Yaconis commits to Akron; Michio 15 Premier wins Silver on the court; Batavia's Garrett is gold in the classroom; 1st Alliance 17 White is white-hot
Batavia’s 6-foot senior middle hitter Hannah Yaconis, who plays for SPVB 18 Blue during the club season, has verbally committed to study and play at the University of Akron.
Yaconis was an all-tournament selection at the Waubonsie Valley Blast, a first-team all-Upstate Eight River Conference selection, and was voted the All Program Player of the Year at Batavia.
“I think that Hannah will do very well at the University of Akron and will be able to help them right away,” Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne said. “She will fit in well with the Mid-American Conference. She is a very good offensive middle, which is pretty tough to find.”
Yaconis led Batavia with 223 kills and recorded a kill percentage of 43.5 percent with a kill efficiency of .292. She had 38 digs and her 73 blocks rank seventh all-time in the program’s history.
“I am very excited for her and think she will do great things in her career as a Zip,” Trippi-Payne said. “The coaching staff is very experienced there and will be able to help her develop even more in college.”
Michio Chicago 15 Premier went 8-1 and won the Silver Bracket of the 15 Club division at the Presidents’ Day Challenge. Michio Chicago 15 Premier defeated SPVB 15 Blue 25-22, 15-25, 17-15 in the championship match.
Team members are: Nieve Boland (Marist), Hallie Rittel (Wheeler H.S., Valparaiso, Indiana), Madison Conrad (Marist), Isabella Swistowicz (Marist), Rose Amado (Mother McAuley) and Kaitlyn Munoz (Munster H.S., Munster, Indiana).
Also, Anna Jaworowski (Mother McAuley), Morgan Lyons (Marist), Mary Murray (Lyons Twp.), Lizzie Acevedo (Marist) and Abby Sarich (Mother McAuley). The team is coached by Jacqueline Lang
PrepVolleyball.com released its 2017 High School All Academic All American list last week, and Batavia’s Jenna Garrett was named to the Third Team.
In order to make the list, players must be seniors, be nominated by their high school or club coach, must be one of the best players in their state and must be extremely talented academically.
Garrett, a 5-foot-8 setter, recorded 650 assists, 250 digs, 56 kills and 23 aces in 2017. A four-year varsity member and three-year team captain, Garrett was named to three all-tournament teams in 2017 and was a first team All-Upstate Eight Conference selection.
In the classroom, Garrett’s perfect 4.375 GPA is the best in her class. The Illinois State Scholar and National Honor Society member, who scored a 30 on her ACT, is also president of the Student Athletic Board.
Other Prepvolleyball.com Academic All-Americans from Illinois are second-team selection Madeline Sanders (Urbana) and highest honorable mention choices Lauren Brummell (Rosary), Claire Byrne (Benet), Kaylee Hanger (Belleville West) and Patricia Stokes (Murphysboro).
Led by tournament MVP Olivia Kreischer (Hinsdale Central) and all-tournament selections Katie Doah (Marist) and Molly Russell (Naperville North), 1st Alliance 17 White won the 17 Club division of the Presidents’ Day Tournament last weekend at the Rosemont Sports Dome.
1st Alliance 17 Elite went 8-0 and did not drop a set throughout the tournament. The Western Springs crew defeated EU (Evansville United Volleyball Academy) U17-Black 25-20, 25-23 in the championship match.
Other team members are: Wren Decker (Nazareth), Sarah Elliott (Aurora Central Catholic), Sophia Glabus (York), Brooke Veldman (Chicago Christian), Emma Hahn (Lyons Twp.), Jade Casper (Downers Grove North) and Allison Brankin (Providence).
1st Alliance 17 White is coached by Kate McGuire.
The Youth Academy provides a great opportunity for kids 1st-8th grade to learn the fundamentals of volleyball and develop proper motor skills. This program offers classes year round with some sessions offering a weekday option. Follow the link below for more information.
Volleyball Leagues (Coming Soon)
Get the knee pads and volleyball shoes ready because adult leagues are back! Sky High offers leagues for men, women, coed teams and all skill levels. So, whether your looking to play at the highest level or maybe looking for your co-workers to develop team spirit and team work look no further. Leagues are offered in Crystal Lake and Libertyville. **Anyone who would be interested in officiating during the adult league please contact James Sackley at firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to all the players that made the 2017 Illprepvb.com All-State Teams! Today we start with Special Mention and the rest of the teams being released this week.
Today: Special Mention
Tuesday: Honorable Mention
Wednesday: 4th Team
Thursday: 3rd Team
Friday: 2nd Team
Saturday: 1st Team
Sunday: Player of the Year, Coach of the Year, and Team of the Year
Special Mention (24)
Kaite Asche, 5-9, Fr., OH, Durand; Jill Bennett, 5-10, Sr., OPP, St. Ignatius; Amanda Cassidy, 5-7, Sr., OH, Harvest Christian; Ani Clark, 6-2, Jr., MH, Wheaton North; Abby Frohning, 5-8, Sr., OH, Newton; Jenna Garrett, 5-9, Sr., S, Batavia; Haley Holz, 6-2, Jr., OH, Palatine; Sydney Hummert, 5-9, So., OH, Quincy Notre Dame; Emily Kelly, 5-11, Sr., OH, Crystal Lake Central; Sarah Konovodoff, 5-4, So., L, Rosary; Katie Jablonski, 5-10, Jr., OH, Kaneland; Sarah Kiwan, 6-0, Sr., OH, Shepard; JoDee Kovanda, 6-0, Sr., S/OPP, Lockport; Lauren LaBeck, 5-11, Sr., S, Grayslake Central; Molly Lambillotte, 5-10, Sr., OH, Geneva; Michelle Lee, 5-7, Sr., L, Waubonsie Valley; Madi Malone, 5-9, Fr., OH, Newark; Hattie Monson, 5-4, So., L, Benet; Kati Kaburov, 6-0, So., OH, Hersey; Amber Olson, 6-0, Sr., S, Cary-Grove; Jess Rizzo, 5-11, Sr., OH, Fremd; Josie Stanford, 6-1, Sr., MB, Payson Seymour; Morgan Sterrett, 6-0, Sr., OH, Schaumburg; Alex Vanwestrienen, 5-9, Jr., L, Naperville Central.
Mother McAuley. St. Francis. Benet. McAuley. Benet. Benet. Lyons. Cary-Grove. St. Charles East. Naperville Central. St. Francis. McAuley. Naperville Central. Joliet Catholic. Downers Grove South.
See a trend here? Other than Cary-Grove’s 2009 title team led by Kelly Lamberti and Colleen Smith, you have to go all the way back to 1991 and Belleville West to find a team not from the western or southern suburbs of Chicago that ruled the big school state volleyball field.
Coaches and fans affectionately call the Class 4A sectionals featuring teams from the western suburbs and the sectional loaded with south suburban powers the “sectionals from Hades.”
Thanks to the IHSA, many of the teams worthy of appearing at Redbird Arena are eliminated by the time the supersectionals are even played.
Who could forget how the top two teams in the state – Benet and Mother McAuley – met at Hinsdale Central supersectional in 2014? Benet defeated McAuley in a classic 27-25, 37-35 match then coasted to a state title in anticlimactic fashion.
