PALATINE, Ill. – At the Harper College Fall Sports Banquet, the Harper College volleyball team honored their team that came within three points of a spot in the national tournament to the team that won the national championship this year. Three Harper sophomores earned postseason accolades, led by Veronica Dabrowski(Mount Prospect, Ill./Rolling Meadows) being named First Team All-Region and First Team All-Conference. Alex Messner (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd) received Second Team All-Conference honors while Kelly Spychala (Des Plaines, Ill./Elk Grove) was voted team MVP. All three players were All-Region IV All-Tournament players as well.
The Hawks finished fifth in the NJCAA national poll for the second straight year, compiling a 31-21 record.
"I am very proud of how this team played this year, the results, and how they carries themselves and represented Harper College," said Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet. "I'm certain everyone on the team had an enjoyable and successful experience they will remember for a lifetime."
Dabrowski led the Hawks in 2013 with 475 kills, which ranked tops in the conference and fourth in the nation. Her 828 career kills for Harper ranks her second on the Hawks' all-time kills list behind Christy Lima. In addition to her postseason awards, Dabrowski was named to All-Tournament teams at the Illinois Valley Invitational, Harper College Invitational and Harper College Invite. Finally, she was honored as a scholar athlete for her work in the classroom.
"She moved from outside hitter to mostly middle hitter this year. To her, that was a very unselfish sacrifice; to us, it instantly made us a much better team," Vilsoet said.
Messner blossomed into a superstar in her lone season for Harper, putting down 346 kills while compiling 474 digs, both second-best on the team. She was named to the Harper College Invitational and Lincoln Land Invitational All-Tournament Team on back-to-back weekends.
"She was often in the right place on defense before I think the opposing hitter even knew where she was going to hit it. Alex was also a very clutch player," Vilsoet said.
Spychala was the nation's leader in digs with 819 and also set a Harper College single-season record with that total. Her 1,157 career digs ranks her second on the Hawks' career list behind Megan Maize. Spychala was also named to the College of DuPage All-Tournament Team.
"Kelly was phenomenal on defense. She could read the hitter, so she knew what was coming – a tip, roll or strong hit, and which direction," Vilsoet said. "She was all over the court on defense and was a very clutch player with her defense and passing."
The three sophomores, in addition to captain Madison Rodriguez (Palatine, Ill./Palatine), captain Rebekah Hischke (Algonquin, Ill./Dundee Crown), right-side hitter Alyse Kolner (Crystal Lake, Ill./Marion Central) and setter Valerie Bazemore (Houston, Tex./Keller), put together an incredible two-year run in which the Hawks went 67-36 overall and 17-6 in the nation's premier NJCAA Div. III volleyball conference.
Vilsoet acknowledged that his team was talented, very close and many will be friends for life as a result of their experiences together these last two seasons. He is also proud of the fact that the players are helping recruit players for next year because of the positive experience they had with the Harper volleyball program.
"It's sad that the banquet signals the end of a very fun volleyball year, and I won't get to see these sophomores as much anymore," he said. "But what the banquet also does is gets me excited for next year's team."
With a strong nucleus returning next year, mixed with a strong recruiting class, the Hawks will likely be national tournament contenders again in 2014.