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Four Jackson County Spikers Making an Impact with Logan

Kasey Krough

Kasey Krough

BY JOHN D. HOMAN
Logan Media Services

CARTERVILLE – Southern Illinois is not regarded as a hotbed of prep volleyball talent by collegiate coaches throughout the Midwest. But John A. Logan College coach Bill Burnside is certainly benefiting from some talented in-district players this season. And four of the kids just happen to reside in the same county – Jackson.

Sophomores Kasey Krough of Carbondale and Alyssa Sturgeon of Murphysboro have been joined this fall by freshmen Audrey Vaughn and Jessica Stanton, both Murphysboro grads.

“And all are filling prominent roles,” Burnside said. “They’re out there on the court practically the entire match. At the Division I level, it’s unusual to have so many local players making an impact unless those local players are from a large metropolitan area. What helps is that these four are all very athletic and sound fundamental players. All have earned their playing time.”

Alyssa Sturgeon

Alyssa Sturgeon

Krough leads the team in kills with 167. Vaughn is second with 148. Sturgeon has accounted for 83 and Stanton 33.

Defensively, Vaughn is second on the team in digs or first passes with 137 and Krough is third with 121. Stanton is head of the class in blocks with 45. Sturgeon has netted 39, but that figure may grow considerably as she has moved from rightside hitter to middle while Stanton recovers from an ankle injury.

An outside hitter, Krough said her confidence has grown considerably in her skill set from a year ago when she admits she was “just taking things in.”

Now, the former Terrier has taken on more of a leadership role with the team.

“I just want to do what I can to help the team, whether that’s getting kills or making a defensive play. Winning is all that matters to me. I don’t like losing.”

Audrey Vaughn

Audrey Vaughn

Krough said that while Murphysboro was a rival of Carbondale’s when she attended high school, there is no player rivalry on the Logan squad.

“We don’t care about that stuff anymore,” she said. “I grew up playing against Alyssa, Jessica and Audrey, and even Erin (freshman Dodd) of Marion, but now we’re together and I couldn’t be happier. We talk more and we do things together.”

Krough said she would like to continue her volleyball career beyond JALC and plans to major in physical therapy.

Sturgeon, who started out as rightside hitter, but has moved to middle, said she believes she is a “much better” player than she was a year ago.

“I think so. I have worked particularly hard on my defensive skills. I focus on staying low and getting my feet in the right position.”

The former Red Devil said she doesn’t mind moving to the middle…whatever is best for the team, she said.

Jessica Stanton

Jessica Stanton

“I just try to stay behind the ball and make good contact. When I don’t get a good hit, it upsets me. I want the ball because I am much more confident in myself now.”

At 6-foot, Sturgeon is the tallest player on the Vols’ squad. She also hopes to continue her volleyball career after finishing her two-year term at Logan.

“That’s my goal, but I also know it will be tough since I am in the nursing program. I plan to major in pediatric nursing.”

Sturgeon said she also likes the fact that four Jackson County girls are performing well together on the same collegiate team.

“I think it’s awesome. We’ve all gotten so much closer here at Logan. I think that closeness has helped make us a much better team than we were a year ago.”

Vaughn is an outside hitter for the Vols. The freshman from Murphy admitted that she was extremely nervous when the season started at a tournament in Vincennes.

“I had the jitters really bad,” she said. “When I started to relax, I started to play much better. Now, I’m much more comfortable out on the court.”

Vaughn said she considers her teammates to be her sisters.

“Some of these girls I grew up playing with and others against, and because of that, I think we communicate really well together.”

Vaughn said she had to adapt to the collegiate game.

“It’s much faster-paced than high school,” she said. “In high school, there are both good players and not so good players. In college, pretty much everyone was a good player in high school. I’d like to think I’ve improved my game quite a bit from last year. Coach Burnside has done a good job teaching me to keep the ball in front of me when I hit. As a result, I don’t hit the ball into the block nearly as much.”

Vaughn said she plans to become a Special Education teacher.

Stanton is a middle hitter from Murphy, who was starting to come into her own when she went down hard with an ankle injury a week ago against Rend Lake. Initially, it was thought that the freshman might miss well over a month, but an updated prognosis indicates that she may be ready to play in a couple of weeks.

“I put a better swing on the ball than I did in high school,” Stanton said. “I’m coming at the ball now from a higher angle. And I can see a difference. I’m much more consistent with my hits.”

Stanton said it means a lot to her to compete at a higher level with players she knows well.

“That absolutely helps,” she said. “Our connection is a strong one. And I only see it getting better.”

Stanton said her primary objective is defense first.

“My mindset is to block the other team’s hitter to the best of my ability. It takes a combination of both technique and determination. I’m getting better at it.”

Stanton said she has yet to declare a major, but does hope to continue her volleyball career after Logan.

Burnside said it has been easier to teach his four Jackson County standouts thanks to the fine instruction they get at the prep level. Carbondale High coach Fae Ragan was a longtime Logan head coach and Murphy head coach Mike Layne has had a long run of success as head coach of the Red Devils.

“They know what they’re doing,” Burnside said. “Their experience most definitely shows. They teach many skills that other high school coaches simply don’t. That instruction helps their players make the transition to the next level.”