The following year, St. Francis and Benet met at Bolingbrook with St. Francis holding on for a 21-25, 25-22, 25-22 win. The Spartans cruised at Redbird Arena, surrendering 20 points in a game only once.
Last year, arguably the two best 4A teams in the state, Geneva and Mother McAuley, played out what proved to the state championship – and eventual national championship match – at Hinsdale South, with McAuley squeezing out a 22-25, 25-20, 25-21 win.
That scenario will likely play out again in 2017. The team in the most danger? No. 1-ranked Marist, which not only has to navigate Lincoln-Way East (26-10), Marian Catholic (29-7) and Sandburg (29-8) in the sectional, but must then try to beat host McAuley in the super.
Geography should not be an issue in Class 4A. Most teams travel long distances to play in regular-season tournaments, and for half the teams in the field, travel would only be a consideration once.
All but a dozen or so 4A teams are within a 60-mile radius of Chicago, and the far southern Illinois teams are regulars at local tournaments like the Scholastic Cup and Autumnfest. But they can continue to be afforded their own sectional, which often feeds into a supersectional featuring a western suburban team.
There is no reason the Chicago area 4A field cannot be seeded like football, 1-32, with the remaining teams allocated to geographically-appropriate regionals. An advisory committee – comprised of coaches, officials and media -- could easily determine the top 32 teams.
Years ago, boys tennis legends like Hersey’s Tom Pitchford and Bloomington’s Barry Nixon and a handful of others including at least one media member would meet in Bloomington to seed the top 32 singles players and doubles teams in the state tournament. They got it right … a lot.
Doesn’t volleyball deserve the same consideration?
Furthermore, instead of bringing just 16 teams to Redbird Arena on one weekend, why not play the 1A and 2A tournaments on one weekend and the 3A and 4A tournaments on another and bring eight teams to Bloomington in each class?
That would certainly go a long way to filling the cavernous Redbird Arena.
Teams often play anywhere between three-to-five matches on a single day during the regular season. Asking them to play once on a Friday and twice on a Saturday is a small price to pay for a quality state championship tournament.
And once they are determined, why not seed the final eight in each class? Again, that would take minimal effort, and produce a truer state championship game and a truer state champion in every class than some arbitrary “rolling of the peas.”
(You have to believe that based on their resumes this year, Edwardsville or Normal deserve a better fate than to likely face Minooka in a supersectional.)
There are a few times that the IHSA gets it right and the state championship game brings together the two best teams in each class. But those occasions are by accident, not design.
Volleyball is the second-most popular girls sport (trailing only track and field) in the country. But until the IHSA affords the volleyball community the same respect that football receives, this is the unfortunate reality the volleyball community must deal with.
How good was Prairie Ridge at the Wheaton Classic last week?
The Wolves lost only one match – to eventual champion Marist – and defeated Rosary (13-25, 25-12, 25-13), Naperville Central (31-29, 25-17) and Plainfield Central (25-18, 25-18) and 6-foot-5 sophomore Taylor Landfair on Saturday to win the Silver division.
“I thought this was a really good day for us,” Prairie Ridge coach Stefanie Otto said. “They played steady, they had better ball control than what we’ve had, and they served aggressively.”
Five-foot-9 junior middle blocker Maddie McGuire led Prairie Ridge (9-3) against Plainfield Central with 8 kills and 4 blocks. Junior setter Jayden Otto had 15 assists and 2 aces, Mackenzie Garis had 19 digs and 5 aces and 6-3 outside hitter Erin McNeil added 4 kills and an ace.
“When we played Marist on Wednesday our blocking was atrocious,” Otto said. “I know they move everything really fast, but we picked up on that and did a little bit better job on that, too. That helps keep us in system a little more and helps our defense.”
Tuesday, Prairie Ridge returns to Fox Valley Conference play on the road against unbeaten Huntley. The Wolves sit at 5-2 in conference play with their losses to Crystal Lake Central and Cary-Grove.
“We did not play that well against Central,” Otto said. “The first set wasn’t bad. The second set the wheels fell off.”
Otto hopes that some subtle changes that she made in her lineup Saturday will pay off against Huntley.
“I hope it will help just with the overall dimension of how things flow on the court,” she said. “We’ll see.”
St. Ignatius coach Erik Eastman will go for career win No. 300 this week when the Wolfpack plays at Loyola on Tuesday and hosts Fenwick on Thursday.
“it’s not as big as some of the legends in the state, but 300 wins was one of my goals when I took over the program in 2005,” Eastman said.
At 12-4, Lincoln Way-Central is off to one of its best starts in recent years. Team leaders include Cassidy Wyman (62 kills, 26 aces, 146 assists), Kylie Kulinski (72 kills, 25 aces, 128 assists), Layne Stevens (64 kills, 17 blocks) and Lucy Chesla (111 digs).
Neuqua Valley rebounded from the loss of three-year starting setter and rightside hitter Maris Mayhew to win the Bronze division at last weekend’s Wheaton Classic.
Mayhew broke her hand during a blocking drill at the end of the team’s practice on Friday.
“This adversity created an opportunity for the Wildcats to rise up and unite as a team even more than ever before,” coach Kelley Simon said.
Neuqua Valley (9-5) finished third in pool play after losing to both Geneva and Rosary on Wednesday night. The Wildcats defeated Wheaton Warrenville South’s junior varsity, Downers Grove South and Harvest Christian in two games each Saturday to win the Bronze.
Senior outside hitter Shannon Skryd led Neuqua Valley with 24 kills, 6 blocks and 8 digs Saturday, while Rachel Pu and Karly Miller shared setting duties in Mayhew’s absence and contributed 40 and 24 assists, respectively.
“The progress that was made this past week will contribute to enabling the Wildcats to have the confidence they need to remain united at the Waubonsie Valley Warrior Blast next weekend,” Simon said.
Neuqua Valley visits Naperville Central in DuPage Valley Conference play Tuesday.
The Minooka and Plainfield Central high schools girls’ varsity volleyball teams are hoping to score a lot of points on September 19 to benefit Shorewood HUGS as they plan their “HITS for HUGS” fundraiser.
Their goal is to raise enough money to grant 10 wishes, including a special wish for Dawn Derby, a single mother of three children, who is currently battling cancer.
Members of the volleyball programs have been soliciting donations for every point each varsity team scores during their contest on September 19 at Minooka. For example, if a team scores a total of 50 points, a donation of $.50 per point will generate a donation of $25.
Also, T-shirts will be sold at the match.
All monetary proceeds from the event will benefit Shorewood HUGS. Shorewood HUGS is a local organization that supports those in need in the community. In the past year they have worked closely with the families of Minooka staff members Shawn Capodice, Michael Assaf and Sam Pavelka.
HUGS’ mission is to make a positive impact on the lives of people in our community and the surrounding communities one hug at a time, to host unique events and to raise money for those less fortunate, to support other organizations, and to touch the hearts of people by giving them hope of a brighter tomorrow.
Minooka is currently ranked No. 3 in the illprepvb.com statewide poll, and Plainfield Central features 6-foot-5 outside hitter Taylor Landfair, one of the top sophomores in the country.
Last weekend, Joliet Catholic demonstrated that it intends to be a major player in this year’s Class 4A state tournament.
