Sky High Adidas 16 Black is using the final weekend of the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open to tune up for next weekend’s Mideast Qualifier in Indianapolis, Indiana.
So far, so good.
Sky High Adidas 16 Black split its two matches Saturday, defeating Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold 25-20, 25-21, 26-24 after suffering a 25-23, 25-22, 25-19 loss to sister Sky High Adidas 18 Black in its opener.
The split left Sky High Adidas 16 Black at 10-4 in the Power League with two matches to play Sunday. All four of its losses – two to Sky High Adidas 18 Black and one each against 1st Alliance 18 Silver and Wildcat Jrs. 18 Black – came at the hands of 18s teams.
“We should've beaten them,” Sky High Adidas 16 Black coach Steve Bonnem said if his team’s loss to Sky High Adidas 18 Black. “We’ve already beaten them once this season. We’re definitely moving up in the rankings. At Salt Lake City, we were one set from making the final eight.”
At the Triple Crown Volleyball NIT in Salt Lake City, Utah, on February 17-19, Sky High Adidas 16 Black lost to CC Force161 Crossfire 22-25, 25-16, 15-9 and had to settle for winning the consolation bracket.
Bonnem traces much of his team’s success to his setter – 5-foot-7 sophomore Taylor Jakubowski from Huntley.
“She makes it happen,” he said. “You talk to any coach around here, they're all like ‘She's amazing.’ She gets to every ball and runs the offense like a college team. You get the ball up and she’ll get to it. It just doesn't matter. She plays big.”
“Big” is a good word to describe Sky High Adidas 16 Black’s two middles – Maggie Bodman (New Trier) and Vanessa Kuliga (Glenbrook South).
“I really like Maggie,” Bonnem said. “She came in as a blocking middle and now she’s an offensive middle. She's really well-rounded. She can even play back row. She has a great platform. I really like her. We’re still trying to get her to the next level>
Sky High’s two pins hitters – Maddie Blake and Camryn Hausler from Crystal Lake Central –
are too shabby, either.
“Maddie plays like a 40-year-old how she sees the court and place the ball,” Bonnem said. “It's like she’s been playing forever. We laugh about it all the time because it's almost like she takes a picture of the court and just knows what's open and who dug her on the last play.
“Camryn can play anywhere I put her,” the coach added. “She even has hands good enough to set. She’s well-rounded. I want her to be ‘Big Texas’ and go over people with of all the power that she has.”
Prairie Ridge’s Trinity Sheridan sat out Saturday’s matches with a minor ankle sprain, but Bonnem said she will be ready to go this weekend.
“She’ll give us a lot more options,” he said. “She's one of our main attackers.”
Sky High Adidas 16 Black is seeded fourth at the qualifier, so the team knows what is has to do.
“We’ve got to get to the finals,” Bonnem said.
Fusion 18 Black needed five sets – 22-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 15-13 -- to dispose of pesky FC Elite 17 Navy Saturday on Court 2.
The Marengo crew didn’t have much left in the tank against Illini Elite 18 Cardinal, a 25-19, 25-20, 21-25, 25-19 loss in the second round of Gold Pool A, but coach Jamie Dimaggio liked what she saw from her team, especially after losing outside hitter Gylian Finch (Oregon).
“She broke her nose at the JVA Showcase (in the Wisconsin Dells) the other weekend,” said Dimaggio, who played at Prairie Ridge and Coastal Carolina and now coaches at DeKalb. “So we’re working with a completely different lineup that we never use before.”
“My setters (Celene Morris from Rockford Guilford and Becca Blakeley from Williams Bay, Wis.) are doing a really good job playing six rotations and hitting,” Dimaggio added. “And Erin McNeil (Prairie Ridge), who normally plays on the right side, did a good job at outside.”
However, what impressed Dimaggio the most Saturday, was how the team kept its composure after falling behind 2-1 against FC Elite 178 Navy.
“They are doing a great job staying composed, even while we are using a who different lineup,” she said.
The lineup is the same – almost – the results have been better lately for Illini Elite 18 Cardinal and coach Kyle Caldwell.
“We finished fifth at the (Ultra Ankle) Bluegrass tournament,” Caldwell said. “We played really well against top-level teams from all over the country and finished fifth, which was really good for us going in seeded 12th.”
“This little tune-up (the final weekend of Power League) will get us ready for what we need to for the (JVA) World Challenge (April 6-8 in Louisville, Kentucky). That's what were really looking forward to.”
Illini Elite 18 Cardinal should have 5-10 outside hitter MaKenna Barnhart back by then. Barnhart is resting a pulled quadriceps muscle this weekend. Caldwell wants to ensure that she will be ready to go in early April.
“That’s the last tournament of the year for us, so we’re treating it like that is our nationals,” said Caldwell, who added that due to college trips or players joining their college teams early, Illini Elite 18 Cardinal does not have enough players to field a team at AAUs.
“We’re pulling out all the stops for that one,” he said.
Caldwell credits part of Illini Elite 18 Cardinal’s recent success – they are 9-5 in Power League with Saturday’s split against SDPB 18 Elite and FC Elite 17 Navy – to a more complicated offense.
“We’ve got ball control down to where we’re passing 2.4, so we can really bring in some different options, different looks, change what we’re running on every play,” he said. “That makes it a lot more complicated for other teams to stop.”
Few people can stop Kansas State recruit and Uno Girls 18 Elite outside hitter Holly Bonde from Minooka. But a left ACL tear suffered at practice last week will sideline her for at least six or seven months and force her to redshirt her freshman season at Manhattan.
“I guess it was just worn out,” said Bonde, who watched Uno Girls 18 Elite’s matches at the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open from the bench Saturday. “The doctor said it could have happened at any time.
“It stinks, but I can either sit around and cry about it or I can use it as an opportunity,” she said.
Bonde’s absence on the court gave Taylor Baranski an opportunity few liberos get – the chance to switch jerseys.
Baranski moved to outside hitter Saturday. Despite her best efforts, Uno Girls 18 Elite dropped a pair of matches – 25-20,, 25-15, 23025, 25-16 to Michio Chicago 18 National and 18-25, 25-21, 25-19, 26-24 to 1st Alliance 18 Silver – to slip to 10-4 in league play.
“A lot of people don’t give outside hitters as much credit as they deserve,” Baranski said. “They have to block, then transition into hitting and then play back row. It’s pretty exhausting, but it's a lot of fun.”
Uno Girls 18 Elite will probably pull up stakes after Sunday’s final two matches. With several girls leaving early for college, there will likely not be enough players to field a team for AAUs. But Baranski, who decided to wait until July to head to Iowa State, hopes otherwise.
“We’ll be going to AAUs if we can get a team together,” she said.
SPVB 18 Elite assure itself of the best record in Power League play Saturday when it defeated Illini Elite 18 Cardinal 25-10, 25-20, 25-20 and Fusion 18 Black 25-17, 25-18, 25-7. But SPVB 18 Elite still must win its two matches Sunday to claim the championship.
Saturday, SPVB 18 Elite was much improved over its performance last weekend at the Bluegrass tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, where it lost to Tri-State Elite 18 Blue 25-16, 23-25, 15-9 and K2 Adidas Jota 25-18, 25-17 to go 3-2 and finish tied for fifth in the 35-team 18 Open field.
“It was a tough weekend in Kentucky,” said SPVB 18 Elite coach Troy Gilb. “We had a lot of struggles siding out in Kentucky. Today was much, much better. We were able to run our offense much more efficiently.
“Last week, it was if when we were passing well we weren’t putting the ball away, and if we weren’t passing well, then, of course, you struggle,” he added. “I thought we did a much better job siding out and getting first-balls kill than we did last weekend.”
A good of week of practice also paid off Saturday, as did timely contributions from 6-3 middle hitter Annika Clark (Wheaton North/Clemson) called up for the weekend from SPVB 18 Kahl.
“They’re playing with a little bit more confidence,” Gilb said. “We practiced really well this week. We made some changes to their mental state.”
What did SPVB 18 Elite learn last weekend?
“I think the big thing is we weren't as good as we thought we were,” Gilb said.
