It’s hard to figure now, but St. Charles East’s Julia Ferrandino actually grew up as a setter.
But as her career evolved heading into high school, she eventually moved over in the front row and took on more of a hitting role — something that would grow on her as well.
“I was a setter for like eight years and then my club actually switched me to the outside,” Ferrandino said. “They just thought I’d do better hitting because they saw my power.”
It looks like those coaches had the right idea.
The 6-foot senior middle hitter provided a spark Tuesday night when the Saints sputtered early, building to a 25-21, 22-25, 25-19 DuKane Conference victory over Batavia.
With the Saints (22-4, 4-2) trailing by five in the first game, Ferrandino had three kills and then started to serve. She had three aces as part of a 6-0 run that flipped the game.
“We were just down a little bit with ourselves,” Ferrandino said. “But once we got the lead, it really helped us remember that we’re OK and we know how to play volleyball.
“It just focused us to get back in the game, and our confidence gets back up once we know we’re doing OK. Getting that run helped us get going.”
St. Charles East coach Jennie Kull has witnessed quite a transformation in Ferrandino’s game through the years.
“She has all of a sudden just become this phenomenal hitter and blocker,” Kull said. “She can play defense because she was a setter. If we need hands, she’s there to do that.
“She’s playing in the middle for us. This kid, it’s like night and day. She’s just really come on. I’m so proud of her.”
Batavia (15-12, 2-4) bounced back after dropping the first game, however. Amanda Otten had five of her match-high nine kills and two blocks in the second game.
“I don’t really know what happened in the first,” Batavia coach McKenna Kelsay said. “We broke down in serve receive a little bit, couldn’t get the ball to our hitters.
“I loved the way we came out in the second. We fought back a little bit and we said, ‘We’re not going to let that happen.’ I think this team has done a really good job of fighting pretty consistently.”
Otten also had eight digs for the Bulldogs.
“She’s really stepped up this year as a senior leader,” Kelsay said.
Teagan Rokos added 12 digs and Alexa VanderLuitgaren had five kills for Batavia.
Lexi Crossen and Sarah Musial paced St. Charles East with eight kills, while Ferrandino, Kate Goudreau and Natalee Rush each had six. Rush contributed five blocks. Musial also had 24 assists and five aces.
Kull praised Rush after the match.
“She is really dynamic,” Kull said. “She’s had some big matches. She jumps so high. She’s doing such a great job.”
It was an emotional night for both teams as they wore special pink uniforms and held a Volley for the Cure event to support breast cancer research.
“Some players on the team are dealing with some hard stuff with this and it makes it a little hard,” Ferrandino said. “It makes us want to do it even more.”
That contributed to a slow start to the match, but Ferrandino and Rush in particular were there to pick up their teammates and get something going.
“It was an emotional game from the start,” Kull said. “We never got into a rhythm. Julia and Natalee made some key plays. We depend on them.
“That’s happened in tournaments. They have the ability to do that, and Sarah trusts them.”
Ferrandino confirmed that is a trait of the entire team.
“This team is really close and we support each other,” she said. “Whenever we fall down, we pick each other back up.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.