Just a few days after taking defending national champion Mother McAuley to three games, the Angels (5-2) won the second annual Metea Valley/Oswego East Kickoff Classic.
Joliet Catholic defeated Oak Park-River Forest (25-10, 25-18), St. Ignatius (25-20, 25-15) and Sterling (26-24, 25-12) in pool play, knocked off Providence (25-15, 25-16) in the semifinals and beat Whitney Young (25-13, 25-13) for the tournament title.
“I was extremely pleased with the way the girls played last weekend, winning every game in two against five good teams,” Joliet Catholic coach Chris Scheibe said. “I felt like at times, not only were we playing well, but we were dominant.
“This team's potential is unlimited, and I can't wait to see where the girls go with it the rest of the season,” she added. “They have an incredible bond together and they play with a passion and a purpose.”
Joliet Catholic was powered by LaSalle University recruit Sarah Nahas (55 assists, 10 kills, 20 digs, 9 aces), junior outside hitter Emily Holbrook (31 kills, 27 digs, 9 aces) and senior libero Macaire Kelly (21 digs).
All three were named to the all-tournament team.
"Sarah, Emily and ‘Mac’ are three of our captains and they're very deserving of the honor,” Scheibe said. “The great thing is, we had several other players who also could have been all-tournament.”
Those “several others” include freshman outside hitter Emily Wilson (24 kills, 6 block kills), sophomore middle hitter Bella Ray (16 kills, 13 blocks), junior rightside hitter Sophie Krzysciak (20 kills) and junior setter Britney Drysch (43 assists).
“The girls really are already playing very well as a team,” Scheibe said. “But it's only August. It's only the first steps of the journey."
Tiffany Kim takes over for longtime veteran coach Chris Cooper this fall at Glenbrook North. Kim inherits a senior setter who is switching to the outside and a lot of new faces from last year’s 19-17 team which went 9-1 in the Central Suburban North.
Lauren Mendelson, a 5-foot-9 senior, moves to the outside after setting last year. Top newcomers include 6-foot sophomore middle hitter Erin Rosdahl, 6-foot sophomore middle hitter Lindy Vargas, and 5-10 junior outside hitter Madilyn Schooley.
Glenbrook North will face tough competition in the northern suburbs from Glenbrook South, New Trier and Loyola.
Shepard flashed a lot of potential last summer at the Palos Courts summer league and is ready to make some noise down south.
After falling to powerful Lincoln-Way East and host Plainfield North in pool play, the Lady Astros bounced back to win the Bronze Division at the Crosstown Showdown with wins over Plainfield South (25-22, 25-21), Oswego (25-12, 25-23) and Nazareth (25-23, 25-19).
Sarah Kirwan led the way for Shepard (6-2) with 12 kills against Nazareth while Meghan Rohe added 10 in the Bronze division clincher. Other standouts included libero Leah Bylut and setter Autumn Molenhouse.
Oak Park and River Forest High School will rely on a senior-heavy roster to build on the foundation established last year under coach Kelly Collins.
“After spending most of the 2016 season creating a brand new competitive culture for Oak Park River Forest, building a program foundation and starting new traditions, the Huskies are ready to raise it up in 2017,” Collins said. “
“The Huskies enter 2017 with a predominately senior heavy roster and with that comes experience, a winning mindset and a sense of urgency,” the coach added. “The Huskies will have a powerhouse offense full of many versatile hitters.”
Leading the offense will be three-year varsity starter Mireya Garcia, a DePaul recruit who had 120 kills and 21 aces in 2016.
"During her second year on varsity, Mireya evolved into one of our starting outside hitters,” Collins said. “Though she only stands at 5-foot-10, Mireya has a 9-foot-8 vertical that allows her to be a deadly factor against components. She is equally aggressive in the backrow with her speed and ability to read hitters.”
Joining Garcia along the net will be 6-2 opposite hitter Ale Sleuwen and middle blocker Zora Barnett. Six-foot-2 sophomore newcomer Natalie Chizzo is also expected to contribute to a strong offense.
Collins is also counting on junior middle hitter Zora Barnett, senior rightside hitter Alessandra Sleuwen and senior libero Sylvia Battersby.
“Playing one of the most competitive conference and non-conference schedules in the state, the Huskies are eager to prove they have what it takes to compete and be successful this year,” the coach said.
What would De La Salle be without another Duddleston?
Five-foot-9 senior setter/rightside hitter Taylor Duddleston, a two-time Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division all-conference choice committed to Indiana Fort Wayne, is the fifth Duddleston to go thorough De La Salle.
Duddleston’s sisters Jenna and Jillian also played volleyball at De la Salle, and her brother Tommy played football and baseball. Their father is also a De La Salle alumnus.
“Taylor has been a starter on varsity since her sophomore year,” said coach Anna Marie Marassa, who begins her 16th season at the South Side school with a career record of 374-129. “Her court awareness and volleyball intelligence are her greatest assets.
“She not only will set three rotations for us, but will be a key player in our offense,,” Marassa said. “She has also matured into an outstanding defensive player."
Other top players include 6-foot middle hitter Breana Wayne and 5-9 junior outside hitter Maddy Smith.
“Breana has developed into a solid blocker having only played varsity her junior and senior years and only started playing volleyball as a high schooler,” Marassa said. “Maddy is one of the hardest hitters on the team. She will be relied upon to be the ‘go-to’ player on the outside.”
Newcomers include 5-8 freshman setter Isabella LaCoco and 5-4 freshman libero Franki Bertucci.
Rachel Wiatrowski begins her third season as head coach at Lake Zurich looking to build off last year’s 23-11 record including a 5-2 mark in the North Suburban Conference.
The Bears will have to replace Hanna Sweetwood, Lexi Gora and Briana Reitsch from among senior setter Kylie Dykraaf, senior outside Katie Guy, senior middle hitter Mckenna Zobel, and newcomers outside hitter Claudia Kieda and middle hitter Jocelyn Lang.
Preseason No. 9 Downers Grove North will feature some of the most dynamic hitters in the state this season. But coach Mark Wasik knows that even the best strikers need a little help.
“Our success will be dependent on the quality of our first and second contacts, given that we have solid attacking ability at all positions,” he said.
Top returnees for Downers Grove North, which started a freshman and three sophomores while going 20-17 in 2016, include 6-foot-1 senior and Villanova University recruit Clare Delaplane, who had 437 Kills, 30 blocks, 229 digs and 34 aces last season.
Also back are 6-foot junior and St. Louis University commit Margaret Mahlke (255 kills, 17 blocks and 34 Aces in 2016), 5-10 sophomore setter Beth Dunlap, 6-2 junior middle blocker Payton Wendt and 5-11 junior opposite hitter Maddie DeGiorgio.
The passing of 5-7 defensive specialist Kessie Olekemna and 5-5 senior defensive specialist Madi Chudzik will be pivotal to the Trojan’s success.
Waubonsie Valley’s strong showing during the Great Lakes summer league and its No. 11 preseason ranking are no fluke.
The Warriors return four key starters from last year’s 22-15 team that finished second in the DuPage Valley Conference before bowing to Geneva in the regional final.
“With a roster of 10 upperclassmen and three sophomores, we look to be a strong contender in the DuPage Valley Conference,” said coach Kari Galen. “We lost three seniors, but with our large group of returners, we expect to build on last year's record and place in conference.”