“Sometimes you get a false sense of confidence when you're winning a lot of matches,” he said. “It was good for us, and in a sense, a wake-up call, just to let them know the type of level you have to practice, No. 1, and No. 2, compete with.
“We don’t like losing, but if you’re going to lose, now is the time to do it,” Gilb said.
For more results and schedules, go to www.advancedeventsystems.com/EventResults/(S(b1fah445ta1yiw55viphzx45))/Standings.aspx?e=PTAwMDAwMTM3MDI90&d=60254
Wheaton Warrenville South eyes return to the top; Lincoln-Way West is loaded ... now experienced, too
Illprepvb.com's look at the upcoming boys' season continues today with previews of Wheaton Warrenville South, Lincoln-Way West, New Trier, York, Stevenson, Vernon Hills, Zion-Benton, Geneva, Marian Catholic, Fenwick, Reavis, Plainfield Central, Riverside-Brookfield, Bolingbrook, Conant, Downers Grove South, Illinois Math & Science Academy and Minooka.
Wheaton Warrenville South
Nobody has won more state titles in boys’ volleyball than Wheaton Warrenville South. So, a five-year drought since the Tigers’ last state title in 2012 seems like an eternity.
This may team that change that. But maybe not this year.
“We’re younger than usual, but way more athletic and taller then we have been over the last few years,” WW South coach Bill Schreier said. “You may get us early, but I think we will be a tough out come playoff time as everyone buys into the process.”
Last season, WW South went 21-16 (6-2 and second place in the DuPage Valley Conference), losing to Downers Grove South 25-23, 24-26, 26-24 in the regional final. Three players return from that team including 6-4 sophomore setter Zeo Meyer (SPVB 16 Elite).
Also back are 6-2 junior outside hitter and three-sport athlete Chase Keating and 6-foot libero Ryan Young. But its WW South’s sophomore class, led by 6-6 outside hitter Josh Gottlieb (SPVB 16 Elite), that is most intriguing.
Among the sophomores who could see the floor for WW South in 2018 are 6-6 middle hitter Kyler Nielsen, 6-6 middle hitter Jack James and 6-4 middle hitter Billy Closset (SPVB 16 Alpha).
Juniors who will contribute include 6-2 middle hitter Nick Foster, 6-2 middle hitter Dominic Overby, 6-3 outside hitter Declin Ermer, 6-2 outside hitter Owen Struebing and 5-11 setter Colin Rachford.
“I like what I have seen so far, with competition at every position,” Schreier said.
The short of it is that Lincoln-Way West is not very tall. But don’t let their lack of height fool you. The Warriors are deep, talented and a year older.
“We were a young team last year, but very skilled,” said coach Jodi Frigo, whose team was 25-13 overall last season and won the Joliet West and Richards invites. “Now having a year of varsity experience, they are even more hungry and eager to succeed.
“We may not have the height like some of the other teams in the area have, but we are looking forward to starting competition and competing alongside the top teams in the state,” she added.
Back from last year’s team are 6-1 junior setter David Flores (39 kills, 22 aces, 648 assists, 197 digs), 5-10 outside hitter Brandyn Cullen (66 kills, 15 aces, 301 digs, 13 blocks), and 6-4 junior rightside hitter Louden Moran (96 kills, 44 aces, 120 digs, 15 blocks).
Also, 6-2 junior middle hitter Chris Dargan (127 kills, 25 blocks), 5-11 junior outside hitter Ben Pluskota (167 kills, 11 blocks, 157 digs, 19 aces) and 6-foot junior rightside/outside hitter Nicky Studer (22 assists, 13 aces).
“Five of my starters play on the same club team (Ultimate 17 Gold) that finished fifth at nationals last year and this year placed first at two qualifiers in which they participated,” Frigo said. “We have an arsenal of heavy hitters and servers as well as great defensive players.”
Newcomers hoping to break into the lineup are 6-7 junior middle hitter Jack Hrvatin, who is showing great potential despite playing only two years of organized ball, and 5-10 sophomore libero Tyler Vedder.
After rallying from a 24-22 deficit in the second set of its sectional semifinal to defeat Glenbrook South in three games last spring, Central Suburban South champion New Trier advanced to the state quarterfinals before losing to Lincoln-Way East 20-25, 25-18, 25-15.
Three-year starting middle blocker Joe D’Attomo (127 kills, 57 blocks as a junior), a 6-foot-6 Loyola University recruit, is the only returning player of consequence to see the floor for the Trevians in 2017.
But veteran coach Sue Ellen Haak, who must replace nearly 1,000 kills and more than 800 assists from last year’s 35-5 team, has confidence in her 2018 edition.
“Although we have some new faces in our starting lineup, we are an incredibly deep and very talented team,” Haak said. “I anticipate there will be lots of players racking up stats this season and we will be a tough team to beat.”
Hoping to put some big numbers on the board as 6-5 middle blocker James Snyder (Bounce 18 Red), 6-2 setter Tergel Gandelger (Adversity 18 Purple), 6-3 outside hitter Tennessee Fulks (Bounce 18 Red) and 6-5 opposite hitter Marty Tatosian (Bounce 18 Red).
Expected to be in the mix are 6-4 junior outside hitter Jay Saravis, 6-3 junior setter Ben Wiegand (Adversity 17 Purple), junior libero Aaron Schatz, 6-6 sophomore opposite hitter Peter Brown (Bounce 16 Red) and 6-4 sophomore outside hitter Colin Heath (Bounce 16 Red).
Ken Dowdy will field a young and inexperienced team this spring at York. But look out once the Dukes get their feet wet.
“We do have tremendous depth and athleticism,” he said. “We have the most diverse offense I’ve had in my 8 years. But that will be contingent on our serve-receive, which is a work in progress after losing our top two defensive specialists.”
York, which went 23-11 (including 2-4 in the West Suburban Silver) and defeated Latin 25-18, 25-17 to win the Latin regional in 2017, will pin its offensive hopes on 6-1 setter Ryan Schaner (WS Storm 18 Navy), 6-2 outside hitter Matthew Howlett (WS Storm 18 Navy) and 6-2 middle hitter John Nosek.
Six-foot-3 junior Pat Resing (WS Storm 18 Navy) will be asked to clog up the middle.
Defensively, Dowdy will turn to 5-7 freshman libero Jeremy Becker and 5-9 junior defensive specialist Collin McCarville.
“We have a lot of powerful pin hitters, and those who can pass and play defense will inevitably get the starting nod,” Dowdy said. “Some of our biggest strengths will be our block and some pretty aggressive serving.
“We've got a scrappy group of players who really have set lofty goals for this season, and they can meet them if we continue to work hard and get better as the season progresses,” he added.
Stevenson went 25-13 last season (5-2 in the North Suburban Conference) and defeated Palatine 25-21, 25-19 to win the Fremd regional before bowing to Libertyville in a sectional semifinal.
Fifth-year coach Eric Goolish welcomes back three key starters from that team, including 6-5 outside hitter and third-year varsity stalwart Junhao (Leo) Chen, three-year starting middle hitter 6-5 Matt Cliffer, and 6-foot junior setter Will Sorenson.
Also back are a pair of seniors – 5-9 setter Haddon Kay and 5-11 defensive specialist Alex Bian.
“We are excited with our mix of experienced returners and committed newcomers,” Goolish said. “We have a nucleus of five returning players with a dozen years of varsity experience who have all been improving their game during the recent off-season.”
A pair of newcomers who will be expected to contribute right away are sophomores Justin Ross, a 6-7 middle hitter, and Gavin Meng (Bounce 16 Red), a 6-3 outside hitter.
“Two significant areas will impact our level of success this year,” Goolish said. “First, the small cohort of returning players will have to take even more significant roles this year than last. Second, it is likely that the sophomores will be put in impactful positions in our system.
“The degree that the experienced players lead and the new players contribute will chart the course of our season,” he said. “Overall, we expect to be in the hunt for a conference and sectional title this year.”
The Cougars’ 2017 season was not particularly memorable on the court. But off the court … that was a different story.
“Last year didn't pan out in terms of wins the way we wanted, but that group of kids was great to work with,” said Vernon Hills coach Chris Curry, whose team was 16-20 overall and 5-5 in the Central Suburban North last spring.
