation.  

"We struggled with consistency early on. However, we are a lot more consistent now, and it's exciting to see the improvement," she said.

The team that will likely stand in the way on the Hawks' path to nationals is No. 1 Madison College. The WolfPack is 28-3 and has won 15 matches in a row. The Hawks have come up short in all three matches against Madison this season. Vilsoet believes if Dabrowski plays well, Harper has a strong chance of finally knocking off Madison.

Dabrowski will get her Associate in Science degree in May and most likely move on to the University of Illinois in the fall of 2014. She has strong family ties to U of I, as her older brother and sister both graduated from there. She plans to major in kinesiology and would someday like to work in health care. Dabrowski  is exploring the fields of physical therapy and sports medicine to see what she'd like to focus on.

As for her volleyball career, Vilsoet believes Dabrowski could play at many four-year schools and offered his insight on U of I.

"If she makes the U of I team, that would be a dream fulfilled. But if she plays club volleyball there, that will satisfy her, too," Vilsoet said.

While Dabrowski isn't actively pursuing other four-year schools as possible destinations to continue her volleyball career, she said she wouldn't rule it out if the opportunity seemed promising.

"It sounds very appealing, and I would definitely consider it and think it's an option," she said.

When she leaves Harper, Vilsoet knows Dabrowski and her fellow sophomores will be tough to replace.

"Veronica is part of the best sophomore leadership we've had here to date," he said. "When the sophomores graduate, there will be a major hole in our team to fill with new players."

Hawks Handle MCC in Straight Sets

Volleyball: Rebekah Hischke 2013
Outside hitter Rebekah Hischke had a team-high nine kills and added 10 digs in the win. (Jim Cummins)
CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. – The Harper College volleyball team earned a road sweep of McHenry County College on Thursday night (25-20, 25-23, 25-22).

The Hawks (27-20) trailed 11-7 and 16-13 in the first set but made a comeback to tie the match at 20-20.Rebekah Hischke (Algonquin, Ill./Dundee Crown)'s strong serving proved to be the difference, and she won the final point on an ace to win the set.

Harper carried over the late surge into the second set, building a lead of 15-8. The Hawks led 23-16 but struggled to finish the game. They finally closed it out to take a 2-0 lead in the match.

In the third set, the Hawks trailed 13-10 before pulling ahead 22-20. After the Scots tied it at 22-22, Harper won the final three points to take the match.

"MCC's libero Liz Simonelli was all over the place," said Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet. "That, combined with 30 Harper hitting/serving errors made these scores pretty close."

Hischke played a solid all-around match, totaling a team-high nine kills to go with 10 digs and three service aces. Setter Lindsey Murphy (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Crystal Lake South) recorded her fourth straight double-double with 15 digs and a team-high 25 assists. Alyse Kolner (Crystal Lake, Ill./Marion Central) tallied a season-high 17 digs in the win.

The Hawks wrap up regular season play on Saturday in Kankakee with matches against Kankakee Community College and Lewis and Clark Community College.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Harper has Mixed Results at Kishwaukee Invitational

Volleyball: Morgan Peterson 2013
The Hawks won two of their five matches at the Kishwaukee Invitational. (Jim Cummins)
Box Score 1 | Box Score 2 | Box Score 3 | Box Score 4

ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Harper College volleyball team had mixed results over the weekend at the Kishwaukee Invitational at Rock Valley College, going 2-3 in their five matches against quality competition. The No. 5 Hawks (26-20) came into the weekend having won 12 of their last 15 matches but struggled at times with consistency.

Harper vs. South Suburban College
The Hawks started the weekend with a straight sets defeat at the hands of a strong South Suburban squad (16-25, 16-25, 18-25), snapping their 17-match win streak against the Bulldogs dating back to 2004.

In game one, the two teams were tied at 16-16 before the Bulldogs won the last nine points to gain a 1-0 advantage. Libero Kelly Spychala (Des Plaines, Ill./Elk Grove) paced the defense with six digs.

Harper struggled with hitting errors in game two and could not mount a comeback. In the third game, Alex Messner (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd) led the Hawks with three kills and five digs, but it wasn't enough for victory.
Setter Lindsey Murphy (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Crystal Lake South) handed out a team-high 23 assists.

Harper vs. Highland Community College
After defeating Highland in straight sets at the COD 18th Annual Classic on Aug. 24, the Hawks replicated the feat with another straight sets victory (25-11, 25-22, 25-18).