Key returnees for Waubonsie Valley are libero Michelle Lee, University of California Santa Barbara commit Grace Kloss, Lewis University recruit Gisela Bode, and sophomore setter Melissa Walden.
A player to keep an eye on for the Warriors is sophomore rightside hitter Elenzie France.
The DuPage Valley Conference, which loses Glenbard North, Lake Park, Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South after this academic year, is up for grabs with Wheaton North, Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley and Naperville North also figuring to contend.
Young and improved is the theme at Wheaton Warrenville South in 2017.
Five-foot 3 libero Grace Buhmann, who started the last 18 matches of the season, 5-9 outside hitter Hannah Joyce, who did not receive significant minutes until the final five matches of the season, and 5-11 senior Emily Zappia are the only seniors of note on the Tigers’ roster.
“We are still a young and physical team on paper, but continuing to gain excellent leadership and valuable experience through their play on varsity coupled with some very athletic younger players,” said coach Bill Schreier.
“We are hopeful of the returners such as Sara Field and Sarah Burau continuing to add to their abilities with a full varsity season under their belts. Our two middles should be more consistent and solid, growing from their experiences last year.
“Add Zayna Meyer into the mix and there is some real ability and physicality that has been missing the last few years,” he added. “It will be fun to watch the continued development of this group.”
Back from last year’s 14-23 regional finalist are Field, a 6-foot junior outside hitter, Burau, a 5-11 sophomore setter, 5-9 junior outside hitter Mackenzie Stebbins, 5-11 sophomore middle hitter Annika Baron and 6-foot sophomore middle hitter Kaleigh Ammons.
Schreier is anticipating big things Meyer, a 5-11 freshman setter.
Libertyville extended its North Suburban Conference winning streak to 30 matches last season and finished 27-12 after falling to Stevenson in the sectional final.
Adding to that long league win streak will be the challenge facing coach Greg Loika and the Wildcats after losing heralded libero Morgan O'Brien (Illinois), three-year starting setter Anna Lillydahl and two-year veteran middle hitter Haley Stevenson (Emory University).
“We’re looking to retool,” Loika said. “We have a blend of returning pin hitters, young middles and a new setter which will test our team chemistry yearly. I expect that defense will be strength as usual.”
Top returnees include 5-10 senior outside hitter Anna Valente, 5-11 senior outside hitter Madison O’Brien and defensive specialist Morgan DeGregor.
Asked to make significant contributions are 6-foot freshman Peyton O'Brien and 6-foot junior middle hitter Amanda Reinhardt.
Loika expects the O’Brien sisters to provide an exciting 1-2 punch for the Wildcats this fall.
There are new faces in new places as Jacobs starts over with all all-new cast.
“We’re looking to present a new ‘front’ with several newcomers adding offense and defense at the net,” coach Lisa Dwyer said. “We’ll also come back strong this season with our usual tenacity on defense and never say die attitude.”
Five-foot-9 outside hitter Autumn Miller, 5-9 middle hitter Kelly Ross and 5-6 setter Hannah Rivera are the most experienced players back from last year’s team, which beat Dundee-Crown twice and Barrington on its way to a 7-26 season (including 2-14 in the Fox Valley Conference).
Dwyer (214-209 in 11 seasons at Jacobs) is expecting help from middle hitter Maggie Keller, junior libero Jordyn Kelly, junior opposite hitter Katie Lodi, defensive specialist Bella Adorjan, freshman outside hitter Maggie Wallenberger and sophomore defensive specialist Maddie Breeze.
Irene Mason takes over for long-time coach Susan Bower this season at Willowbrook, which is coming off a 15-22 season and a third-place finish in the West Suburban Gold.
“I'm extremely excited to have the opportunity to take over as head coach of the program this year,” Mason said. “The players have been working hard and pushing themselves to compete and improve every single day. The energy in the gym has been excellent.”
Mason welcomes five returning players including four seniors –Taylor Balsitis, Marissa Marcello, Katie Smith and Jessica Ragucci – and sophomore libero Payton Ceh, who led the team in digs in 20-16 with 261.
The five veterans are joined by 10 juniors, and 11 of the 15 players on the Willowbrook varsity roster are multi-sport athletes. “On any given day, one of those 10 juniors could be the player to step up and help lead our team to victory,” Mason said.
Experience and talent permeate the Metea Valley roster in 2017.
“This year, we will rely on our senior-dominated team,” said coach David Macdonald, who guided the Mustangs to a 25-10 record a year ago including a 5-3 mark in the highly-competitive DuPage Valley Conference.
“We have five returning players with a lot of experience,” he added. “We are looking forward to competing against all the strong teams in the area as well as the DVC. Our defense and block this year will decide if we will be as successful as we want to be.”
Metea Valley will be led by 6-foot senior outside hitter Mikaila Dowd, who is committed to Georgia Tech, 6-1 senior middle hitter Kailee Bass, a Belmont University recruit, 5-10 senior outside Emma Aske, 5-7 senior setter Sydney Aitchison and 5-8 senior outside/rightside hitter Sydnie Herrmann, who will be headed to Loyola Marymount to play beach volleyball.
Newcomers who should have impact include Walsh University recruit and outside/rightside hitter Sydnee Marks, junior libero Jamie Samojedny and senior middle hitter Lara Adekunle.
Macdonald expects the DVC to be more competitive than ever with the league scheduled to go to five teams in 2018-2019.
“I think that it is going to be a dogfight each match,” he said.
There may not be a stronger program in the state top to bottom than Marist.
But the RedHawks, who were 30-9 in 2016 and reached the sectional finals, probably will not need much help from its underclass groups on the varsity level in 2017.
“We return a great group of seniors who we will rely on all seasons for great leadership,” coach Jordan Vidovic said. “We have several returners who have started for two or three years on varsity in key positions.
“We look to be a well-balanced team both at the net and in the backcourt,” he added. “We will utilize another very difficult schedule between our conference, nonconference and four top level tournaments to gain great experience throughout the season.”
Marist will rely on four talented seniors to tackle its tough schedule, including Central Michigan recruit Savannah Thompson, a 5-11 outside hitter, Memphis recruit Molly Murrihy, a 6-1 setter, Radford commit Grace Green, a 5-7 libero, and 5-11 outside hitter Maggie Meyer.
Help will come from 6-1 junior middle blocker Mattie McCabe and 6-1 sophomore rightside hitter Camryn Hannah.
Jennifer Urban takes a 373-114 career mark into her 14th season at Naperville North, and figures to ease closer to her 400th win this season with a strong group headed by five seniors and two juniors from last year’s 23-14 team.
“We welcome back a strong nucleus having graduated only one senior starter from the 2016 campaign,” Urban said. “Sarah Kushner and Ari Budnik will lead us as two returning pin hitters. We are eager to compete at a higher level this season with a more veteran roster.”
Kushner is a 5-9 junior outside hitter and Budnik 5-10 senior outside hitter who figure to do most of the damage for the Huskies.
Also back are 5-11 middle blocker Sarah Wastek, 5-6 setter Mackenzie Schulte, 5-11 middle blocker Shanely Hrubesky, 5-6 libero Caroline Surges and 5-11 rightside hitter Kayla Griesbach.
Newcomers include 5-10 junior setter Grace Selman and 5-7 junior libero Molly Russel.