“They never stopped working to improve,” he said.
That hard work should pay dividends in 2018. Back to help turn things around at Vernon Hills are 6-3 outside/middle hitter Derrick Jones (232 kills), 5-10 outside hitter Drake DeBoer (184 kills, 25 aces, 160 digs) and 5-8 junior libero/setter Sammy Adkisson (291 digs).
Newcomers who should make an immediate impact include 6-1 junior middle hitter Joey Reyes and 6-2 sophomore outside hitter Krys Han.
“The energy has been tremendous so far this year,” Curry said. “There's a bunch of guys fighting for playing time, working to get ready. We'll spend a lot of time early on trying to find the right combinations. The good news is we have a lot of versatile athletes.
“We play a really tough schedule, but the guys understand it's a process,” he added. “We might be rough early, but our goal is always to be at our best come playoff time, and that usually works out for us.”
Zion-Benton is coming off an outstanding season which saw the Zee-Bees go 24-11 with a second-place finish at the Maine East invite and third-place finishes at the Lake County and Evanston invites.
Back from that team for coach Mike Isaacs are a pair of seniors -- 6-3 setter Lucas Miller and 6-2 outside hitter Nate Ivy. Newcomers 5-11 junior libero Eli Pelli, 6-2 junior middle hitter David Hernandez and 6-4 junior outside hitter Blaze Williams figure to break the starting rotation.
Also expected to contribute is junior opposite/outside hitter Nikola Josifovic, a high-level soccer player who played in Europe over the summer and just completed a long tournament in Las
Nikola works very hard to balance soccer and volleyball, which was his dad’s favorite sport,” Isaacs said.
Zion-Benton will chase perennial powers Libertyville, Stevenson, Lake Zurich and Warren in the North Suburban Conference.
“Our goal is to be competitive in the conference, grind out our opponents and display a
high level of volleyball IQ,” Isaacs said. “We have a unique combination of veteran starters and new varsity players, so we will spend some time finding our identity as the season goes on.”
Stephanie Rasmussen begins her third year at the reins of a Geneva team that went 13-22 last year but reached the regional championship before falling to St. Charles North. This spring, the Vikings plan to go a step further and win a regional on their home court.
“I have a very coachable, open-minded, driven and determined group of volleyball players,” Rasmussen said. “I expect our team to grow exponentially from March to May. We have a lot to learn, but I expect Geneva to be very competitive when May rolls around.”
Back to make that happen are 6-1 Matt Will, who will either play libero or set for the Vikings, 6-5 middle hitter Will Courter, 6-4 middle hitter Anthony Panizzi and 6-5 outside hitter Max McCloughan.
New faces on the varsity roster include 6-2 junior outside hitter Riley Waldoch, 6-3 junior rightside hitter Will Johnson and 6-1 rightside hitter Ted Simpson.
“For us to accomplish our goal, we need to work as a team and give 110 percent at every practice,” Rasmussen said. “Having such a short season and only a few players who play in the offseason, every practice is crucial in making sure we are ready to compete.”
Marian Catholic graduated five seniors, including three starters, from last year’s team that lost to Sandburg in the regional semifinals.
However, returning for third-year coach David Holliday are a pair of four-year varsity standouts – 6-3 outside hitter Mark Brooks (Ultimate 18 Gold) and setter Todd Gervase (Enigma Volleyball Club out of Chesterton, Indiana).
“Mark has helped lead our team not only statistically, but physically since he entered the doors at Marian,” Holliday said. “His training with Ultimate Volleyball Club and persistence to be better has helped drive him to become the talented player he is today.”
“Todd started at libero and has gradually transitioned to becoming our starting setter,” the coach added. “He has been working hard to be a true leader for us on and off the court.”
Marian Catholic will chase Marist, Benet and St. Patrick in the tough East Suburban Catholic Conference.
“Knowing that we play in one of, if not the toughest conference in Illinois has given the boys the drive necessary to be able to compete with all our opponents,” Holiday said. “We’re looking forward to this season and growing as individuals, and more importantly, as a team.”
Fenwick went 12-10 (6-2 in the Chicago Catholic League’s Green Division) last season under coach Kate Whitman, who welcomes back just two players who were part of the regular rotation last spring.
“I expect for us to have a strong showing this year even though we have a very young team,” said Whitman, who anticipates that three freshmen will be part of the mix in 2018. “I think we can be a threat to win our division and make a good run in the playoffs.”
Whitman will build around 6-4 junior outside hitter Jack Kenny (SPVB 18 Alpha) and first-year setter Kevin Johnson, a 6-1 senior.
Reavis graduated its top players from last year’s 19-17 team that lost to Sandburg in the regional final 25-18, 25-19 – middle hitter Michael Ganczar.
However. The Rams do return six of the eight players who saw substantial floor time for coach
Mike Jebens – both outside hitters, a setter, a libero, a rightside hitter and one middle hitter.
“I think we will be a sneaky team,” Jebens said. “I have an unbelievable group of kids who have exceptional attitudes and work ethic.”
Reavis’ biggest returning pieces are all-conference libero Johnny Moczarny and 6-3 outside hitter Radek Bryja, who had 7 kills and an ace in the regional title match against Sandburg. Bryja is getting a lot of looks from high-level Division III and Division II programs.
BJ Boldog takes over as head coach at Plainfield Central, and to say he is excited would be an understatement.
“I could not be more pumped for this opportunity,” Boldog said. “Just from the few practices that we have had, I am really excited about this group. We are very athletic and have the ability to play at a high level.”
Plainfield Central features four veterans of last year’s regional semifinalist including 6-5 outside hitter Noah Sampson, 6-5 junior outside hitter Marc Arsenault, 6-4 middle hitter Jack Buczek and 5-11 libero Finn McCue.
Newcomers to watch are 6-2 junior setter Harry Khaira (Club 1 17 Red) and 6-3 sophomore middle hitter Quinton Dickerson (Club 1 16 Red).
“We have great senior leadership from guys like Sampson and McCue, and younger guys that bring energy and enthusiasm into the gym every day,” Boldog said. “I really think this is going to be a great year for Plainfield Central boys’ volleyball.”
Despite losing nine seniors to graduation, Riverside-Brookfield looks to win its third consecutive regional title and its fifth overall.
“We expect to be a highly competitive team for the third straight year,” said Dan Bonarigo, who begins his 11th season as head coach with a 207-162 career record, including a 30-9 mark last season that included a second-place finish at the Warren invite and a title at the Willowbrook invite.
“We return a solid core and newcomers with great experience,” he said.
Bonarigo and the Bulldogs will reload around 6-5 middle blocker Jason Bageanis (St. Ambrose University), who had 221 kills and 75 blocks in 2017, 6-3 junior outside hitter Dallas (DJ) Degand (40 kills, 23 aces, 114 digs and 51 assists in 2017) and 6-2 junior middle blocker Colby Campbell (63 kills, 53 blocks.
Newcomers to watch are 5-11 sophomore setter Jonah Raith, 6-foot junior opposite hitter Matthew Lams, 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Vajas Cuplinskas, 5-9 junior libero Lucas Reilly, 5-11 outside hitter Sean Klump and 6-2 middle blocker/opposite hitter Matthew Hansen.
Bolingbrook is coming off the most successful season in school history and expectations are high for even better things in 2018.
"Although our record (16-17) doesn’t show it, we were highly competitive against the top talent within the (Southwest Suburban) conference),” coach Ryan Altenburg said. “Only one of our conference losses (Lincoln Way East) was in straight sets. All of our other three losses (Lockport, Lincoln Way Central and Sandburg) went three sets.”
The Raiders return three starters from last year’s team – 6-6 middle hitter Andrew Otto, 6-6 junior middle/rightside hitter Rico Wardlow and 6-foot outside hitter Angelo Johns.
Otto (Ultimate 18 Gold/Carthage College) is a three-year starter who was third in the team in kills and first in blocks last season Wardlow (SPVB 16 Elite) led the Raiders in aces and was second in blocks as a sophomore.
Johns (Ultimate 18 Black) moved from serving/defensive specialist to rightside hitter in 2017 and finishing among the team leaders in service points and aces and was fourth in digs.