"We played very smoothly in this match with good transition, nice defense and we were running our offense well," said Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet.

The Hawks had control throughout the first set, building leads of 7-4, 13-5 and 18-9 en route to victory. Outside hitter Rebekah Hischke (Algonquin, Ill./Dundee Crown) played a strong set, going 8-for-8 serving with an ace, kill and three digs.

The second set was much tighter, as the two teams were locked at 18-18 before Harper pulled away for a victory. In the third set, Melina Villaber (Chicago, Ill./Taft) led the Hawks with four kills while Hischke was a key part of the defensive effort with three crucial blocks.

For the match, Spychala led the team with 17 digs while Villaber was 21-for-23 hitting with eight kills.

Harper vs. Kalamazoo Valley Community College
Harper struggled in the service game against Kalamazoo, missing 14 serves and ultimately losing in four sets to the Cougars (22-25, 25-14, 18-25, 21-25).

The Hawks trailed throughout the first set and only totaled five kills. The team rebounded nicely in set two, building leads of 13-8, 17-9 and 23-11 before winning comfortably.

After the easy win, Harper fell behind in set three and couldn't quite catch the Cougars. Fighting for their match lives in the fourth set, the Hawks tied it at 19-19, but Kalamazoo closed by winning six of the final eight points.

Two Hawks – Murphy (15 digs, 33 assists) and Messner (10 kills, 16 digs) – tallied double-doubles in a losing effort. Spychala continued to add to her nation-best digs total with 20 more digs while outside hitter led Harper with four blocks.

Harper vs. Black Hawk College
The Hawks previously defeated Black Hawk in four sets at the Harper College Invitational on Sept. 20, but this time Harper earned a straight sets win on Saturday morning (25-14, 25-20, 25-21).

The team played well and built a big lead in the first set on their way to victory. Madison Rodriguez (Palatine, Ill./Palatine) led the Hawks with five kills while outside hitter Alyse Kolner (Crystal Lake, Ill./Marion Central) added a team-high six digs.

In the second set, the Hawks nursed a slim 19-18 lead before finishing strong to win 25-20. Outside hitter Veronica Dabrowski (Mount Prospect, Ill./Rolling Meadows) had a team-high four kills while Murphy had tallied 10 assists. Harper trailed throughout much of the third set but finished strong for a victory.

"This is another data point that says we have improved significantly as a team," Vilsoet said.

Murphy recorded her second straight double-double with 12 digs and 32 assists.
Harper vs. Owens Community College
Against a strong and well-coached Owens team, the Hawks lost in straight sets to end the weekend (16-25, 20-25, 11-25) with a 2-3 record.

The Jaguars played a strong first set to top Harper easily. The second set was the closest of the match (22-18 at one point), but the Hawks were not able to come out on top. Spychala's seven digs in the third set were not enough to make up for the team's poor execution.

For the match, Dabrowski notched a team-high eight kills while Spychala paced the Hawks with 14 digs. Murphy was once again a consistent presence, recording 10 digs and 22 assists for her third straight double-double.

"Owens played very well in this match. I'll bet that was their best match of the tournament," Vilsoet said.

Up Next
Regular season play is winding down for the Hawks in 2013. Harper travels to McHenry County College on Thursday for a 6 PM match before heading to Kankakee on Saturday for a trimatch with Kankakee Community College and Lewis and Clark Community College to close out the regular season.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Coming into this 5K on Oct. 5, I really wasn’t sure how well I was going to run. I hadn’t run in a 5K since June 15, the Biggest Loser 5K.

Leading up to the Race

However, I have been doing extensive training for a half marathon on my birthday (Oct. 26), so I knew I could do the 3.1 miles without a problem. In my training for the half, I had been doing some tempo runs and speed conditioning, but the vast majority of the training I had done wasn’t dealing with short distances at higher speed.

My PR in the 5K over the summer was 19:01, so I thought I could beat this time because my cardio conditioning has gotten immensely better over the last few months.

I ran the TIU 5K two years prior in a time of 21:02 when I was pretty out of shape.

The day before the race, I finally bought a Garmin Forerunner10 GPS watch to chart my time, distance, etc. This would be the first time I’d be testing it out, so I was looking forward to that.

Race Day

Calling this 5K a “race” may have been a little bit of a stretch; there were only 44 runners in it and nobody was really shooting for first place (besides me).

It was in the 60’s, but the humidity was at 100%, making it overwhelmingly uncomfortable. The course had changed in 2012, essentially being reversed from what I had remembered it to be in 2011.