All-Mid-Suburban League East Division middle hitter Rachel Kandefer, a 6-1 junior, will try to help Elk Grove do something in 2017 the Grenadiers were unable to do a year ago – win a conference match.
Despite winning the Immaculate Conception tournament right before the regional tournament, the Grenadiers went 0-10 in the East and finished 8-25 overall. This year’s team figures to do significantly better.
“We should be better offensively this year,” said coach Stephanie Kezios. “We have some good hitters returning and our serve receive will be much improved.”
In addition to Kandefer, Elk Grove also welcomes back three-year varsity starter Emma Slattery, a 5-6 outside hitter, 5-4 setter Lexi Chirbas, 5-4 defensive specialist Johanna Duckmann, 6-1 middle hitter Jessica Deering and 6-1 junior middle hitter Holly Olson.
Providing help will be 5-5 senior setter Jalyssa Mercado, 5-9 senior rightside hitter Katie Ruszkowski and 5-5 sophomore defensive specialist Megan Murray.
Trinity graduated five starters off its 20-18 team that was seeded eighth in its Class 3A sectional before knocking off No. 1 seed Timothy Christian.
Despite those losses, Trinity coach Ken Uhlir is not conceding anything.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that our young team will be ready to compete this season,” he said.
Trinity will rebuild behind 6-foot junior middle hitter Haley Gohmann, 6-foot sophomore outside hitter Emma Jacobs and 5-3 senior libero Dean Sannicandro.
Young and old are working hand-to-hand at Addison Trail to improve upon last year’s 22-13 record including a 5-1 mark in the West Suburban Conference Gold Division.
“We have a nice blend of key returners and newcomers working together in the gym,” said coach Dan Styler. “We look forward to competing with teams to help fuel our growth this season.”
The “old” include veterans 5-7 junior outside hitter Nina Muell, 5-10 senior middle blocker Nicci Scorza, 5-7 senior outside hitter Giovanna Scarabaggio, 5-3 senior libero Sofia Susa, and 5-6 sophomore outside hitter Jessica D'Ambrose.
The “new” features 5-6 junior setter Sam Pociecha and 5-10 junior middle blocker Serena Gilliam.
“Our key returners on the offensive end have improved their court vision and are more explosive than they were a year ago,” Styler said. “We should have a lot of gritty play on the defensive end of the floor and we have a strong core of primary passers.
“We want to get better every day and we plan to maintain a top tier position in our conference,” he added.
Glenbard East looks to build on last year’s 20-17 record which included an Upstate Eight Valley conference title and appearance in a Class 4A regional final.
The Rams will be powered by 6-foot junior outside hitter Allison Hamaker, who accounted for 260 Kills, 177 digs, 26 blocks and 24 aces in 2016. Junior outside hitter Sarah Elliott, who had 72 kills and 13 blocks, adds offensive support.
Also back are senior middle blocker Erin Cluskey (53 blocks), defensive specialist Emily Denton (40 aces 222 digs), defensive specialist Ellen Kirsh (110 digs, 9 aces) and junior setter Emily Sarles.
However, Glenbard East will miss outside hitter Sam Silbernagel , who is recovering from knee surgery.
“We have nine returning players from last year,” coach Marci Maier said. “With Emily Denton and Ellen Kirsh back, we will be solid defensively. Emily Sarles, Allison Hamaker, Sarah Elliott and Erin Cluskey will lead the way offensively. The girls are shooting to better last years’ 20-win season.”
Ava Tortorello has the right pedigree for the job.
Tortorello, a 5-8 freshman who hails from a family of setters including Liz Tortorello (Wisconsin) and Sam Tortorello (Penn State), moves into the starting setter position for Latin as it makes the jump to Class 3A fresh off its final appearance in Class 2A one season ago.
“Ava Tortorello has been preparing for the challenge to step into the role,” coach Bryn Kehoe said. “She comes with strong experience from club volleyball (Wildcats Jrs.) and USA VB A1 and A2 experience.”
While Tortorello may be under the microscope, she will at least have lots of help from some of her hitters, chief among whom is Northwestern recruit Charlotte Cronister.
Cronister, a 5-8 junior, led Latin in serve receive (2.63), kills (331), hitting percentage (.282), digs (311) and kills per game (4.0) and was second in aces with 56 as a sophomore. She was team co-MVP (with graduated setter Caroline Riise) and a News-Gazette all-state special mention.
Also back are Kelsey Watkins, a 5-11 junior who led the team as a sophomore in aces (65) and blocks (36) and was second in hitting percentage (.256), and 5-10 junior Julia Kinder, who was second in kills (233) and third in aces (53).
“We have increased the number of Class 3A and 4A teams on our schedule to prepare for the change,” Kehoe said. “We are optimistic about the upcoming season with all starters returning except Riise.”
Grayslake Central went 7-1 to share the Northern Lake County Conference title in 2016, but the Rams were ousted from the state tournament in a regional semifinal and are working to avoid a similarly early exit.
“A disappointing early exit from last year's playoffs left us hungry for strong showing this year,” coach Jason Janczak said. “We return several starters from last year's conference championship team and add some height on offense and speed on defense.
“We have height across the front row and have been working hard in developing and improving the speed of our offense,” he added. “We still have some work to do get firing on all cylinders, but I have been impressed with the dedication and effort the girls have put into each practice.”
Grayslake Central’s offense will revolve around 6-foot setter and University of South Florida commit Lauren LaBeck. Her choices at the net will include 5-11 outside hitter Michelle Maraist, 5-10 rightside hitter Lizzie Twardock, 6-foot junior middle hitter Cassidy Beshel and 5-11 junior outside hitter Amber Moser.
Six-foot-2 sophomore Kate Bullman should help with the block while 5-4 junior libero Abby Marassa will anchor the defense.
Seventeen is the magic number for 23-year veteran coach Kelly Simon of Neuqua Valley.
Simon needs just 17 wins to reach 500 for her career, which includes seven years at Reed-Custer where she won 156 matches.
Seventeen wins should not be a problem for the defending DuPage Valley Conference co-champions, who return six key players from last year’s 27-11 team.
“The convergence of depth and versatility, combined with talent and leadership, will be the foundation of this team’s success,” Simon said. “Ultimately. the cohesiveness and overall team dynamic of this team will determine its ability to compete at the highest level.”
The six veterans from a year ago include outside hitter Shannon Skryd, middle blocker Lauren Young, setter/rightside hitter Maria Mayhew, setter/rightside hitter Rachel Pu, junior outside hitter Bella Aguilar and sophomore middle blocker Faith Johnson.
Mayhew, a University of California at San Diego recruit and all-state special mention selection , led Neuqua Valley in kills (310), was fourth in blocks (41) and sixth in digs (77) in 2016.
Geneva had eventual national champion Mother McAuley on the ropes in last year’s Hinsdale South supersectional, but McAuley rallied from a 4-point deficit in the second set and a 7-point deficit in the third to defeat Geneva 22-25, 25-20, 25-21.
Most of the key figures from that 37-2 Geneva team have graduated. But don’t expect the Vikings to fall off the face of the earth.
“We have new faces who bring high level experience,” said coach Annie Seitelman. “We look to continue to build team chemistry and compete at a high level.”
