Janka’s Big Morning Leads to Prondzinski Career-High, First Redbird Home Win
Written by Mikey Fornelli on September 2, 2022
Image courtesy of Illinois State Athletics
NORMAL, Ill – Head Coach Allie Matters has a win at Redbird Arena in her first attempt, Kaitlyn Prondzinski has a new career-high 21 kills, and the Illinois State University volleyball team is back to an even overall record…all before noon on Friday.
In a four-set contest, the Redbirds took down the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles in the Redbird Classic’s opening matchup, controlling all three sets they won and putting together an impressive showing even in the lone set they lost.
“We were prepared, we did a really good job,” Matters said. “Playing at 10 a.m. is just tough no matter what…we did a really good job coming out strong.”
The Redbirds came out strong in the opening set, creating multiple 5-0 runs en route to a 21-12 lead and eventual 25-16 win. Much of the success in set one can be attributed to junior setter Nora Janka, who had three service aces and 45 assists in the match. Janka, who normally splits time as a setter with sophomore Katelyn Lefler, rose to the challenge and played hard all four sets after Lefler sat out for precaution after a minor injury during warmups.
“Nora [Janka] did a really good job of moving the ball around,” Matters said. “For her to step up and run the offense the way she did, and give someone their career high- I don’t think I can ask for anything more.”
The second set followed the same pattern, with the Redbirds keeping the pressure on their opponent with strong attacks from Prondzinski, seniors Sarah Kushner and Nicole Lund, and freshman starters Regan Haith and Aida Shadwald. Shadwald’s eight kills is already her second time this season with as many, and was good for third on her team and fourth overall in the match. The two freshman starters highlight a strong Redbird rookie class that fits in perfectly to a successful lineup that lost two of its biggest former stars in Tamara Otene (Georgia Tech) and Aliyah Moore (Michigan State) to the transfer portal.
“They have done a really good job of filling roles that we have lost,” Matters said on the Redbird freshmen. “I’m not saying Aida [Shadwald] has the experience Tam [Otene] had, but I mean in the way she is able to complement our system. With the returners in the middle, we don’t need them to be anything but freshmen right now. That gives them the ability to fit in and complement the system we already have in place. They’re fitting in well.”
“They are a talented group of freshmen.” Prondzinski added, “they work hard and have an open mind, and that is really what we needed.”
The Golden Eagles tried to flip the script early in set three, putting pressure back on the ‘Birds and going up 20-15. Although Kushner and Prondzinski led the team and built a comeback, Oral Roberts got their only set win 25-23.
The Redbirds, however, had seemingly tired out the Golden Eagles after their comeback attempt and ripped the match back to their win column in set four, winning in dominant fashion by 13 points.
Prondzinski’s 21 kills top the box score, followed by Kushner’s 13, and Lund and Shadwald with 8. Lund also put together three blocks, with four block assists coming from Prondzinski.
“This year, I am hoping to have a bigger role in our offense because we lost some people.” Prondzinski said, “now that I am an upperclassman, my role has changed a little bit. It’s exciting.”
Showing resiliency and depth, the Redbirds proved in their home opener Friday that they should be taken seriously in 2022 despite any coaching or roster changes.
“That’s what makes good teams good.” Matters said, “The ability to lose a starter in warmups and be able to say ‘okay, next person up.’ That’s our job as a program to make sure our plan B and C are just as good as our plan A.”
The Redbirds will be back in action again Friday night, hosting Green Bay at 7:30. They’ll then finish out the Redbird Classic on Saturday against SEMO at 2:30 p.m. Both games will be broadcast live on wznd.com and 103.3 FM