Ellen, Shoggs and Kelly were also running in the race with me, making it fun for all of us. After the race, Shoggs and I would be playing in the TIU Alumni Baseball Game at 10:00 AM.

The race started, and I tried to take off ahead of the pack. My first mile felt good, and I completed it in 5:43. It was a different mentality running in a 5K, pushing myself to go pretty hard. For the second mile, it was mostly spent on grass out by the baseball, soccer and football fields. This threw me off a little bit because I’m so used to running on pavement.

Right after the race started.
I completed the second mile in 6:08 and third mile, which was mostly around the outskirts of campus and as you entered the main entrance campus, in 6:17. The last part of the race was a small loop around the Waybright Center and a sprint for the finish line. I completed the race in 18:27, a PR by 34 seconds, and it was good enough for first place.

It was really convenient to have the GPS watch to gauge how fast I was going and how far I had gone. After I was done, I waited for Ellen to come in. She has improved greatly over these past few months as well.

Crossing the finish line.
Just as I was telling Mike Gorsline at the finish line that Ellen would probably be done in a little after 25 minutes, the clock just hit 24 minutes and she was nearly finished. Smiling as usual to the finish line, she finished in 24:24, a PR by a wide margin. I’m really proud of how well she did, how much better she’s gotten and that’s she my girlfriend!

Shoggs and Kelly race the 5K together and came in a little bit later.


Even though we had to get over to the baseball game shortly after the race, I’m glad we did it. I got a little trophy for winning and Ellen got a medal for first place for her age division.

I’m truly blessed by God to be running. I was particularly inspired throughout the week by this video. Watch this video and read the story. I hope to do something like this someday.

The four bubs at the TIU 5K.

Hawks Roll by Milwaukee in Region IV Quarterfinals

Men's Soccer: Michael Rodriguez 2013
Harper's Michael Rodriguez scored two goals in the 7-0 victory over Milwaukee. (Jim Cummins)
Box Score

PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College men's soccer team took control early against Milwaukee Area Technical College and went on to win 7-0 in the Region IV Quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon.

It took less than two minutes for Harper (3-8) to get on the board, as Alfredo Jimenez (/Wheeling) found Aldo Figueroa (Wheeling, Ill./Buffalo Grove) for his fifth goal of the season. In the 10th minute, Kevin Engebretsen (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Conant) scored on a feed from Ryan Murphy (Schaumburg, Ill./Schaumburg) to make it a 2-0 game.

In the 18th minute, Benjamin Castellanos (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) found Engebretsen, who put it in the net for his team-leading seventh goal of the season to put the Hawks up 3-0. Harper controlled possession throughout much of the game, limiting the Stormers to one shot in the game.

The Hawks came out strong again to start the second half. Michael Rodriguez (/Hoffman Estates) scored on a pass from Murphy in the 53rd minute to push the lead to 4-0, and he scored again just a few minutes later on a beautiful feed from Engebretsen.

Harper's final two goals came late in the game from Atan Chabo (Niles, Ill./Maine East) and Justin Pydo (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Conant). For both players, it was their first goals of the season.

Goalkeeper Sean Cox (Schaumburg, Ill./Conant) played 55 minutes and earned the victory in goal. Daniel Gescheidle (Long Grove, Ill./Stevenson) closed out the game for the Hawks, seeing very limited action in the Harper zone.

The Hawks face a tall task on Wednesday at 2 PM as they take on Triton in the Region IV Semifinals at the Schwaben Athletic Complex in Buffalo Grove. The Trojans are 10-1-1 and were a perfect 8-0 in N4C play this year, including 4-2 and 6-0 wins over Harper.

COD Bests Harper for Region IV Crown

Women's Soccer: Mikayla Nagle 2013
Harper goalkeeper Mikayla Nagle made 10 saves. (Jim Cummins)
Box Score

GLEN ELLYN, Ill. – The Harper College women's soccer team had no answers for College of DuPage in the Region IV title game on Saturday afternoon, falling 6-0 to end their season.

The Hawks' attack was smothered throughout the game and only able to get off one shot on goal (Stephanie Hurwitz (Rolling Meadows, Ill./Fremd)).

COD's Angela Toritto scored in the 17th minute on an assist from Heather Muno to give the Chaparrals a 1-0 edge. She scored again in the 35th minute on a feed from Muno and Emily Plourde to give COD a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.