The Vikings, who went 8-4 and finished fourth at the Great Lakes Center summer league after losing to Minooka 25-27, 25-19, 25-23 in the semifinals, will rebuild behind 5-6 libero Payton Bellano, 5-10 outside hitter Molly Lambillotte and 5-10 outside hitter Dani Thompson.
Jennie Kull is building another big winner at St. Charles East behind five Division I recruits.
Back from last year’s 27-6 regional finalist are setter and Ohio University commit Kyra Slavik, UConn-bound outside hitter Klaudia Sowizeral, and University of North Carolina-Asheville recruits libero Anna Skryd and outside hitter Hannah Spicer.
Kull is also looking for major contributions from junior setter and Clemson recruit McKenna Slavik and defensive specialist Charlie Ambrose.
Tim Crow begins his 17th season as head coach at Stevenson after guiding the Patriots to a 33-8 record and a third-place finish in Class 4A one year ago.
“I think we look good on paper,” Crow said. “We have an experienced group so expectations are very high, as well as they should. It will be interesting to see how they respond to adversity during the season. We start with 13 matches in 14 days.”
Stevenson will rely on super junior Sophie Sorenson, who had 308 kills a year ago, and setter Alex Cuc (902 assists in 2016), University of Rochester commit Hope Havenhill, libero Chloe Robinson and 6-foot middle hitter Sara Bufe.
Joining that group somewhere in the starting lineup will be sophomore outside Lily Cozzi, junior middle hitter Anne Armgardt and sophomore setter Grace Tully.
“We return five starters from last season,” Crow said. “Our newcomers really add to our athleticism. We have an experienced team that made a great run last season and we hope to continue the same success.”
Ah, the old success factor.
After finishing 40-2 and second in the state in Class 3A last year, the Marian Central Catholic Hurricanes find themselves with a new coach and a new classification – 4A.
New head coach Patty Brummond will try to lead the Hurricanes back to the promised land behind 5-7 senior setter Kate Messino, 5-8 senior opposite/outside hitter Mae Novakoski and 5-4 senior libero Mallory Gehrig.
Five-foot-11 sophomore middle hitter Gabby Davis is also back and will be joined by newcomers Issy Nick, a 5-8 junior outside hitter, 5-7 junior outside/opposite hitter Lilli Leggett and 5-7 junior outside/opposite hitter Rachel Graham
“We will face a competitive conference with Benet, Marian Catholic and Marist,” Brummond said.
Loyola will try to do something this season it has never done – win the New Trier invitational.
The Ramblers figure to be well-armed to break through in Winnetka.
Lizzy Walker, Elizabeth Ford, Angela Pieroni, Mary Kate Lopez, Mary Leinenweber, Lauren Henning, Anne Martinson and Sammy Downey all saw meaningful minutes for sixth-year coach Mark Chang, who guided the Ramblers to a 22-12 mark last year.
“Our greatest strength is the desire to play together and believing in a process of improvement,” Chang said. “Our goal is to beat last year’s record both in wins and losses, finish in the top three in conference and chase the top seed in our sectional.”
Newcomers Julia Martinez, Sabrina Dempsey and Avery Bodkin are expected to help Loyola reach those goals.
“I just expect our team to commit to a process and to engage in ongoing reflections both individually and as a team,” Chang said. “I expect nothing more. The rest should take care of itself.”
Joann Pyritz, who played for Lyons from 1976-79, will call it quits at the end of the school year after 28 years at the helm and leading the Lions to state titles in 1989 and 2010 and a second-place finish in 2009.
Lyons finished 24-13 in 2016 including a fourth-place finish at the Rich East tournament.
“We will utilize a variety of players and be consistent,” Pyritz said. “Within our potential sectional, we will have to compete at a high level in order to advance. But leading the charge will be senior Emma Fink, a three-year varsity starter.”
Fink, an outside hitter who is headed to Providence College next fall, had 213 kills, 20 blocks and 149 digs in 2016.
Also back are middle hitter Nicolette Jones (a Duquesne University recruit), senior setter Kendall Cassidy (21 aces, 385 assists in 2016), junior setter Grace Quinn (24 aces, 348 assists), junior middle Camille Hurta (94 kills, 38 blocks) and libero Grace Knowski.
A player to watch at Lyons is sophomore outside hitter Patti Cesarini.
Injuries to Emily Jones and Emmie Naal derailed the Angels in 2016, but both are back and ready to contribute to another solid Joliet Catholic team.
“I am guardedly optimistic for this season,” Joliet Catholic coach Chris Scheibe said. “We finally have a little height and we are much farther ahead in practice than we were at this point last year. The atmosphere in the gym is very positive and competitive.”
The Angels finished 19-16-1 in 2016 and finished second at the Metea Valley/Oswego East tournament, won the West Aurora tournament and took home top honors in the Silver Division at Glenbard East’s Autumnfest.
Top returnees are 5-9 setter Sarah Nahas (598 assists, 224 digs, 36 aces), junior outside hitter Emily Holbrook (254 kills, 241 digs), 6-2 sophomore middle hitter Bella Ray (68 kills, 28 blocks in 18 matches), and 5-6 libero Meg Sliwa (311 digs, 174 service points).
Newcomers include 6-1 freshman outside hitter Emily Wilson, Sophie Krzysciak and Britney Drysch.
Batavia had the best offense in school history during last year’s 19-18 campaign. But matching those numbers in 2017 will be a challenge.
“With only four returners, we are still very busy learning the varsity system,” said Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne. “We are working on getting used to the speed of the game as well as the strategies involved. However, I think we will be able to keep the offensive pace we had last year.
“We are working on the other parts of the game, and how quickly we can get better in those areas will determine how strong we can be,” she added. “I think we will definitely be a 20-plus win team this season, but it won't come easy with our non-conference schedule and our very tough tournament schedule.”
Back for the Bulldogs are Jenna Garrett, a 5-9 senior and four-year starter committed to Lindenwood University, 5-6 junior outside hitter Sam Juarez and 5-11 junior middle hitter Maddy Boyer and nobody can question the Bulldogs’ smarts. Batavia earned an AVCA All-Academic All-American Award for the 20th season in a row and was named to the Top 25 in the nation for team GPA.
Optimism is running high at Montini.
“This year should be a great one for the Montini Broncos,” coach Steve Dowjotas said. “We return five of the six starters and have added a now eligible transfer middle hitter to fill that void. We should be around for the next two seasons at a very high level.”
Top players include junior outside hitter Caitlyn Meeks, junior outside hitter Lexi Quaglia, senior middle hitter Michelle Glover, junior middle hitter Johanna Kingsfield and junior setter Joslyn Boyer.
“Our schedule this season is extremely tough with matchups against Mother McAuley, St. Francis, Glenbard West and Loyola, and tournaments like Wheaton North and the Mother McAuley preview,” Dowjotas said.
Erik Eastman enters his 13th season at St. Ignatius with a senior-laden team that is ready to return to the upper echelon of Illinois girls volleyball.
“The Wolfpack have been in rebuild mode since the girls from 2012 and 2013 left,” he said. “After only losing three seniors from last year’s team, we have 11 girls returning to varsity this season and six seniors.
“The expectation level is high as we will start almost all seniors,” he added. “Four of our girls have seen substantial time on the varsity along with three returning freshman who played up as well last season.”
