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Fulton finds flow in time for improbable playoff run

Better late than never

Who would have thought Fulton would be the last Sauk Valley area volleyball team standing?

Not Steamers coach Stacy Germann. At least, not until recently.

“Probably not midway through the season,” said Germann, who is in her 19th season as Fulton’s head coach. “We had a streak when we lost seven in a row. It’s been a roller-coaster ride for us.”

Fulton struggled mightily much of the season, but is making all the right moves in the postseason.

The Steamers, who finished 7-7 and tied for fourth in the Three Rivers North, entered the postseason 11-17 overall, and as the No. 3 seed in the the five-team Riverdale Regional. Four wins later, and they’re headed to the Bureau Valley Supersectional at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Fulton (15-17) will face Fieldcrest (32-4-1), which has two losses to last year’s 2A state champion, Deer Creek-Mackinaw, and one to 2012 2A runner-up Dakota.

While the Steamers won their first sectional since 2003, when Fulton made its only trip to state, Fieldcrest won its first girls team sectional in any sport.

One key addition to the roster seemed to be the missing link for the Steamers.

“A little ways into the season, we brought up Camerin Huizenga,
a sophomore,” said classmate Betsy
Leonard, who had team highs of seven kills and four blocks in Fulton’s 25-19, 25-13 sectional championship win over Abingdon-Avon. “She’s a really good hitter. She helped us a lot on the right side and outside.”

“We brought [Huizenga] up about a third of the way into the season,” Germann said. “We finally got our lineup solid and got used to those rotations. It just took us a while. It took them about seven games to get used to it.”

A tough schedule made it hard on Fulton at times, but it all seems to be paying off in the end.

“Our tournaments and the hard competition that we played helped us, and made us play more together,” said junior Chelsea Lesniewski, who had five aces and three kills Thursday.

The ability was there. It just took a while for the Steamers to show it.

“I felt like we had potential,” Lesniewski said. “I thought we could do it if we put our minds to it.”

“We had a lot of talent individually, but we just weren’t working together,” Leonard said. “Toward the middle of the season, we figured out how to play as a team.”

Germann is proud of the turnaround her team has accomplished in such a short time.

“It’s very rewarding, because we were frustrated at the beginning of the year,” she said. “I knew they had it in them. It’s what we were hoping for at the beginning of the season.

“It’s better late than never.”

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where; Bureau Valley High School, Manlius

Twitter: Ty Reynolds (@STyReynolds)

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