The Chaparrals got second half goals from Plourde, Muno, Yaricza Flores and Alana Alfeche. Christina Siddu was the victor in goal.

Harper goalkeeper Mikayla Nagle made 10 saves in a losing effort for the Hawks.

Hawks Place Second at Bradley Classic

Men's Cross Country: Jhoan Lino 2013
The Hawks captured second place at the Bradley Classic. (Jim Cummins)

PEORIA, Ill. – 
The Harper men's cross country team put together another strong showing, placing second out of 13 teams at the Bradley Classic on Friday. The Hawks scored 51 points in the meet, finishing behind only meet champion IUPUI (27 points).

Greenville College (58 points) was a close third place, followed by College of DuPage in fourth place (133 points).

Juan Barajas (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Schaumburg) once again led the Hawks with a 10th place finish in 26:40. Fellow freshman Zach Stella (Palatine, Ill./Palatine) was close behind, running a season-best time of 26:43 to take 13th place overall. Brennan Albuck (/Hoffman Estates) was Harper's third runner to finish, coming in at a season-best 27:00 and a 20th place finish.

Sophomores Nick Modlin (Wheeling, Ill./Wheeling) and Jhoan Lino (León, Guanajuato/Streamwood) rounded out the top five for Harper, as Modlin took 26th place in 27:37 while Lino finished in 34th place in 27:53.

"I thought the men ran very well," said Harper head coach Jim Macnider. "We are continuing to improve with three weeks to go until nationals."

In two weeks, the Hawks travel to Joliet for the Region IV Championship. The team is currently ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA National Poll.

Harper Women Compete at Bradley Classic

Women's Cross Country: Cindia Salgado 2013
The Hawks took 13th place at the Bradley Classic. (Jim Cummins)

PEORIA, Ill. – 
The Harper women's cross country team had five runners compete at the Bradley Classic over the weekend. The Hawks finished in 13th place with 316 points.

After battling injury for the first part of the season, Stephanie Chaires (Palatine, Ill./Christian Liberty) finished as Harper's top runner for the second straight meet, crossing the finish line in 25:53 for a 63rd place finish in the 6K race. Mary Piltaver (/Conant) took 91st place overall with a time of 27:42. Lori Delfin (/Wheeling) was Harper's third runner to finish, clocking a time of 28:53 to finish in 106th place.

Gabby Beaupre (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) took 119th place with a time of 30:11 while Cindia Salgado(Wheeling, Ill./Wheeling) finished in 122nd place with a time of 30:54.

The University of Missouri was the overall meet champion with 15 points, followed by Bradley University (43 points) and Drake University (88 points).

In two weeks, the Hawks travel to Joliet for the Region IV Championship. The team is currently ranked No. 8 in the NJCAA National Poll.

Andreuccetti Overcomes Adversity, Takes off Running

Athlete of the Week: Marisa Andreuccetti 2013
PALATINE, Ill. – For Harper cross country standout Marisa Andreuccetti (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Conant), her athletic career appeared to be in jeopardy in the fall of 2012. Andreuccetti, a forward on the Hawks' soccer team, herniated a disk in her back in October and was advised by doctors to give up contact sports.

So she decided to give track and field a try in the spring of 2013 as a recovery sport to be in shape for soccer. After excelling on the track in the spring, Andreuccetti figured cross country may be a good calling despite the fact that she had been playing soccer since age five.

Over the summer she tried to play soccer, but it was painful to play. Andreuccetti gave up the game she loved to join the Harper cross country team. The leader of the Hawks, Andreuccetti has been named the fifth Harper College Athlete of the Week for the 2013-14 school year.

It became clear she had a knack for running in the spring. Her hard work paid off at nationals, as Andreuccetti was a member of the Hawks' 4x800m relay team that took home a national title. Additionally, she was on the 4x400m squad that earned points with a fifth place finish.

Even though she had a newfound passion for running, it was still difficult to quit soccer.

"When I told coach (soccer coach Dwayne Cruz) I wasn't going to be playing this year, I felt like I was breaking up with someone. It was heartbreaking," she said. "But he was really supportive. I love coach Macnider and feel like I made the right decision."

Andreuccetti has been a key part of a Harper team currently ranked No. 8 in the national poll. She has finished as Harper's top runner in four of the team's first five meets.

"I love the different sceneries we get to go to. It's just so beautiful being in nature and running," she said.