Top players for St. Ignatius, 19-17 last year after losing to De La Salle in the regional final, include 5-10 rightside hitter Jill Bennett (270 kills in 2016), 6-foot outside hitter Bridget McCarthy (168 kills, 25 blocks), setter Alysa Ross and libero Maria Gazzi (515 digs).
Eastman expects big things from 6-1 sophomore middle Sarah Griffith (69 kills in limited action) and 5-9 sophomore setter Kate Danaher.
The Wolfpack were also awarded the AVCA Team Academic Award for the ninth year in a row (2009-2017) maintaining a GPA of 3.30 or higher.
Palatine starts over after graduating a ton from last year’s regional championship team.
“We graduated a lot of talented, experienced girls, but I really like what I've seen so far from this group,” Palatine coach Daniel Gavin said. “The best part about this group is their selflessness and passion for the game.
“They don't care who plays what position and they don't concern themselves with who gets the credit or accolades,” he added. “They love playing volleyball and are hungry for team success. I'm excited to see where that combination can take us.”
Veterans include 6-2 junior outside Haley Holz, 6-foot senior middle blocker Beverly Ryan-Darrah, 5-7 libero Amanda DeLio and 5-7 defensive specialist Katie Lindert.
Newcomers include 6-2 sophomore outside hitter Emily Campe, 5-7 setter Allison Aldag, 5-9 outside hitter Sarah Haddad, 5-9 outside hitter Maggie Scovic and 5-9 freshman outside hitter Jillian Smith.
“Maggie and Sarah are versatile gamers who can play numerous positions in both the frontcourt and backcourt,” Gavin said. “They give us a great deal of positional flexibility which can be an invaluable tool.”
The last 11 years have not been kind to Barrington, which reached the state finals four times during the 2000s, finishing second three times (2000, 2002 and 2003) and fourth in 2006.
Last year, Barrington fell to 15-21 and graduated six players from that team. However, a productive summer and the return of several key players from a year ago have coach Michelle Jakubowski excited about the new season.
Top players from the 2016 season include fourth-year starting outside hitter Andi Capel, third-year veteran 6-2 junior Peyton Tilly, defensive whiz Sara Casaletto, 5-9 junior setter Tara Kozak, 6-1 junior outside hitter Bailey Madrzyk, and 5-11 middle hitter Kate Schechtman.
Also back is 5-7 junior defensive specialist Sabrina Lontos. Players to watch include freshman setter Felicia Guagliardo and sophomore defensive specialist Arianna Armando.
Former assistant coach Alison Balmer takes over for longtime veteran Lisa Martinez at Hinsdale South this fall.
“We have a very talented, hardworking and passionate group of girls,” Balmer said. “I think this is our year to make our way back to the top of the West Suburban Conference. Overall, we have a lot of strong returning players, with some powerful newcomers that make us a team to watch out for this year. “
Back from last season’s 15-22 team (4-5 in conference) are 6-1 senior outside hitter Tierney Ward, 5-9 senior middle hitter Veronica Terrell, 5-8 senior defensive specialist Sydney Benson, 5-9 senior outside hitter Alyssa Errandi and 5-10 sophomore Kaitlyn Hurka.
Newcomers include 5-4 junior defensive specialist Megan Mihalkanin, 5-9 junior middle hitter Claire Zipsie and 5-11 sophomore rightside hitter Mia Lombardo.
Glenbard South finished 23-16 last season (10-2 in the Metro Suburban Blue) after falling to Rosary in the Class 3A sectional championship.
If the Raiders can get solid play at setter and libero, they could be a factor again come playoff time.
“We have a lot of experience at all of our hitting positions,” coach Chad Grant said. “Maggie Bair will be a six-rotation middle this year and is one of the top players in the conference. I expect us to be in the hunt for the conference title, but it should be a wide open race.”
Bair, a 6-3 junior, had 187 kills and 66 blocks as a sophomore. She should get help from 5-8 senior opposite Mady Carli (110 kills), 5-9 senior middle hitter Bailee Flanagan (98 kills, 34 blocks) and 6-foot junior outside hitter Beth Kohl, who had 39 kills in four playoff games in 2016.
Five-foot-4 sophomore outside Kathleen Millett (168 kills) also returns, and sophomore Sadie Camfield, who led the team with 37 aces as a serving specialist last year, should take on a bigger role at setter.
Ah, the success factor. Part II.
Timothy Christian might have done some serious damage in Class 2A last season, but alas, the Trojans were ousted in the Class 3A regional championship by Trinity.
Scott Piersma, whose team went 31-6 for a third straight 30-win season and a sixth consecutive conference championship in 2016, has the makings of another powerful crew in 2017.
“We return six varsity players including four starters and bring in seven new players from last year’s junior varsity team,” he said. “We are hoping to have a deep postseason run in the 3A state tournament play.”
Timothy Christian will reload around 6-foot setter Tracy Westra (678 assists, 36 blocks), Tracy’s sister and 6-1 junior rightside Heidi Westra, 5-8 defensive specialist Rachel Stoll and 5-6 junior libero Abygale Ahn.
Ahn plays both tennis and volleyball during the fall for Timothy Christian. As a freshman and sophomore, she advanced to the state tournament in tennis and placed eighth in Class 1A last year. She will play both again this year.
Prairie Ridge is looking for its first sectional title since 2012 and first trip to the state finals since 2006 when former Illinois great Hillary Haen guided the Wolves to a runner-up finish against Naperville Central.
The Wolves will be a little undersized and very young in 2017, but Stefanie Otto believes her team should be able to compete with most teams on its schedule.
Top returnees from last year’s 20-14 team (11-5 in the always tough Fox Valley Conference) are 5-3 outside hitter Erin McNeil, 5-9 outside hitter Emily Baudin, 5-8 libero Mackenzie Garis, 5-8 defensive specialist Kelsy Turskey and 5-11 junior setter Jayden Otto.
Hitting help (and some size) will come from newcomers Maddie McGuire, a 5-10 junior middle blocker, 5-11 sophomore opposite hitter Trinity Sheridan, 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Hannah Baudin, and 5-9 sophomore middle blocker Katie Birkland.
“It will be interesting to see if we can mentally finish our matches,” Otto said.
Defending state runner-up Minooka begins the season as the state’s consensus No. 1 team. The Indians return every starter save setter Brooklyn Bachmann, but whoever earns the setter’s spot will have a wealth of attacking talent from which to choose.
Six-foot-1 Ali Papesh, a Dayton University recruit, registered more than 400 kills as a junior including 20 in the Class 4A title match against Mother McAuley. She was named to the all-tournament team at the Mizuno Cup and was named second team all-state by the Champaign News-Gazette.
“Ali was the most explosive player in the area who really learned how to mix up her shots which left many teams guessing where she was going on offense,” said Minooka coach Carrie Prosek.
Also back are 6-0 senior outside hitter and Tennessee commit Rocky Perinar and 5-6 senior libero and Iowa State recruit Taylor Baranski.
“Rocky was also a huge threat for our offense and became unstoppable,” Prosek said. “She put the ball away for the winning point at both the sectional and supersectional championship matches.
“Taylor's defense was among the best in the state,” the coach added. “She saved our team several times making big plays off big offensive hitters. She is quick and can read the ball better than any other player.”