New faces to watch are 6-foot junior Aarion Watt (Club 1 17 Royal), who will look to fill the void left by graduates Josh Simpson (Limestone College) and David Miechowizki (Aurora University), and 6-7 junior middle hitter Brandon Jorman, an athletic converted basketball player.
Conant returns four starters from last year’s 8-25 team (3-7 in the Mid-Suburban West), including middle hitter Sam Bryant and outside hitter Anthony Chan, and welcomes a talented group of juniors.
“We will have a powerful offense this year and look to improve on our conference and overall record,” Conant coach J.C. Brown said.
In addition to Bryant and Chan, also back are setter Luke McLaughlin and libero Doug Jurgenson. Junior Waris Walia is expected to hold down the rightside hitter position.
A talented junior class features setter Cameron Hacker, outside hitter Nick O’Connell, defensive specialist Scott Goding, middle hitter Zach Grogan, outside hitter Nathan Jones, setter Nick Laskero, defensive specialist Jaylen Patel, outside hitter Ranier Roque and middle hitter Anthony Wachal.
Downers Grove South
Jack Tischler and Calib Minnis return from a 23-15 team that went 5-0 in the West Suburban Gold before bowing in the Glenbard West regional final to the eventual state champions 25-16, 25-20.
Tischler (SPVB 18 Lenny) is a 6-2 junior who had 145 kills and 29 blocks in 2017, while Minnis (SPVB 18 Lenny) is a 6-4 senior opposite hitter who added 135 kills and 58 blocks. They will get help from 6-3 junior middle hitter James Chlapecka (Breaker 17 Nike) and 6-2 sophomore middle hitter Brad Gall.
“We enter this season filling in some key positions and young in some positions on the court,” coach Kurt Steuer said. “Varsity experience will not be something we have right away but will continue to improve upon as the season progresses.
“Our strong points will be at the outside and opposite hitter position with the return of one setter who split court time last year,” he added. “Our schedule is set up is tough at the beginning playing top teams in the area, which will help prepare us for the rest of the season.”
Illinois Math & Science Academy
Alex Smothers, who coached for four years at Joliet West and is a coach and the boys director at Serve City Volleyball, takes over the program at Illinois Math & Science Academy.
"With the unique structure of IMSA, the athletic programs are easily overlooked,” he said. “Coming into my first year here, I honestly was not expecting much. I have been very impressed by the team so far. They are very raw and will only get better throughout the season with game time.”
IMSA’s top two returnees are both underclassmen – 5-11 junior setter Justin Izaguirre and 6-2 junior outside hitter Joshua Eberhardt. They will be joined in the starting rotation by a pair of sophomores – 6-1 middle hitter Nikita Elkin and 5-11 outside hitter Matthew Halliman.
“The potential for this group is honestly exceeding my expectations,” Smothers said. “We have a lot of young players. The team is made up of mostly sophomores. We will have highs and lows, but I think the mix between experienced players and newcomers will mesh into a great start to an exciting future.”
Minooka went 24-13 last season and 11-3 in the Southwest Prairie Conference, losing to Andrew 25-20, 28-26 in a regional quarterfinal.
Coach Mike Kargle welcomes back four players from the team including 6-2 opposite hitter Tristan Everett, 6-4 junior outside hitter A.J. Lewis, 6-4 junior middle hitter Noah Easter, 6-3 sophomore middle hitter/outside hitter Shane Ooms and 5-8 sophomore defensive specialist Caden Ritchey.
Newcomers to watch include 5-9 sophomore setter Rafael Vieyra and 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Evan Faifer.
The problem with paring down any list of boys volleyball players in Illinois is that there are so many talented student-athletes that it is almost impossible to put a limit on it. So the perceptive person might realize that there are a few more than 50 names on this list, and even then, there are probably deserving players who have been inadvertently overlooked.
But that is why they play the season. Those who have been left off have nearly three months to ensure that they are excluded from any postseason honors roster.
Here they are … the
2018 Illprepvb.com Illinois Boys Volleyball Preseason Top 50 Players
Carson Brandt, 6-4, Jr., OPP, Glenbard East (Hitmen 17 Elite)
Mark Brooks, 6-3, Sr., OH, Marian Catholic (Ultimate 18 Gold)
John Davis, 6-5, Sr., OH, Naperville Central (SPVB 18 Alpha)
John Folts, 6-3, Sr., OH, Benet (Breaker VBC 18 Nike)
Jeremy Grove, 6-3, Sr., OH, Neuqua Valley (SPVB 18 Lenny)
Jordan Haigh, 6-2, Sr., OH, Lake Park (Pipeline 18 Nike)
Gabe Hartke, 6-4, Jr., OH, Barrington (Pipeline 17 Nike)
Jack Howard, 6-5, Jr., OH, Loyola (Adversity 17 Purple)
Eddie Jakubauskas, 6-4, Jr., OH, Plainfield South (SPVB 18 Lenny)
Marty Jepsen, 6-0, Jr., OH, Marist (Ultimate 17 Gold)
Daniel Kaszuba, 6-7, Sr., OH, Schaumburg (SPVB 18 Lenny/McKendree)
Andrew Kohut, 6-6, Sr., OPP, Metea Valley (SPVB 18 Alpha/Belmont Abbey)
Tommy Koppang, 6-5, Sr., OH, St. Charles North (Hitmen 18 Elite/Pepperdine)
Kevin Lamp, 6-4, Sr., OH, Lake Forest (SPVB 18 Elite)
Daniel Littleton, 6-4, Sr., RS/OPP, Brother Rice (Ultimate 18 Gold)
Stone Metz, 6-7, Sr., OH, Glenbard West (SPVB 18 Elite)
Michael O’Toole, 6-7 Sr., OH, Barrington (Pipeline 18 Nike)
Anthony Pfeiffer, 6-5, Sr., OH, Lockport (SPVB 18 Lenny)
Ian Piet, 6-1, Sr., RS/OH, Lincoln-Way East (Ultimate 18 Gold/Loyola)
Brett Rosenbusch, 6-1, Sr., OH, St. Patrick (Chicago Elite 18 Elite)
Sean Ryan, 6-4, Sr., OH, Lyons (Adversity 18 Purple)
Benett Schreiner, 6-7, Jr., OPP, Wheaton North (SPVB 18 Alpha)
Kyle Springer, 6-1, Sr., OH, Brother Rice (Ultimate 18 Gold/North Central)
Jack Stevens, 6-6, Sr., OH, Libertyville (Adversity 18 Purple)
Jack Tischler, 6-2, Jr., OH, Downers Grove South (SPVB 18 Lenny)
Jack Yurkanin, 6-2, Jr., RS/OH, Lincoln-Way Central (Ultimate 17 Gold)
J.T. Ardell, 6-10, Sr., MH, Glenbard West (SPVB 18 Elite/Pepperdine)
Nick Crnkovich, 6-7, Sr., MH, Benet (Breaker VBC 18 Nike)
Joe D’Attomo, 6-7, Sr., MB, New Trier (Adversity 18 Purple/Loyola)
Daniel Duggan, 6-6, Sr., MB, Wheaton North (Hitmen 18 Elite/McKendree)
Felix Egharevba, 6-4, Sr., MH, Naperville Central (SPVB 18 Elite/Ball State)
Jacob Gall, 6-7, Sr., MH/OH, Belleville Althoff (HPSTL B18 Royal/McKendree)
Michael Herlihy, 6-6, Sr., MH, Lincoln-Way East (Ultimate 18 Gold/Loyola)
Nick Martinski, 6-7, Sr., MH, Lake Park (Pipeline 18 Nike/Ball State)
Wil McPhillips, 6-4, Jr., MH, Lincoln Way East (Ultimate 17 Gold)
Andrew Otto, 6-6, Sr., MH, Bolingbrook (Ultimate 18 Gold/Carthage)
Jake Shapiro, 6-2, Sr., MH, Deerfield (Adversity 18 Purple)
Owen Wahlgren, 6-9, Sr., MH, Downers Grove North (SPVB 18 Elite/Cal Irvine)
Rico Wardlow, 6-5, Jr., MH, Bolingbrook (SPVB 18 Elite)
Jahari Winkfield, 6-4, Sr., MH, Oswego East (SPVB 18 Lenny)
Evan Carroll, 6-2, Sr., S, Barrington (Pipeline 18 Swoosh)
Thomas Cavallaro, 5-7, Jr., S, Glenbrook South (D1 Elite 17 Green).