Athlete of the Week: Marisa Andreuccetti File

When the season started, she was the only healthy runner for the Hawks. Now, the Hawks have six healthy runners, including Stephanie Chaires (Palatine, Ill./Christian Liberty), who was on the 4x800m championship team. Newcomers Lori Delfin (/Wheeling) and Mary Piltaver (/Conant) also bring an added dimension.

"I love my teammates. They all have their individual specialties that make everyone so close and connected," she said.

Andreuccetti and her teammates race today at the Bradley Classic in Peoria before preparing for the Region IV Championship held in Joliet on Nov. 2. They will then travel to Northfield, Mass. for the NJCAA Championships on Nov. 9.

"I think we'll surprise some people out there. I think we have a shot to be in the top five at nationals," said head coach Jim Macnider.

Andreuccetti will compete for track and field coach Renee Zellner and the Hawks in the spring of 2014 and will still have a year of cross country eligibility for the fall. She plans on graduating after the fall 2014 semester with two associate degrees before moving on to Illinois State University. She hopes to someday teach engineering technology as well as physics.

If her plan to go to ISU comes to fruition, she plans on trying out for the cross country and track and field teams.

"If I don't make the teams, I'll join a club and continue running. I love it," she said.

Hawks Tripped up by No. 1 Madison

Volleyball: Rebekah Hischke 2013
The Hawks fell in straight sets to No. 1 Madison Thursday night. (Jim Cummins)
Box Score

MADISON, Wis. – The fifth-ranked Harper College volleyball team fell for a third time this season to No. 1 Madison College, losing in straight sets (14-25, 20-25, 18-25).

The Hawks (24-17, 8-4 N4C) fell behind 16-9 in the first game against the nation's top team and could not mount a comeback. Alex Messner (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd) led the Harper defense with six digs while the offense struggled with only eight kills.

Harper came out stronger in the second game, taking leads of 8-5, 12-9 and 16-13. However, the WolfPack responded with a 6-0 run and went on to win the game. Libero Kelly Spychala (Des Plaines, Ill./Elk Grove) led the Hawks with 11 digs.

Harper played well in the third set, but it wasn't enough for victory. Setter Lindsey Murphy (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Crystal Lake South) had seven assists while Spychala added six digs for a team-high 22 digs in the match.

"Madison's offense and their defense were very effective," said Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet. "Their serve receive was very effective, as nobody on Harper served more than 10 times in the match."

Outside hitter Veronica Dabrowski (Mount Prospect, Ill./Rolling Meadows) led the Hawks' attack with six kills on 24-for-26 hitting. Murphy handed out 19 assists in a losing effort.

"We have improved greatly this year, and we are ranked No. 5 to prove it," Vilsoet said. "Evidently, Madison has improved too and appropriately is ranked No. 1, still."

The Hawks travel to Rockford this weekend for the Kishwaukee Invitational. They play five matches in two days against high-quality competition. For a full schedule, click here.

Wallor Competes at 2013 Chicago Marathon

Cross Country: Eric Wallor Chicago Marathon 2013
Harper assistant cross country coach Eric Wallor (left) competing in the 2013 Chicago Marathon. (Jessica Rifis, Passions Production Company)
PALATINE, Ill. – Harper assistant cross country coach Eric Wallor competed in his first Chicago Marathon in 2008 with very limited training. This year, Wallor ran in his fifth Chicago Marathon and ninth overall, placing 71st out of 38,873 finishers in a time of 2:28:44.

In that first marathon in 2008, Wallor ran a 2:42 time but had bigger aspirations for his running career.

"I really wanted to devote all of my training to bringing that time down," he said.

A former Harper All-American and standout runner at the University of Illinois, Wallor trained with the current Harper cross country team during the months and weeks leading up to the race and went on long runs of 15-20 miles on the weekend. He also bounced ideas off Harper head cross country coach Jim Macnider, who is an experienced marathoner himself and owns a PR (personal record) of 2:19:44.

Leading up to the race, Wallor wasn't dealing with any injuries and described it as ''the best I've ever felt". He set his race goal as 2:24 (5:30 mile pace), which would have been a PR from his previous best time of 2:26:48.

On race day this past Sunday, Wallor was spot-on through the first half, running consistent 5:30 pace and settling in with a pack of runners who had the same aspirations.

However, he started dealing with some stomach issues but was really hoping it would go away. By mile 14, the pain was too much, and he needed to make a rest stop. The stop cost him about a minute but more importantly lost the pack he was running with.

