Oakton volleyball reflects on transformative season

(Nov. 22, 2018) Oakton Community College volleyball head coach Miguel Calvillo might get some phone calls as a remodeler after the reclamation project he did with the college’s volleyball program this season. Calvillo entered the season inheriting a one-win team from a year ago and turned the Owls’ fortunes 180 degrees, going 20-12.

The backbone of his team was three returning sophomores: Yngride Jean-Philippe (Evanston, Evanston Township High School), Alena (A.J.) Alwan (Glenview/Glenbrook South High School) and Elmina Alic (Skokie, Niles West High School), who were all named to the NJCAA Region IV All-Region Team and the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference (ISCC) Volleyball All-Conference Team.

Calvillo says the dedication by the three returning players was contagious: “The new girls saw the sophomores working so hard. The freshmen caught on to that and were able to ‘get it’ to work intensely. The commitment by the players and doing all the coaching staff asked of them led to turning the program around.”

Jean-Philippe’s 5-foot-11-inch frame allowed the All-ISCC first team selection to dominate on the court. The middle blocker led the nation in solo blocked shots (121) and led the Owls with 296 total kills. Owls captain A.J. Alwan was named to the ISCC second team with 1.77 kills per set, 4.21 assists per set and 1.67 digs per set to complement a .221 hitting percentage. Outside hitter Elmina Alic averaged 1.92 kills per set, 1.71 digs per set and a .268 hitting percentage, earning ISCC honorable mention.

“It says a lot about their talent that the trio was named to the all-region team,” Calvillo says. “I’m so proud of them, and it shows that hard work always pays off in the end.”

Ironically, Calvillo, who served as an assistant coach in 2017, didn’t plan on coming back for the 2018 season.

“When I came to turn my backpack in, the captain asked me to stay,” Calvillo recalls. “That belief in my system convinced me to stay. This season’s journey as a first-year head coach was very emotional the way it went down.”

He credits former Oakton volleyball players Cyril Onate and Mandy Aragon, who joined the team as assistant coaches the first day of practice, with much of the team’s success.

“Cy and Mandy did a great job with their leadership,” Calvillo says. “Having not attended Oakton, I wasn’t aware of what the college was like. The assistant coaches understood the school culture and mentored the players along. Also, Cy and Mandy brought plenty of energy while they were relating to the squad.”

In the NJCAA Division II Volleyball Tournament, Oakton posted a three-set sweep over Highland Community College in the district tournament quarterfinals before falling to Sauk Valley Community College in four sets (14-25, 23-25, 25-23 and 19-25).

“My goal during the season was not to put any pressure on the girls for the playoffs,” Calvillo says. “The aim was to just qualify for the playoffs and try to win one match. The rest was a bonus. I’m so proud of what we accomplished this season. I think we surprised a lot of people.”

Jean-Philippe adds, “Since this was my last season playing volleyball at Oakton, this meant a lot to me. Our team put in a lot of hard work, and our goal all along was just to win as many matches as possible.”