Nick Cookingham, 6-3, Sr., S, Willowbrook (Hitmen 18 Elite/Lees-McRae College)
Jacob Grygo, 6-5, Sr., S, Addison Trail (N/A/Aquinas College)
Caedon Hsieh, 5-10, Sr., S, Deerfield (Adversity 18 Purple)
John Jaworski, 5-10, Jr., S, Naperville North (SPVB 18 Lenny)
Kevin Kauling, 6-8, Jr., S, Neuqua Valley (SPVB 18 Elite/Lewis)
Zeo Meyer, 6-3, So., S, Wheaton Warrenville South (SPVB 16 Elite)
Jakub Migus, 5-11, Jr., S, Hersey (SPVB 18 Alpha)
Matt O’Donnell, 5-11, Sr., S, Brother Rice (Ultimate 18 Gold)
John Zolpe, 5-10, Sr., S, Hinsdale Central (WS Storm 18 Navy)
Jacob Bojan, 5-11, Jr., L, Glenbard East (SPVB 18 Lenny)
Max DeDobbelaere, 5-10, Sr., L, St. Charles North (Hitmen 18 Elite)
Carson Gentry, 6-1, Jr., L, Neuqua Valley (SPVB 18 Elite)
Tommy Kleist, 5-8, Sr., L, Brother Rice (Ultimate 18 Gold)
Elliot Myong, 5-9, Sr., L, Waubonsie Valley (SPVB 18 Elite)
Illprepvb.com's look at the upcoming boys' season continues today with previews of Glenbard West, St. Charles North, Glenbrook South, Niles West, Naperville Central, Oak Park-River Forest and St. Viator.
JT Ardell was cut from his junior high school team. Now the 6-foot-10 Pepperdine recruit will be counted on to lead Glenbard West to its fourth consecutive state title.
Ardell (SPVB 18 Elite) is one of only two returning starters for coach Christine Giunta Mayer – the other is 6-6 outside hitter Stone Metz (SPVB 18 Elite) – but as the Hilltoppers have proven, the pipeline keeps flowing.
“I’m looking forward to a new team with a lot of energy and integrity,” said Giunta Mayer, who is 335-116 during her 12-year career. “These are high character student-athletes who come to practice and work hard every day.”
Ardell (90 kills, 54 blocks) and Metz (27 kills, 18 blocks) were two of only six juniors on last year’s 18-man roster. Gone are top outside attackers Cameron Lilly and John Winkler, setter Sean Farmer, libero Zac Norvid, and middle hitter and emotional leader Matthew Scruggs.
But Ardell and Metz should get help from newcomers like 6-3 middle hitter Henry Curtis (SPVB 18 Alpha), 6-1 outside hitter Ryan Swartz (SPVB 18 Alpha) and 6-foot defensive specialist/outside hitter Zack Morris (SPVB 18 Charlie).
Glenbard West also has a group of talented juniors who were unbeaten as sophomores.
“This team reminds me so much of the 2014 team … so much potential and getting better every day,” Giunta Mayer said. “It’s a different kind of team – not big, not small, very athletic and incredible teammates.
“It's a lot of work, but we love a challenge and look forward to what's to come,” she said.
St. Charles North
St. Charles North will bid farewell to the Upstate Eight Conference after this season to join the new DuKane Conference. The North Stars hope to make their final season in the Upstate Eight a memorable one.
“We look really good so far coming out of tryouts, and we will do everything we can to face some tough tournament teams and conference opponents,” said coach Todd Weimer, who is 176-118 at the school including a third-place finish in 2013.
“Our non-conference schedule is pretty tough as well,” he said.
Six-foot-5 outside hitter Tommy Koppang (Hitmen 18 Elite), a Pepperdine recruit, headlines a core group of four players from last year’s 20-19 team (6-4 in the Upstate Eight) that lost to Lake Park in the sectional championship.
“We have a lot of seniors this season with a great core of players who have been on two regional championship teams,” Weimer said.
Also back are 5-10 libero Max DeDobbelaere, 6-foot rightside/outside hitter Kyle Donlevy and 6-1 outside/rightside hitter Brendan DalDegan.
“We have guys who play football, baseball, basketball, band, choir and juggle their club season,” Weimert said. “So it's nice to have a great mix of guys. They are hard-working, open and ready to give their best.”
Oh, so close.
Last spring, Glenbrook South was 1 point away from knocking off New Trier and advancing to the sectional championship match.
But New Trier rallied from a 24-22 deficit in the second game and defeated the Titans 24-26, 27-25, 25-19 on its way to a berth in the state quarterfinals.
“We are looking to improve upon that result this year,” said 15-year Glenbrook South coach Tim Monahan, whose team finished 27-11 in 2017 including an 8-2 mark and second-place finish in the Central Suburban South. “We return almost our entire starting lineup.”
Back for the Titans are 5-7 junior and three-year starting setter Thomas Cavallaro (D1 Elite 18 Green), three-year starting middle blocker Konrad Wojslaw (D1 Elite 18 Green), and three-year starting junior Jack Shampine (D1 Elite 17 Green), who moves from the right side to the outside this spring.
Also back are a couple of players who contributed to last year’s success, including 6-7 middle blocker Sean Doumitt and juniors Joey Masloski (Chicago Bounce 17 Red), Colin Roy (D1 Elite 17 Green) and 6-2 Stephen Daus.
“We look to build as the season goes on and have a strong showing in the very tough CSL South,” Monahan said.
Niles West went 26-12 and won a regional title in 2014. Coach Drew Roche hopes to return the Wolves to the same level of success in 2018.
“We return most of our players from last year,” said Roche, who lost only three players to graduation. “Our hope and expectation is that we take a big step forward this year and contend for a (Central Suburban South) title.”
Top returnees for Roche and the Wolves are 6-4 outside hitter and four-year starter Nikola Dimitrijevic and 5-11 sophomore setter Kyle Moy.
As usual, Niles West must contend with perennial north shore powers New Trier, Glenbrook South and Loyola.
Naperville Central went 24-14 last season, losing in the regional championship match to Thomas Kovanic (Loyola) and West Aurora 17-25, 25-18, 25-23.
The Redhawks placed second at the Marist and Benet invitationals, fifth at the Brother Rice Smack Attack and 10th at the Tiger Classic hosted by Wheaton Warrenville South.
Roger Strausberger’s 2018 crew will be stronger and more mature with four returning seniors as key contributors.
Leading the way will be 6-5 outside hitter John Davis (SPVB 18 Alpha) and 6-4 middle hitter Felix Egharevba, who plays outside for SPVB 18 Elite. Both are three-year starters. Also back are 6-1 setter Tim Folliard (SPVB 18 Charlie) and 6-2 rightside hitter Tanner Stefani (SPVB 18 Delta).
Adding offensive punch are a pair of sophomores -- 6-1 Carter Stenmark (SPVB 16 Alpha) and 6-5 Nate Rutter (SPVB 16 Elite).
“I believe this to be one of the stronger teams we’ve had, and hope to have a fun season,” Strausberger said.
Oak Park-River Forest
Oak Park-River Forest finished 25-9 (fourth in the West Suburban Silver at 3-3), winning regional and sectional championships before falling to Lake Park 27-25, 25-17 in a state quarterfinal.
Head coach Don August begins his 13th season at OPRF having to replace three of his top four attackers and his setter.
“We are young and expecting strong contributions from a number of juniors in their first varsity season,” he said. “If we stay healthy and can play with some degree of consistency, we have the potential for a very successful season.”
The Huskies will have some talent with which to reload, led by 6-6 middle blocker Jack Valenti (Chicago Elite B18 Elite), defensive specialist Mike Milad (Chicago Elite B18 Elite) and 6-4 junior setter Sean Califf (SPVB 18 Elite).
Valenti had 163 kills, 65 blocks and 25 aces for last year’s team, while Milad contributed 101 digs, 22 assists and 4 aces.
