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Prep volleyball: Comets stand alone atop Three Rivers North

Looking past numbers

Newman's Julie Hurd (background) tries to tap the ball over the net against Sterling in a match earlier this season. The Comets are 11-4 and undefeated in the Three Rivers North.
Newman's Julie Hurd (background) tries to tap the ball over the net against Sterling in a match earlier this season. The Comets are 11-4 and undefeated in the Three Rivers North.

Take one look at the Three Rivers North stat leaders, and you would think Newman would be among the lesser teams in the league.

Take one look at the Comets on the floor, and you would think differently.

Newman does not have a single player in the top five in the conference in any statistical category. What the Comets do have is a perfect 7-0 mark in the league, having beaten everybody (Morrison twice) but second-place Bureau Valley, which they host tonight.

"We definitely play more as a team, since we don't have that one person that's looked at as the superstar," said Newman senior setter Allison Shipman, one of the team's three captains along with setter Kayci Howell and middle hitter Megan Rosengren.

"We need each other to win. That's the reason for our success. We all rely on each other and trust each other."

Coming off a solid 22-12 season in which it was 10-4 in the Three Rivers, expectations were high for Newman, which is 11-4 overall in 2013.

"It was definitely a prediction of mine, because I saw the talent that we were bringing up from the sophomore team," said Howell, the daughter of former Newman and current Sauk Valley Community College coach Jay Howell. "I knew it was a possibility, but I don't think I envisioned it being this good."

The Comets have put in the hard work on and off the court, and are reaping what they've sown. Weightlifiting has become a key component for the team.

"I think it's made us stronger in many ways," Rosengren said. "It keeps our endurance up. I'm always stronger by the end of the season than I was before."

Newman coach Debbi Kelly loves the start her team is off to, but knows there's much work to do in the second half of the season.

"The conference is going to be tough," Kelly said. "It's really competitive. There's been a lot of back and forth. Anything could happen. It's going to be a test. Everyone's coming after us now, and that's a different role to be playing."

The Comets are enjoying their first-place view and plan to stay there.

"It's a really big goal at this point, because we've had so much success thus far," Rosengren said of winning the conference. "We want to keep going and see how far we can get, and I think we can get to the top."

List of victims

(Comets' conference results)

• Def. Riverdale 25-14, 16-25, 27-25

• Def. Prophetstown 25-14, 25-19

• Def. Morrison 25-11, 26-24

• Def. Fulton 25-21, 25-15

• Def. Erie 25-22, 25-21

• Def. Amboy 20-25, 25-20, 25-14

• Def. Morrison 25-20, 26-24

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