Prep Sports Notebook: SJO volleyball wins at home, spring sports fires up today

Spring sports season gets underway

Today was the first official day of baseball, softball and track for area high schools. The spring season, which is off to a late start, will conclude on June 19.

Last month, there was a bit of good news for athletes in these three sports. The IHSA said that "all tournaments are currently expected to conduct all rounds of competition, including a State Final. State Final qualifiers in some individual sports may be modified to better meet gathering mitigations."

Unity soccer

Fighting back valiantly from a 2-0 first half deficit, the Unity soccer team posted a 4-2 conference loss against Illinois Valley Central this afternoon.

The Rockets netted two goals, one from senior Zach Ohlsson and another from junior midfielder Grace Brock, on their home field in the second half.

The Grey Ghost also scored twice in second half to seal the Illini Prairie Conference win.

Vallee pounds 9 kills in SJO win

The St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball team notched a 2-0 win over visiting Urbana tonight behind 9 kills Payton Vallee. The senior's defensive effort yielded seven digs in the non-conference victory.

Senior hitter Kennedi Burnett added another seven kills of her own to help the #4 Class 2A ranked Spartans to take the first set 25-16 and prevail in the second 25-20. Burnett led team in service aces with four and had 12 digs.

Becca Steinbach was credited with 22 assists.

Next, SJO travels to Unity to take on the Rockets at the Rockets Center on Tuesday. The varsity contest is set for a 7pm start.

Unity ranked in preseason softball polls

The Unity softball program started practice today for the spring season and they did so with a #7 preseason ranking in Class 2A by the Illinois Coaches Association.

"It is really good for our program," said head coach Aimee Davis. "Having not played last year, it is a nice compliment to our program and the young ladies that make it special."

With just two seniors on the team this season, Davis said Summer Day and Taylor Joop's will lead a strong junior class.

"They know what it takes to win," she said about the duo. "Having those two return with a few other key players in Taylor Henry (junior), Maddie Reed (junior), Gracie Renfrow (junior), Grace Frye (junior) and Ally England (junior) all playing roles in our 2019 run, plus five other juniors and some underclassmen should be a good combo heading into this season."

She added that the players that wear the Unity softball uniform are a special bunch. "They work hard on and off the field. Being ranked in the preseason polls is a nice feeling, but we know there will be teams itching to play us and beat us."

While the pandemic and a canceled season may have left a scar on Davis and players, they are looking forward, not backwards, to heal the wounds.

"Last year was a big loss for our program, but we aren't unique in that situation, no teams played last year," she explained. "We have to compete everyday to own the vision we have for this program and this season."

Looking forward to late May, early June and the postseason, the coach with three regional titles under her belt in her five seasons at Unity does so with cautious apprehension.

"I am truly excited for our program to get the opportunity to showcase our talent, however, we are all too familiar with how quickly decisions can be made," she said referring the public health protocols that forced sports for nearly a year to cease in Illinois. "June is a bit too far away for me to get too excited. Once we get all of our girls back on the turf, the excitement will be there from coaches and players."

St. Joseph-Ogden was also listed in the preseason poll at #20 on the list.