Senior 6-7 middle hitter Ben Taubman and 6-4 junior Kyle Rasmussen will be expected to play bigger roles on offense, while junior libero Mike Perla, who had 68 digs and 18 assists in 2917, will anchor the defense.
Quinton Kitzman, a 6-3 junior rightside hitter, junior Jared Shainis (Hitmen 18 Blue), a 6-4 middle hitter, 6-3 junior outside hitter Lucas Schattauer (Hitmen 18 Black) and 6-4 sophomore Nick Altier (Chicago Elite B16 Elite) are also expected to contribute.
“This is perhaps the most athletic team ever at OPRF,” August said. “All of our primary players have significant club experience, which should help our season get off to a strong start.”
St. Viator finished 4-3 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference and 17-19 overall after upsetting 11th-seeded Fremd in a regional quarterfinal 17-25, 25-23, 25-17.
Head coach Jim Neill returns only one player from that team – 6-3 middle hitter Will Heneghan, who had 33 kills in a part-time role last spring but will set and hit rightside for St. Viator in 2018.
Neill will look to get big-time contributions from 5-8 junior outside hitter Marcus Lannie, 6-3 junior middle hitter Timothy Allaire, 6-3 junior middle hitter George Bowman (Pipeline 17 Airmax) and 5-11 sophomore outside hitter James Bilhorn.
“We are going to be extremely young with hardly any club experience,” Neill said. “I’m hoping for a .500 overall record and a .500 conference record. I’m also hoping for a tournament win this year.”
Stephanie KaegebeinBoys volleyball in Southern Illinois is growing.
2018 marks the 10th season of play for Belleville East, Belleville West, East St. Louis and Edwardsville, the latter reaching the state quarterfinals in 2011 and 2014. Programs at Belleville Althoff, O'Fallon and Granite City made their debut a few years earlier.
Since then, Alton and Metro-East Lutheran have started programs while other schools – like Alton Marquette -- have begun adding junior varsity teams with the hopes of developing more interest and competing at the varsity level in the future.
Illprepvb.com's look at the upcoming boys' season continues today with previews of Belleville East, Hinsdale Central, Oswego East, Joliet West, Warren, South Elgin, Lincoln-Way Central and Palatine.
Joe Nesbit and the Lancers are starting over after graduating their entire starting lineup – save one player, who tore his knee during the basketball season and will not return this spring.
“Having an entirely new lineup will be interesting but exciting,” Nesbit said. “Our program features good senior leadership with a few new seniors in the program who are learning quickly. No one in our area is expecting much out of us this year. We are hoping to surprise some teams.”
Five-foot-11 setter Max DiPasquale did see some playing time for Belleville East (15-11, 8-4 in the Southwestern Conference) last year. He played the final three matches of the season after a lineup change.
“DiPasquale is an outstanding all-around kid,” Nesbit said. “He is a very talented saxophonist and was a three-sport athlete earlier in high school. This year, he has decided to only play volleyball. He looks to have a very strong senior season.”
Belleville East's rotation could include a trio of talented sophomores – 6-3 outside hitter Isaiah Hein, 6-foot middle hitter Jyaire Bowens and 5-9 libero Tyler Schwahn (HPSTL B16 IL) – and quick and athletic 5-9 senior outside hitter Zach Jablonski.
“The program at East this year is made up of three seniors who have been in the program for four years and three seniors who are either new or returning to the game after not playing the last couple of years,” Nesbit said.
“We do not have any juniors in our program, but we feature a lot of optimism and promise in our younger players from the sophomore and freshmen classes,” he added.
Nesbit said that Edwardsville and O’Fallon look to be conference frontrunners.
How do you replace 499 kills?
Mark Zelisko was a one-man wrecking crew for the Red Devils last spring, leading his team to the state quarterfinals before they fell to Brother Rice 25-17, 25-20 to finish 29-11 (5-1 in the West Suburban Silver).
But Zelisko has moved on to Missouri, and Hinsdale Central coach Stephanie Kaegebein will build around three key returning players – 6-2 setter John Zolpe (749 assists, 63 kills, 46 blocks, 20 aces), 6-5 middle hitter Nick Tienken (77 kills, 53 blocks) and 6-5 junior outside hitter Cal Snyder (211 kills, 34 blocks).
“John is one of the best players in the state,” Kaegebein said. “Strategic, smart and poised, John’s athletic ability allows him to make plays look easier than they are. John played outside hitter for his club team (West Suburban Storm 18 Navy) this season, showcasing his all-around volleyball ability.”
Tienken (West Suburban Storm 18 Navy) begins his thirTd season as a varsity starter and will be counted on to become a bigger part of the offense. Meanwhile, Snyder is Hinsdale Central’s No. 1 option at the pin after growing a few inches during the past year.
“I expect Cal to put up huge numbers with Zolpe running the offense,” Kaegebein said.
Joining Zolpe, Tienken and Snyder in the starting rotation will be 5-7 junior libero Gavin Schwarz (117 digs, 20 aces in 2017) and 5-10 junior outside hitter Richie Lozanoski, who moves up from the junior varsity.
“We realize that things beyond our control have to go our way, but our goal this season is a top four finish at state,” Kaegebein said. “There are important shoes to fill, but only graduating three seniors from last year’s team means the team returns with a lot of experience.”
Brian Zerfas, a member of West Aurora’s 2005 state qualifying team, begins his third season as head coach at Oswego East armed with a team loaded with size, skill and experience.
“This season is one that our program has been waiting for,” he said. “Five years ago, we won only four matches and this year we feel like we have an opportunity to make a statement. We realize newer programs like ours don’t always get that opportunity, and we are excited to embrace the challenge.”
Oswego East won a school record 20 matches last season (20-15, 9-5 in the Southwest Prairie Conference) and graduated only one starter from that team – Colin McClintic, a 6-10 freshman at Lewis University.
Back from the team that was upset by Hinsdale South in the regional are 6-4 middle hitter Jahari Winkfield (SPV 18 Lenny), 6-2 identical twins Cade and Collin Harrison (Cyclones B18 Black Adidas), 6-5 middle hitter Zeke Rivera (SPVB 18 Bravo), 5-11 libero Ben Jorgensen and 6-foot setter Sam Behnke.
Hard-hitting sophomore Anthony Torres (SPVB 16 Alpha) will find his way on the court.
“Collin and Cade Harrison are both gritty players constantly attacking and driving for the ball with incredible determination,” Zerfas said. “We have a fantastic pair of athletic middles in Winkfield and Rivera. Jorgensen re-wrote every passing record in the book for us.
Minooka, Plainfield North and Plainfield East figure to challenge Oswego East in the Southwest Prairie.
Former Lincoln-Way Central and Lincoln-Way East coach Neil Lucchetti inherits a program that went 9-23 last season.
“Last season was a disappointing year, but an important one for such a young team to take some lumps and learn from them,” he said. “We have strong senior leadership this year and the team has come back hungry and determined to turn heads. “
Lucchetti will try to turn around Joliet West’s fortunes with returning starters 6-2 setter and Milwaukee School of Engineering recruit Kalvin Fellows, all-conference outside hitter 6-2 Zach Boeringa, 6-1 junior outside hitter Edgerrin Austin and 6-1 opposite hitter Carson Brendemuehl.
“We have some strong hitters coming back, but have had a focus of doing whatever it takes to keep the ball in play on defense,” Lucchetti said.
Warren coach Yun Chen welcomes back six returning players, three of whom saw extensive playing time in 2017.
Back for this third season on varsity is outside hitter Kyle Wells (Adversity 18 Purple), who will be joined on the outside from setter-turned attacker Ian Schilling. Alex Jiang (Adversity 18 Purple) returns in the middle seeking to improve upon last year’s numbers.
Freddy Harris, who got some playing time in 2017, will fill the other starting middle hitter position. Caden Fox returns at libero after working as a defensive specialist last season. Taylor Vander-Jeugdt (Adversity 18 Black) and Andrew Wagan will handle setting chores.
New faces who will compete for starting roles include Alex Cretors (Adversity 18 Black) at either outside, rightside or middle; Ethan Fabrie and Peyton Hines at the right side; and Christian McCaughey, Bryan Petty and Joe Zdarsky (Adversity 17 Black) at defensive specialist.