While Wallor wasn't totally satisfied with the end result of 2:28:44, he isn't giving up his dream of qualifying for the USA Olympic Marathon Trials in 2016. The standard to qualify now is 2:18, but Wallor is optimistic he can get there.

"I feel like I'm in better shape than when I was running competitively in college," he said. "I was in really good shape then, but I'm above that level. I was hoping to do better, but it just didn't work out. Going into 2014, I feel really good about dropping some more time."

Wallor offered some parting advice to those who may want to try running longer races.

"Find a plan, be consistent and stay with what you've done. Even the slightest thing can affect you. Do what you've been doing in the long runs up to that point."

English/Writing Tutoring Available for Athletes

Stack of Books
Photo courtesy of

PALATINE, Ill. – Student-athletes will now have access to tutoring services in English and Writing in the Wellness and Sports Center (M Building).

To make an appointment, please contact Bill Smith at, 847-925-6000 x2034 or stop by his office in M235 (attached to the study hall).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Past Meets Present at Alumni Baseball Game

Baseball: Alumni Baseball Game 2013
Former and current Harper baseball players came together on Sunday. (Cliff Brown)
PALATINE, Ill. – The Harper College baseball team welcomed back 22 former Hawks to campus on Sunday afternoon for an alumni baseball game.

The festivities kicked off at 11 AM as former players reunited with old teammates, warmed up, and took batting practice on the baseball field. Director of Alumni Relations and Special Events Fredia Martin was on hand to give the alumni t-shirts and Harper College alumni license plates.

Just before noon, Harper College President Dr. Kenneth Ender thanked the alumni for coming out and imparted his wisdom to the current team.

"This may be the best time of your life, but this is not life," Ender said.

Donning a Harper baseball jacket, Ender threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the game that pitted alumni teams captained by Paul Dineen and Bill Smith against each other. Both teams took a unique approach to the batting order, making the lineup oldest to youngest in descending order.

After Smith's squad took an early lead, Dineen's bunch came out swinging, hitting gaps left and right. George Heller, who played for the Hawks in 2009 and 2010, went 4-for-4 in the contest.

During the game, current players manned the grill, grilling up ribs, hot dogs, sausage and brats to complement the soda, chips and dessert.

Dineen's squad emerged with a 7-3 victory over Smith's team. After the game, Harper head coach Cliff Brown gathered the past and present players together at home plate, and former players gave advice and shared their experiences with the new team.

"Harper gave me the chance to further my baseball career and go on to play at a four-year university," said Tim Lazzarotto, who played for the Hawks in 1984 and 1985 and has coached baseball at the high school level for 25 years. "Through baseball, I was able to learn how to achieve something and carry it on to my career as an educator. Hard work and dedication can help you do anything you want in life."

Hawks Summon the Powers of Abe Lincoln, Finish 3-1

Volleyball: Lincoln Land Invitational 2013
The Hawks went 3-1 over the weekend behind strong play and a little luck from Abe Lincoln.
Box Score 1 | Box Score 2 | Box Score 3 | Box Score 4

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – It is considered good luck to rub the nose of Abraham Lincoln's statue in Springfield. For the Harper College volleyball team this past weekend, they became believers.

After splitting their first two matches on Friday, the team rubbed Lincoln's nose Saturday morning and won their final two matches that day to complete a successful 3-1 weekend at the Lincoln Land Invitational.

Harper vs. Kaskaskia College

The Hawks (23-16) got the weekend started on the right foot with a tightly-contested straight sets victory over Div. I Kaskaskia College (25-22, 25-23, 26-24), who beat Harper in the same invitational last year.

"This was a nice turn of events. We played very well," said Harper head coach Bob Viloset. "This match was a good confidence builder."

The Hawks built a 21-10 lead, but the Blue Angels responded with a 12-3 run to cut the lead to 24-22. Harper captured the next point to win the set. Madison Rodriguez(Palatine, Ill./Palatine) the attack with four kills in the set while Lindsey Murphy (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Crystal Lake South) contributed 11 assists.

Harper fell behind 9-3 in the second set but clawed back into it. Trailing 23-22, the Hawks won the last three points to go up 2-0 in the match. Veronica Dabrowski (Mount Prospect, Ill./Rolling Meadows) led a powerful attack with six kills.

