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Niles West's Nerina Alic leads group of Oakton Spikers that plan on using defense first

Oakton Community College's volleyball team for the 2019 season is seeking to prove the strategy "the best offense is a good defense" holds true. The Owls are primed to stifle the attack of opposing teams in the form of newcomer middle blocker Nerina Alic (Niles West High School).

With her 6-foot-2 frame, Alic, an all-conference player for the Niles West Wolves, is Oakton's tallest player and a danger to block every shot in her zip code.

"She's unstoppable in practice," says Oakton head volleyball coach Miguel Calvillo. "You can't teach height and she is a phenomenal blocker."

Alic describes her talent at blocking: "The key is to look at the opposing setter's footwork. By her body movement, I can tell where she's passing and move in to position to make the block. It's a good feeling when you time it just right. That's how I know I did something right and did my job."

However, the Owls have many weapons besides Alic to improve on last season's 20-12 record. This includes returning setter and captain Joi Easterling (Lake View High School). To make use of her talents on the floor, Calvillo is running his offense through her.

"Last year we used two setters, but this year we're going to a format using just one setter and five hitters," he explains. "Joi is very dependable and connects well with the other players. The advantage of using one setter is consistency to get the hitters into a rhythm."

Returners include: middle blocker Francesca Lombardo (New Trier High School), defensive specialist/libero Annkia Dehorn (Glenbrook South High School) and outside hitter Mary Sarkissian (Niles North High School).

Additional freshmen include outside hitters Vicky Stipetic (Maine South High School) and Emily Tracy (Maine West High School) and defensive specialist Kellie Kortas (Maine East High School).

The Owls started the season playing in a tournament in Rockford on Friday, Aug. 23. Oakton's first home match is scheduled 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, versus Waubonsee Community College.

"I purposely scheduled a lot of away matches this season to become more comfortable playing on the road so we can go farther in the postseason," Calvillo says.


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