“I think it is really good for us that there is competition going on for a lot of the positions,” Chen said. “I believe that will help us in the long run that these guys are competing day in and day out.”
Inexperience. That’s the operative word at South Elgin in 2018.
”We are only returning two guys who saw any playing time last year, so we don’t have a lot of experience,” said coach Adam Plach, who begins his 10th season at the Storm helm. “This is a year with a lot of new faces We have some sophomores who will be competing for playing time, so I look forward to what they have to bring to the table.”
Back from last year’s team that went 10-23 (2-7 in the Upstate Eight Conference) and lost in the regional semifinals to Lake Park are 6-foot outside hitter King Thomas, 5-7 defensive specialist Edwin Leon, 6-6 junior middle hitter Vincent Miszkiewicz and 5-10 setter Sergio Mares.
Notable newcomers are 5-5 sophomore defensive specialist Daniel Skrzypchak, 6-3 sophomore outside/rightside hitter Raul Correa, 6-foot junior middle hitter Jack Dullum, sophomore setter Christian Ayar, 6-3 sophomore middle hitter Adam Deguzman and 6-3 sophomore middle hitter/outside hitter Mandeep Sangha.
“We will need to build our team chemistry, and some of our new guys are going to need to grow up quickly and learn what varsity volleyball is like,” Plach said. “We approach every year with some of the same goals -- be the best team in (School District ) U-46, be in the top half of the conference and finish in the top half of all of our tournaments.”
Glenbard East, St. Charles North and West Aurora figure to be the top teams in the Upstate Eight.
Lincoln-Way Central graduated several standout performers from last year’s team that finished 28-9 and defeated Lockport 17-25, 25-15, 25-20 to win the Plainfield Central regional before bowing to district rival Lincoln-Way East 25-16, 25-19 in an Edwardsville sectional semifinal.
“We lost many good players, but we have players performing well to move into those roles,” coach Mary K. Brown said. “We’re going to be very competitive with 13 of our 15 players taller than 6-foot.”
The best of the veterans is 6-1 junior outside hitter Jack Yurkanin (Ultimate B17 Gold), a strong hitter, server and defender and one of the top players in his class. Also back is 6-2 outside hitter Garrett McCrea.
Six-foot-2 junior Sebi Olmos should be a solid anchor in the backcourt while 6-3 George Hinchliffe should provide some punch from the right side.
Palatine welcomes back nine seniors and every starter from the 25-13 team that fell to Stevenson 25-21, 25-19 in the Fremd regional championship match.
That was enough to keep coach Frank Stark around for one more year.
“This will be my last year coaching so I can spend time with my five kids who are heavily involved in their own sports,” he said. “I specifically chose this group to ‘graduate’ with because of how special they are. “
Those nine seniors include four-year starting outside hitter Johnny O’Shea, a rare three-sport athlete (basketball) who is committed to Butler to play Division 1 football, and three-year starting rightside Camden Hill.
Two-year starting seniors include libero Conor Nix and middle hitters Bryant Smith and Leo Donlin, while junior outside hitter Curtis McClenan is a three-year starter and junior Ben Rinella is back for his second season as the team’s starting setter.
“This is a very strong group of kids,” Stark said. “They have been amazing friends since grade school. They are special. We have competitors and volleyball players this year. The work ethic is the best I have ever had.”
The Ultra Ankle Bluegrass Tournament in Lousiville, Kentucky, last weekend left a few bruises on the local entries, but Michio Chicago 18 National and Sky High Adidas 18 Black were both unbeaten at the Great Lakes Region Bid Qualifier hosted by Sky High Volleyball Club in Crystal Lake on Sunday.
(Week 9 ranking in parenthesis)
1. SPVB 18 Elite (1)
Note: The much-anticipated showdown with top-seeded Munciana 18 Samurai at the Ultra Ankle Bluegrass Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, last weekend never happened. SPVB 18 Elite lost to Tri-State Elite 18 Blue 25-16, 23-25, 15-9 in pool play, then lost to K2 Adidas Jota 25-18, 25-17 in the Gold bracket to go 3-2 and finish tied for fifth in the 35-team 18 Open field.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. Illini Elite 18 Cardinal on Court 1 at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
2. Uno Girls 18 Elite (2)
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. Michio Chicago 18 National on Court 1 at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
3. Michio Chicago 18 National (3)
Note: Michio Chicago 18 National went 5-0 at Sunday’s Great Lakes Region Bid Qualifier hosted by Sky High Volleyball Club in Crystal Lake, defeating Epic United 18 Elite ROX 28-26, 25-14 to complete the sweep.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. Uno Girls 18 Elite on Court 1 at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
4. Illini Elite 18 Cardinal (4)
Note: Illini Elite 18 Cardinal went 2-3 and finished tied for fifth in the 36-team 18 Open field at the Ultra Ankle Bluegrass Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, last weekend. Illini Elite lost its opener to TI Elite 181 18-25, 25-20, 15-4, then saw top-seeded Munciana 18 Samurai up close and personal in a 25-19, 25-15 loss.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. SPVB 18 Elite on Court 1 at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
5. (tie) Sky High Adidas 18 Black (5)
Note: Sky High Adidas 18 Black went 5-0 at Sunday’s Great Lakes Region Bid Qualifier on its home courts, defeating ESVBC (Eastside Volleyball Club out of East Peoria) 18 Ninjas 25-19, 25-15 in the semifinals.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. Sky High Adidas 16 Black on Court 3 at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
5. (tie) IL STLHP (Illinois St. Louis High Performance) 18 Elite (5)
Next: Mideast Qualifier March 23-25 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
5. (tie) Fusion 18 Black (5)
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. FC Elite 17 Navy on Court 2 at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 17.
Other teams to watch: SPVB 18 Kahl, 1st Alliance 18 Silver, ESVBC (Eastside) Ninjas 18U, Ultimate G18 Gold, VC United 181 Elite, Club 1 18 Red, Fusion 18 Red, SPVB 18 Navy, Chicago Elite 18 Elite, Adversity G18 Purple, Kane County 18 Gold, SPVB 18 Blue, Rolling Thunder 18 Blue.
1. Fusion 17 Red (1)
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. 1st Alliance 16 Silver on Court 4 at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 17.
2. Illini Elite 17 Cardinal (2)
Note: Illini Elite 17 Cardinal went 1-5 and finished 15th in the 35-team 17 Open field at the Ultra Ankle Bluegrass Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, last weekend. Illini Elite dropped a pair of three-setters and its lone win was a 16-25, 25-17, 15-11 decision over NKYVC 17-1 Tsunami.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. Milwaukee Sting 17 Gold on Court 4 at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
3. Michio Chicago 17 National (3)
Note: Michio Chicago 17 National needed three sets to take down Sky High Adidas 17 Red 22-25, 25-23, 15-9 Sunday at the Great Lakes Region Bid Qualifier hosted by Sky High Volleyball Club in Crystal Lake, but was otherwise unscathed through its four matches.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. SPVB 18 White on Court 5 at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
4. Uno Girls 17 Elite (4)
Note: Uno Girls 17 Elite started 3-2 Sunday at the Great Lakes Region Bid Qualifier hosted by Sky High Volleyball Club in Crystal Lake, losing to 1st Alliance 17 Black 23-25, 25-23, 15-7 in pool play and Michio Chicago 17 National 25-16, 25-23 in the Gold bracket. But Uno bounced back to topple 1st Alliance 17 Black 25-14, 25-11 in both teams’ finale.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. FaR Out 18 Gold on Court 5 at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
5. IL STLHP (Illinois St. Louis High Performance) 17 Elite (5)
Next: USAV 17s Crossroads Qualifier March 16-18 in Denver, Colorado.
Other teams to watch: Sky High Adidas 17 Black, 1st Alliance 17 Black, 1st Alliance 17 Silver, Illini Elite 17 Black, Rolling Thunder 17 Blue, Ascend 17 Purple, Northside Out Chicago 17U, 1st Alliance 17 White, Celtic Force 17 Green, Chicago Elite 17 Black.