In the third set, Harper fell behind 17-5 and the match looked to be heading to a fourth set, but Rebekah Hischke (Algonquin, Ill./Dundee Crown)'s strong serving (10-for-11, three aces) got the team back into the match. The Hawks still trailed 22-18, but they scored eight of the game's final 10 points to complete an amazing 12-point comeback.

Lindsey Murphy (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Crystal Lake South) led the Hawks in two categories, recording a double-double with 15 digs and 38 assists. Dabrowski finished the match with a team-high 14 kills to go along with nine digs.

Harper vs. #13 Butler County Community College (Div. II)

In Friday's nightcap match, the Hawks fell to a very strong Butler squad in straight sets (18-25, 12-25, 20-25).

Harper fell into a 17-7 hole in the first game and could not recreate the magic from the prior match against Kaskaskia. Alex Messner (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd) led the Hawks with four kills and five digs. The second game was no different, as Butler built an early lead and cruised to victory.

In game three, Harper took a 16-15 lead but could not hold on for the victory.

Murphy led the team with 18 assists while libero Kelly Spychala (Des Plaines, Ill./Elk Grove) led the team defensively with 14 digs.

"They were very strong defensively and put their hits in play and relied upon their defense. I was impressed with them," Vilsoet said.

 Harper vs. East Central College

The Hawks caught East Central at the right time, just after they played a hard-fought five-set match against Kaskaskia. Harper won in straight sets (25-9, 25-7, 25-19).

In the first two sets, the Hawks opened up big leads and won easily.

The final set was much closer, with the game tied at 16-16 before Harper won nine of the final 12 points en route to victory. Messner led the Hawks with five kills and six digs in the set.

Messner had a double-double with 11 kills and 13 digs while Murphy was a perfect 16-for-16 serving with two aces to go along with 34 assists.

Harper vs. John A. Logan College
After the Hawks dropped a tough match against John A. Logan at the Harper College Invitational on Sept. 20, they enacted revenge on their opponents with a straight sets victory (25-23, 25-23, 25-21).

The Hawks fell into an early 16-5 hole in the first set but fought back to close the gap to 19-17. Harper took the lead at 21-20 and held on to complete an unlikely 11-point comeback.

The Hawks carried the momentum into set two, taking a lead of 21-14 before the Volunteers tied it at 23-23. Harper won the final two points to pick up the win. Rodriguez was a blocking machine with four rejections in the contest.

Harper raced out to an early 10-3 lead in set three, but the opponents closed the gap to 16-15. The Hawks responded to the adversity and finished strong to win the set. Dabrowski led the Hawks with six kills while Messner tallied 10 digs.

Murphy notched a double-double with 11 digs and 32 assists in the match.

All-Tournament Team

Harper outside hitter Alex Messner (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd) was named to the Lincoln Land All-Tournament Team. For the weekend, she tallied 34 kills and 50 digs.

Thoughts from Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet

"This was a nice volleyball vacation to Springfield for our team. We played four excellent teams this weekend," he said. "All-in-all, it was very fun volleyball experience for the players."

Up Next

The Hawks return to action Tuesday against N4C foe Milwaukee. First serve is scheduled for 7:00 PM, and the match will be played at Alverno College.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hawks Tie for Fifth at Benedictine Invitational

Men's Cross Country: Brennan Albuck 2013
Harper's Brennan Albuck ran his best race of the season. (Jim Cummins)

The Harper men's cross country team tied for fifth out of 17 teams at the Benedictine University Eagle Invitational on Friday. The Hawks scored 176 points to tie with Wilmington College, and they were the top junior college at the meet.

A trio of freshman – Juan Barajas (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Schaumburg)Zach Stella (Palatine, Ill./Palatine) and Brennan Albuck (/Hoffman Estates) – led the charge for Harper on the 8K course at the St. James Farm Forest Preserve. Barajas took 26th place, finishing in 26:41 while Stella captured 45th place with a time of 27:13. Albuck was not far behind, finishing in 48th place with a time of 27:24.

Sophomores Nick Modlin (Wheeling, Ill./Wheeling) and Jhoan LIno rounded out the scoring with 58th and 60thplace finishes. Modlin crossed the finish line in 27:41, and Lino was close behind with a time of 27:44.

Other Harper finishers included Sebastian Ramirez (Lima, Peru/Palatine) in 79th place, Vince Greco (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) in 96th place, Andrew Guibord (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) in 110th place, John Majerus (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) in 111th place, Jordy Arriaga (Wheeling, Ill./Wheeling) in 132nd place, Connor Williams(/Wauconda) in 135th place, Livan Turyamusiima (/Modern Secondary School) in 148th place and Daniel Lim (Schaumburg, Ill./Streamwood) in 176th place.