Six-foot-2 senior and Kansas State commit Holly Bonde adds firepower from the rightside and a huge block at the net.
“It’s nice having a strong block and offense coming from the right side,” Prosek said. “You do not see that often in high school. Holly took on her role and could hit both the line and crosscourt shot with power and take many teams out of their offense.”
Ferris State commit Samantha Hermann, a 6-1 middle hitter, and St. Louis University-bound Olivia Klank are also back for a team that could easily run the table this season.
David Vales begins his 11th season as Sandburg’s head coach with what could be his best team at the Southwest Suburban Conference Blue division powerhouse.
“We return 12 of 14 players from a year ago including six starting positions including our libero,” he said. “We finished second and tied for third with a split squad this summer at the Palos Courts summer league.”
Back from last year’s 27-11 conference championship team are 5-11 senior Madison Hart (100 kills, 65 blocks last season), 5-8 setter Mo Imrie, and 5-9 outside Abbie Stefanon (150 kills as a junior).
Also back are 5-9 senior rightside Teresa Egan (100 kills as a junior), 6-foot junior outside Erica Staunton (120 kills one year ago), and 5-3 sophomore libero Rachel Krasowski, who set a school record with 480 digs.
“We will be as deep as we've ever been with 17 rostered, capable athletes,” Vales said. “Stefanon and Staunton shared time last year so both are varsity ready. We go four deep in the middle and Imrie is in her third season on varsity. We shored up the defense with two junior defensive specialists.”
Six-foot-junior middle hitter Megan Dziadkowiec should help shore up the block.
No conversation about potential 2017 state title contenders can begin without mentioning Benet, which won state titles in 2012, 2013 and 2015 and finished second in 2014.
Eventual state champion St. Francis knocked Benet out in the supersectional in 2016 and Marist surprised the Redwings in a sectional semifinal a year ago, but Brad Baker’s crew is loaded again this fall.
Benet, 32-6 in 2016, will be powered by 6-1 senior outside hitter Lilly Johnson, a Bradley recruit who led the Redwings in kills last fall. Claire Byrne, a 5-10 senior outside, and Anna Paoni, a 5-11 junior middle, also return.
Hattie Monson, a 5-5 sophomore libero who is committed to Notre Dame, has been called the best libero at her age he has seen by Baker, who has produced a few defensive gems in his career including Sheila Doyle (North Carolina) and Brianne Riley (Kansas).
Monson was named to the 2017 Ultra Ankle JVA All-National Team this summer.
Other youngsters to watch include sophomore libero Annie Sobolewski, sophomore Sophie Gregus, freshman Rachel Muisenga and freshman Kyla Kenney.
A battle to keep an eye on this fall will be between cousins Taylor and Ally Van Eekeren, who are vying for the starting setter job. Taylor, a 5-11 senior, is committed to West Florida, while cousin Ally, a 5-11 junior, will join the program at Creighton in two years.
Glenbard West’s string of 30-win seasons ended at five last fall, but Pete Mastandrea will have the Hilltoppers ready to defend their West Suburban Conference title in 2017.
Top returning starters from the 28-11 team that lost to Riverside-Brookfield in the sectional championship include 5-8 senior and three-year starter Hannah Brodner, who can play either outside or set, 5-8 senior defensive specialist Roxy Stirb, 5-11 junior middle Ananda Paterson, 5-11 junior middle Nina Crawford, 5-5 junior Katie Ryan and 5-9 junior Ellory Graf.
New faces include juniors Lucy Brizzolara and setter Kaitlyn Dumerer and 6-foot sophomore outside Virginia Curtis.
“How we progress on offense depends on who is our setter,” Mastandrea said. “Brodner returns at setter but may be at outside hitter this season. Decisions at the setter position could slow up the progress of the offense initially, but we feel Dumerer has the ability to run a balanced attack.”
Glenbard West faces one of its toughest schedules ever with Marist, Benet, Downers Grove North, Montini and Marian Central on the docket.
Veteran coach Kris Fiore will do double-duty this year at Lincoln-Way East and with five returning starters and a key transfer to handle the middle the Griffins could easily improve upon last year’s 29-9 mark, which included a sectional semifinal loss to Plainfield Central.
“I think people will see a much more consistent team from Lincoln-Way East this year,” Fiore said. “Everyone is familiar with the system that we run and the expectations that we have. Returning our top three offensive players helps as well.”
Top returnees include Northwestern recruit Hanna Lesniak, a 6-1 outside hitter, 6-2 middle and Valparaiso recruit Haley Hart, 5-10 outside Molly Hackett, 5-9 setter/rightside Madi Corey, 5-6 libero Emily Ripp and 5-11 middle hitter Kaelyn Daniel, a three-year starter at Chicago Christian.
Fiore expects a breakout season from Corey.
“By the end of last year she hit and set for us,” Fiore said. “All off season she hit in club. Overall, she looks really good for us setting so far. I would guess she will run a 5-1 and surprise some people. She is a terrific leader who is very offensive in the front row being a tall lefthander.”
Lincoln-Way East will play one of the more formidable schedules in the state this fall with a conference match-up against Sandburg and tournaments at Plainfield North, Mother McAuley and the Mizuno Cup hosted by St. Charles East.”
Nick Mraz, who begins his third year as head girls volleyball coach at Lockport, has the Porters trending in the right direction after a 23-13 season one year ago including a 3-2 mark in the always-tough Southwest Suburban Conference.
“I feel like anything less than 25 wins and a regional championship this fall would be a big letdown,” Mraz said. “Our group learned how to win last year and I’m hopeful they will bring that mentality to our season.Lincoln-Way East and Sandburg are certainly front runners for the conference, but we will be confident and ready to play come October.”
Key returning players for the Porters include 5-11 junior outside hitter Kayla Bonfiglio, 6-1 setter/opposite hitter JoDee Kovanda, 5-11 middle hitter Bri Orlowski, 5-3 defensive specialist Shae O’Neil and 5-2 libero Emma Sweeney.
“JoDee is poised to make a lot of noise this year and I expect her to be in the running for an all-state nomination,” Mraz said.
Morgan Schmutzler, a 5-9 sophomore outside/opposite hitter who was pulled up to the varsity after Kovanda’s late-season injury last year, will be a big addition as will be 5-8 junior setter Hannah Pacheco.
Junior outside hitter Jill Hook and middle hitter Kathleen Kwiatkowski should also find their way into the starting lineup.
Downers Grove South, which won three state titles between 1997 and 2003, hopes to return to the upper echelon of Illinois girls volleyball behind four returning starters including junior outside hitter Lucy Dumford, sophomore setter Addy Karmik, and senior defensive specialists Clare McNeeley and Nora Woods.
Senior setter Nicole Zowaski, senior outside Sydney White and senior opposite Courtney Jackson also return for coach Trisha Kurth.
The story at Plainfield Central begins with 6-foot-5 sophomore outside hitter Taylor Landfair, who Benet coach Brad Baker called “The best player in the world.”
Landfair played for the USA Youth National Team over the summer after becoming the first freshman to suit up for the storied Sports Performance 18 Elite team.
Landfair will get help from 5-8 junior libero Katie Shook, 5-9 junior setter Grace Brock and 5-9 junior setter Regan Trueblood.
“We will be young but we have a ton of club experience,” said coach Erik Vogt.