GOOSE LAKE -- If it’s a mystery to other teams what exactly Northeast will roll out in 2013, it’s because their coach, Brenda McKone, doesn’t quite know herself. According to her, that’s not such a bad thing.
“The team I have is really capable of playing lots of positions,” McKone said. “I’m able to do a lot of different things. These kids are athletic. They’re probably the most solid team I’ve ever coached, and I’ve been at this a little while.”
Just because McKone is in her 34th season at the helm doesn’t mean she doesn’t plan to switch it up at Northeast. Already, through six games, the Rebels have used more than 12 players a match -- essentially their whole roster. The level of play hasn’t dropped off either; Northeast is 4-2, both losses coming to Galena (Ill.) during Saturday’s Prince of Peace Invitational.
Because of this, there are no Rebels “stat monsters” either. Outside hitter Addie Oberman leads the team with 38 kills after the weekend, but the ball has been well-distributed with four other Rebels -- Ashley Kruse, Breanne Butler, Alicia Perez and Peyton Gray -- having 20 or more attack attempts. Courtney Stoll leads with 51 assists, but backup setter Bailey Claussen has logged meaningful points in 11 of Northeast’s 15 sets. Stoll and Oberman were both named to the Prince of Peace All-Tournament team.
The Rebels can block, too, with junior middle Kruse and senior outside Butler tallying 26 total blocks combined; they can also scrap with Oberman and junior libero Baylie Parson, each averaging over two digs a set. As a team, the Rebels have racked up 39 aces -- 2.6 a set -- featuring a desirable balance of powerful jump servers and tactical floaters.
During Northeast’s season-opening win against Bellevue, McKone switched between one- and two-setter systems and plugged in defensive subs for more favorable matchups. She’s not afraid to empty the bench or use different front-row options.
“There are kids sitting at the end of my bench that can go in at any point, any time,” McKone said. “I don’t feel like we have a weak rotation where I feel like, OK, we have to get through this one. We’re pretty solid up and down the line. We’ve got a ways to go, it’s still early. But we’re running plays right out of the shoot that we’re not normally doing.”
The Rebels also plan to mix it up defensively using two different schemes to throw off opposing offenses.
“I went to a clinic this spring, and they asked, ‘How many of you run more than one defense?’ “ McKone said. “Not one person raised their hand. But these kids can do it. Last year, we ran a center-mid-back rotation, this year we’re trying a perimeter.
“Tipping is more open than it was before. But we’re going to get there. We may even switch back to our other defense mid-match. You never know. It depends what our opponent is trying to do.”
Northeast’s first big test of the season will come Tuesday night when the Rebels host Camanche for a River Valley Conference match. The Indians are 5-2, tied with Northeast at 1-0 in the RVC.
Even with the match looming, it’s too early to know what McKone’s plan of attack will be Tuesday.
It is, however, a safe bet that the Rebels will make every tactical adjustment necessary to maximize their chances of winning.