North Central College won the meet with 39 points, placing five runners in the top 11 positions. Wheaton College took second place with 46 points, and Saint Joseph's College rounded out the top three with 86 points.

Up next for the Hawks is the Bradley Classic on Friday at 3:00 PM.

Harper Women Take 16th at Benedictine Invitational

Women's Cross Country: Cindia Salgado and Gabby Beaupre 2013
The Hawks took 16th at the Benedictine University Eagle Invitational. (Jim Cummins)

WARRENVILLE, Ill.  – The Harper women's cross country team had six runners compete at the Benedictine University Eagle Invitational on Friday and took 16th place with a team score of 442 points.

Stephanie Chaires (Palatine, Ill./Christian Liberty) led the Hawks with a 97th place finish, completing the 6K race in 27:17. Mary Piltaver (/Conant) finished in 128th place with a time of 28:47 while Marisa Andreuccetti (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Conant) was close behind with a 130th place finish in 28:54.

Newcomer Lori Delfin (/Wheeling) was Harper's third finisher with a 149th place finish in 31:20. Gabby Beaupre(Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) took 150th with a time of 31:59 to round out the scoring while Cindia Salgado(Wheeling, Ill./Wheeling) took 154th in a time of 32:43.

The Hawks are back in action Friday at the Bradley Classic in Peoria.

Kruczek Unfazed by New Surroundings, Uncertainty

PALATINE, Ill. – Harper women's soccer standout Nicolette Kruczek (Wonder Lake, Ill./Woodstock North) knew she wanted to play soccer after high school. However, the opportunity to do so was challenging because the Woodstock North grad was not heavily recruited by four-year schools and the nearest community college, McHenry County College, did not have a women's soccer program.

So she took a bold step and choose to start her college career at Harper College, away from the comforts of home. With nine goals in the team's first seven games, Kruczek's choice is paying off for the Hawks, as she has been named the fourth Harper College Athlete of the Week for the 2013-14 school year.

Kruczek scored 10 goals her senior year at Woodstock North in 2012 and was named All-Conference for her efforts.  Over the past summer, she trained at a field by her house in preparation for her first college season, but she wasn't prepared for the fact that the Hawks' season would be in jeopardy before it even started.

At the end of the summer, she moved in with her aunt and uncle, who live in Arlington Heights.

At the beginning of the school year, Harper had to cancel its first two games because there weren't enough girls on the team to compete. One more cancelled game would likely mean no season. Kruczek described it as 'a stressful time', but her and her teammates sprung into action.

At the Harper Hullabaloo on Sept. 10, they set up a table with flyers and recruited girls to play on the team. The recruiting effort paid off, as they were able to get a few girls to join the team.

The next day, the Hawks opened their season with a 7-3 victory over Milwaukee despite dressing only eight players. Kruczek spent a little time in goal, but she did her damage out on the offensive attack, recording a hat trick in her first college game.

Three days later, she scored two more goals to lead the Hawks to a 3-1 win over Century College. The roster also began to grow in size and now stands at 18 players.

"She puts in the work, and every game she gives everything she has," said Harper head coach Dwayne Cruz. "She's one of the few kids over the years who just has a great work rate."

In Harper's most recent games, Kruczek netted two more two-goal performances – Sept. 25 in a 3-2 win over Triton and Oct. 4 in a 7-0 win over Milwaukee.  She missed the team's most recent game, a 4-2 loss at DuPage, due to illness but should be ready when the Hawks open postseason play and make another push for nationals.

"With the core group of players intact, we have a really good chance of going to nationals and making it far," Kruczek said.

Athlete of the Week: Nicolette Kruczek file

The Hawks have made it to the region final the last five years. This year, it could once again be a showdown between Harper and DuPage to determine who goes to nationals.

"A lot of it will depend on us being healthy or not," Cruz said. "We were unhealthy the whole year last year until the playoffs, and we won the region as a result. We know what we have to fix for playoffs."

Kruczek is currently undecided on her major, but she's glad she choose Harper because it's giving her the opportunity to figure out her career path while improving her soccer skills, with the hope of getting looks from four-year schools. Cruz also thinks she would be a great fit at a four-year program down the road.

"She has the mentality, work rate and fitness to do it. We will keep working on her technical ability to get her ready for that," Cruz said.