Stacie Warner can do a lot of things on a volleyball court. She can set. She can dig. She can serve. And she can clearly deliver the ball over the net for a point.
But what Warner can do best – and what her Skyline team really needed her to do this season – is step up. And because she has stepped up, the Eagles are flying high in the SEC Red Division and clearly are one of the best teams in the area if not the entire state.
“I came into the season thinking I was going to be a DS (defensive specialist),” she said. “But during the Saline Tournament at the start of the year our setter fractured her leg.”
Super sophomore Lauren Lee was all set to be setter when the injury occurred during the Hornet Volleyball Invitational on Aug. 26. To lose an important and talented member of the team before the first serve of the season was a devastating blow for a team with huge goals and expectations.
The Eagles managed to go undefeated that day but they were clearly devastated and hurting for their teammate.
Still, someone had to fill those big shoes. This not only was a good player lost for the season but she played a key position that needed to be filled. And, oh yeah, it had to be filled like right away because the injury happened before the first game even started.
Skyline Coach Chris Cristian didn’t even have to pull anyone aside or talk it over with his assistants or even think about it for one second. It just took a glance.
“He kind of just looked over at me and smiled,” Warner said. “He didn’t really have to say anything except go warm up and I was like, ‘OK.’”
Warner said that first day was OK because everyone was thinking more about Lauren and hoping she was OK and wondering how their fallen teammate was doing. “We were pretty upset and worried,” Warner said. “She had worked so hard for the team and then for that to happen was really unfortunate.”
But there was a learning curve. It was a seamless transition. Setting in volleyball requires timing and that timing takes time to learn.
“The hitters had gotten used to hitting off of her sets,” Warner said. “Mine, of course, are a little different. We worked really hard to rebuild those connections. It’s been a journey but I think we are starting to hit our stride now.”
Skyline is not only successful on the court but the team has volleyed up quite a few friendships and memories already off the court. But the Eagles are all in on their lofty goals.
We all have a common goal of wanting to go far and we know what we need to do to accomplish that,” Warner said. “We play with a lot of energy but we also are calm when things don’t go our way and keeping that composure is important.
Warner started playing volleyball in fifth grade, following in her sister’s footsteps. She also was a competitive swimmer and ran cross country before both sports fell off the schedule when volleyball became her go-to sport.
A senior, Warner has a 4.0 GPA and is looking at colleges – including DePaul University and the University of Chicago – and bigger challenges after high school. “I don’t plan on playing volleyball in college for the school but want to keep playing it just for fun because I love it so much,” she said.
She is certainly having fun playing volleyball for Skyline.
While the Eagles feature two of the best players in the state – the Murray sisters, Harper and Kendall – they are a complete team. And two powerful hitters can make a big difference but it takes a team to win championships and Districts and Regionals and so on.
“It’s very helpful to have players like that and we are all glad they are on our side, but it does take a full team to do what we hope to do and that’s go far in the state playoffs,” Warner says. “It’s definitely a team effort. Even the girls who don’t get to play as much as they would like are important to our success.
“Last year I didn’t play that much but even when you are on the bench you are a part of the team. Everybody needs to cheer and support everyone and be ready in case you do get called to come in a game.”
Or come in and play a new position at a moment’s notice.