North Central women’s volleyball rises to the top at invite

Naperville North graduate Jessica Fiala had 70 digs in the NYU Labor Day Invitational. | NCC photo
Naperville North graduate Jessica Fiala had 70 digs in the NYU Labor Day Invitational. | NCC photo

North Central College women’s volleyball coach Karen Bunkenburg knew her team was better than the 12-22 mark it posted last year.

“The weird thing was that we never felt like we had a bad team last year,” Bunkenburg said. “They were frustrated, but they knew they could do better.”

Recruiting-wise, last season helped because new players knew they would get a chance to play. The returning players also had something to prove. The result was a 4-0 record to start the season last week in New York City.

The Cardinals won the NYU Labor Day Invitational, beating Centre, Hunter and Rowan 3-0 each time before rallying for a thrilling 3-2 win (22-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-15, 15-5) over the hosts from New York University to win the title.

“We just really wanted to get off to a good start,” Bunkenburg said. “I would say they exceeded my expectations. It was a great weekend for us.”

Freshman Julie Laugel from Bloomington led the team with 36 kills in the tournament in her first college action. Senior Jessica Fiala, a Naperville North graduate, had 70 digs and junior Laura Kluk dished out 126 assists.

After the trip, the Cardinals are back in the area, preparing for the North Park Clash in Chicago this weekend. They start the tournament at 2 p.m. against Marian Friday.

“One of the things I wanted was to get away last weekend, see some teams you don’t see all the time,” Bunkenburg said. “Now we have to come back and fine tune things and see how we look in the region when it matters more. I think we’ll be up to the challenge this weekend.”

Kelleher’s strong start

Replacing legendary runner John Crain won’t be easy for the men’s cross country team, but Troy Kelleher took his first step toward becoming the team leader last week.

Kelleher cruised to the win in the Elmhurst College Early Bird Invitational last Friday, tying Crain’s 2012 meet record with a time of 18:53.1. He was named the CCIW Runner of the Week for his work.

The Cardinals filled eight of the top nine spots at the meet, with Aron Sebhat, Ryan Root and Ethan Adlfinger following Kelleher in the top four spots.

NCC was ranked second nationally by the USTFCCCA coming into the season.

St. Olaf, the team that edged the Cardinals for the national title last year, is first in the rankings by a slim 277-to-275 margin.

Norton comes home

Longtime wrestling coach Kevin Bratland moved on to a new career opportunity, giving 2010 NCC graduate Joe Norton a chance to take over the program.

Norton wrestled for the Cardinals and was a graduate assistant and the head of recruiting from 2010-2013 after graduation. Last year, he was the head coach at Knox.

Norton inherits a talented class of returners, led by national qualifier Josh Tardy, a junior from Naperville Central.

Men’s soccer wins twice

The men’s soccer team is ranked 10th in the Central Regional by the NSCAA and won twice to start the season.

After dropping the season opener, the Cardinals beat Calvin 1-0 at the Cal Bergsma Invitational in Holland, Mich., and then earned a 2-1 win at Dominican Wednesday night.

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