Record-setting season: Clinton’s Wing named POY for 2nd straight year
By Kurt Ritzman
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
CLINTON — Clinton senior Alyssa Wing closed out a record-setting career with a dominating season.
She led Class 5A with 5.43 kills a game and a .462 kill efficiency. Wing went over 1,000 career kills and became Clinton’s all-time kill leader with 1,088. Her 472 kills as a senior was the second-best season mark in Clinton history. She knocked down 39 kills — setting a Clinton match record — in a five-set win over Bettendorf, which was the last loss of the season for the eventual state champions.
“It’s certainly been a nice luxury to have her sitting either in the middle or outside waiting for the ball,” Clinton coach Mark Massey said.
In part because of those numbers, Wing was selected as the Herald’s all-area volleyball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Wing said she’s had a chance to look back at her high school volleyball career a little bit.
“I have an appointment for my picture for first team all-state,” Wing said. “Just going through there and talking with Massey about this is where the picture is going to be, this is what it will look like. It definitely reflects everything that I’ve tried to do and everything that I’ve accomplished. I did have some great feats this year, but it hasn’t really sunk in that this is my senior year and I’m never going to play here again. I don’t really want to think about that yet. It’s kind of sad.”
There are a lot of reasons that Wing was able to have such a successful season and career, having the physical tools is certainly one of them.
“She’s certainly got an excellent combination of size and strength,” Massey said. “She’s very agile. She’s be agile were she 5-8. You put a kid like that in a 6-2 frame. So athletically right away, you’ve got a pretty decent package there.”
But there’s more to it than just being gifted.
“Obviously it takes hard work because you can’t get better if you don’t practice,” Wing said. “I practiced everyday. I was setting the ball to myself earlier. If I see a ball, I’m going to do something with it. My parents are coaches. They’ve coached me for a long time. They taught me the techniques and everything that goes into the game of volleyball. They taught me the mechanics of hitting and passing.
“My mom used to be a setter at Mount St. Clare (now Ashford), when it was that. So she’d set me the ball and I’d hit or she’d hit at me and I’d pass. I’m just always playing. The more you play the better you get.”
Wing said Massey and her club volleyball coach Greg Weller taught her a lot, but she had to be willing to learn and apply to see results.
“I had the mentality of taking those things and using them,” she said. “Some players can get taught by the best coaches ever and they still don’t succeed. You have to want to become better. I think I had the will and that’s why I accomplished everything I did.”
Wing is headed to UNLV to play volleyball next year. She admitted to taking one week off after the River Queens lost to Bettendorf in the playoffs. But after that week, she was back at work and starts club practice in December.
“I never stop; I play all year round,” Wing said. “I love it. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be going to school for it.”
Wing is expecting Bettendorf junior Caitlin Wernentin to join her in Las Vegas as a volleyball teammate in two years. So she went to watch and support Wernentin at the state tournament and watched the Bulldogs defeat Dubuque Hempstead in the quarterfinals and Pleasant Valley in the semifinals.
“I wore her shirt — a Bettendorf shirt — which was a little tough to do,” Wing said. “I wanted to support her and I did go. It was a little upsetting. The first match they won in five and it was really close. I know how the other team felt. Dubuque Hempstead, a few of their girls collapsed. They were crying. That’s how I was. I was really upset. It was my senior year and it ended. It was their senior year and it ended. I cried a little. I’ll admit it. Every time I went and watched I cried. I wished I was there. It wasn’t jealousy. I just wanted to play again.”
Wing said her fondest memory of the season was her record-setting performance in the five-game win against Bettendorf.
“I was at the top of my game,” she said. “I had 39 kills and I broke the record that night. That was a really good memory because I played my hardest and we ended up winning in five. It was a close game. The whole team played their hardest and we all played really well. I felt like I played the best I could. I played awesome. It definitely showed.
“Another one was one I broke 1,000 kills and Massey announced it to everyone. It was really special. That was a good night. Those were some pretty good moments.”
Murphy increases confidence, wins
By Kurt Ritzman
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
CLINTON — Confidence and belief can mean a lot in sports. Sometimes adding those to a physically talented team can make a world of difference.
Last year, Erie went 18-17-1 in coach Alicia Murphy’s first season. In Year 2, the Cardinals went 25-10 and won an Illinois Class 1A regional title.
“It was amazing,” Murphy said. “They always had the tools; they just didn’t realize what they were capable of. As they got success, they understood what it took and wanted it even more. Gradually they came into their own. They just needed a push in the right direction. It was very much about confidence.”
With a seven-game improvement and a regional title, Murphy was selected as the Herald’s all-area volleyball Coach of the Year.
As important as Murphy helping the team realize its potential was getting the players to buy into their roles. It took some difficulties early in the season to get everything ironed out.
“In our first tournament of the year — the Oregon tournament — we struggled,” Murphy said. “We were trying to get the right mesh. Once we found our mesh and the girls accepted their roles — even the girls off the bench accepted their roles — we found the key to our success.”
The Cardinals had only three seniors on their roster and they ended up starting two freshmen and playing three sophomores. That can cause problems, but Murphy said that wasn’t really an issue.
“It was actually very, very easy,” she said. “The two freshmen were sisters of upperclassmen, so it was very easy to bring them in. The girls wanted to be successful and bringing up girls with talent was how we were going to do that. They all got along very well and that’s big with teenage girls.”
Erie came from behind to beat Eastland in the regional final in three games to win its first regional title since 2008.
“The best moment was absolutely winning the regional, especially being on our home court,” Murphy said. “It was a big deal for us, a big deal for the girls. It was great being part of hopefully a new trend at Erie.”
So how does Murphy continue this improvement?
“We need to keep doing what we’re doing — preaching fundamentals,” she said. “We’re finally making them understand they’re capable of winning. They’ve always had the talent. We’re just giving them confidence and instilling a killer instinct, fight and competitiveness. We want to base our program on solid fundamentals, that’s the big thing.”