1. 1st Alliance 16 Silver (1)
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. Fusion 17 Red on Court 4 at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
2. SPVB 16 Elite (2)
Note: SPVB 16 Elite had to win a challenge match – beating Carolina Rogue 16 25-21, 25-12 – to get into the Gold bracket at the Ultra Ankle Bluegrass Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, last weekend, but then lost its second round bracket match to Mintonette Sports m.61 25-15, 25-20 to go 3-3 and finish tied for third in the 35-team 16 Open field.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open division vs. 1st Alliance 16 Black on Court 1 at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
3. Michio Chicago 16 National (3)
Next: Mideast Qualifier March 23-25 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
4. Sky High Adidas 16 Black (4)
Next: Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division vs. Sky High Adidas 18 Black on Court 3 at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
5. (tie) SPVB 16 C-Fed (5)
Next: JVA World Challenge April 6-8 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
5. (tie) lllini Elite 16 Cardinal (5)
Next: JVA World Challenge April 6-8 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
Other teams to watch: Fusion 16 Red, Cyclones 16 Black Adidas, Uno Girls 16 Elite, 1st Alliance 16 Black, 1st Alliance 16 Red, SPVB 16 Red, Club 1 16 Red, New WAVE 16 Tsunami, Rolling Thunder 16 Blue, IPV (Illinois Performance Volleyball) 16HP, D1 Elite G16 Black.
1. Lions 15-1 (1)
Next: Mideast Qualifier March 23-25 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
2. SPVB 15 Elite (2)
Note: SPVB 15 Elite went 5-2 in the 35-team 16 Open field at the Ultra Ankle Bluegrass Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, last weekend, finishing ninth and winning the Silver after losing to Milwaukee Sting 15 Gold 25-19, 21-25, 15-13 in its pool play finale and to NKYVC 15-1 Tsunami 25-15, 25-15 in a challenge match to get into the Gold bracket.
Next: Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open division vs. SPVB 15 C-Fed on Court 2 at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
3. SPVB 15 C-Fed (3)
Next: Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open division vs. SPVB 15 Elite on Court 2 at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 15, at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
4. Sky High Adidas 15 Black (4)
Next: 18 Nike Mideast Qualifier March 23-25 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
5. Fusion 15 Red (5)
Next: Great Lakes Power League 16 Super Open division vs. FC Elite 16 Navy on Sunday, April 15, at 8:00 a.m. on Court 5 at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center.
Other teams to watch: Wildcat Jrs. 15 Black, Lions 15 Red, Michio Chicago 15 National, Uno Girls 15 Elite, Ultimate G15 Gold, Pipeline 15 Nike, Illini Elite 15 Black, Chicago Elite 15 Elite, Lions Woodridge 15-1, ESVBC Cougars 15U.
Illprepvb.com’s look at the 2018 Illinois high school boys’ volleyball season continues today with Barrington, Wheaton North, Addison Trail, Glenbard East and boys’ volleyball newcomer Tinley Park.
Since 2000, Barrington has become one of the dominant programs in the northwest suburbs, winning eight regional titles and qualifying for the state quarterfinals twice, finishing second in 2005 and third in 2012.
Last season, the Broncos went 30-7 and won the Mid-Suburban League title, but lost 28-26, 25-22 in the sectional semifinals to Hersey, a team it had beaten two weeks earlier 25-18, 25-19 in the conference championship game.
Gone from that team is 6-foot-6 middle hitter Josh Babicz, a freshman tight end at Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) national champion North Dakota State. Babicz was one of the top middle hitters in the state last spring, leading Barrington in kills and blocks.
But four starters do return for 13th-year coach Rob Ridenour, led by all-MSL selections 6-2 setter Evan Carroll (Pipeline 18 Swoosh) and 6-6 outside hitter Michael O’Toole (Pipeline 18 Nike), as well as 6-4 junior outside hitter Gabe Hartke (Pipeline 17 Nike), a who was named to the USAV Select Continental Team.
“O’Toole and Hartke have both gotten taller, stronger and significantly more skilled since last season, and Carroll is more physical at the setting position while understanding and seeing the game with maturity,” Ridenour said.
Also back are 6-4 middle hitter Petar Lumovic (SPVB 18 Alpha), 5-9 libero Thomas Chapman (Pipeline 18 Nike), 6-3 opposite hitter Dillon Davey (Adversity 18 Black), 5-10 libero Cameron Sorce, 6-2 middle hitter Ryan Brown and 5-8 libero Hari Ramakrishnan (Pipeline 18 Swoosh).
They will be joined by newcomers 5-10 junior libero Kyle Vasquez, 6-1 junior middle hitter Ricky Gibson, 6-2 sophomore opposite Ben Ridgway, 6-3 junior middle hitter Luke Kolder, 6-4 junior middle hitter Veron Phillips, 5-10 junior setter Matt Sarnowski, 6-2 junior outside hitter Michael Hendrickson and 6-foot junior outside Chris Babicz (Pipeline 17 Nike).
"If this group can commit to getting a little bit better each day, I think they will like the level at which they are playing by May,” Ridenour said. “While we are inexperienced in the middle and opposite positions, we have good athletes who are committed to getting better.”
Youth and injuries – four players went down during the final nine matches of the season – led to a 16-21 finish including a 2-7 mark in the DuPage Valley Conference for coach John Noe IV and the Falcons. Three of those seven conference losses were three-setters.
This spring, healthy and a year older, wiser and stronger, Wheaton North expects to return to the upper echelon of the conference and vie for regional and sectional titles.
“Winning at least one of our scheduled tournaments is high on our priority list,” Noe said. “We also aim to make a deep run in the IHSA state tournament.”
Among the players who could make that possible is 6-6 middle hitter Daniel Duggan (Hitmen 18 Elite), an all-DVC selection who had 217 kills, 70 blocks and 20 aces in 2017 and is committed to Division II McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois.
Other veterans include 6-foot libero Nick Sinn (256 digs, 36 aces), 6-7 junior outside hitter Benett Schreiner (144 kills, 32 blocks, 79 digs, 26 aces), 6-6 middle blocker Paxton Kocher (109 kills, 43 blocks) and 6-5 outside hitter Drew Ogilvie (82 kills, 18 blocks, 31 digs).
Newcomer Matt Frank will be handed the reins of the offense.
One of the top middle hitters in the state, Colton Noel, is gone. But that’s about the only loss Addison Trail suffered through graduation.
Ten players, including seven who have been on the varsity for three years, are back for coach Chad Grant who guided the Blazers to a 21-17 record (3-3 in the West Suburban Gold) and a regional championship.
“We will need to spread the ball around on offense to be effective,” Grant said. “It will take a total team effort to replace the offense of Noel. There should be a lot of competition for playing time.”
Spreading the ball around will be the responsibility of 6-5 setter Jacob Grygo (623 assists, 200 kills, 150 digs, 47 blocks and 22 aces in 2017), one of the best in the business and a Division II Aquinas College recruit.
His options include 5-11 opposite hitter David Zielinski (129 kills, 29 aces, 23 bocks, 132 digs in 2017), 6-3 outside hitter Michael Pudlo (104 kills after missing half the season), 5-10 outside Mikey Strycharz (65 kills, 13 aces), 5-10 outside Michael Chiaramonte and 6-2 junior middle Justin Werderitch.
“Pudlo is physical and can play both outside and middle, but it will take him some time to get back to his normal level of play,” Grant said.
Bryan Florian (125 digs, 10 aces) will anchor the defense along with 5-9 Christopher Garcia and 5-8 junior Michael Tulke, while 6-3 John Baumgrartner should help in the middle.
“We have several different lineups that I would feel comfortable with if we had to play today,” Grant said. “It's just a matter of figuring out who fits together best and who plays what position. As always, our expectation is to be competitive come playoff time.”
Eight players return from last year’s 28-9 team that swept all 10 Upstate Eight Conference matches and reached the regional finals before bowing to Neuqua Valley 14-25, 25-23, 25-17.
Top returnees for veteran coach Marci Maier include Carson Brandt (Hitmen 17 Elite), a 6-4 junior opposite hitter who had 110 kills and 40 blocks as a sophomore, and 6-1 outside hitter Fil Kwidzinski (91 kills, 19 blocks), who is recovering from an ACL injury suffered in football but is expected back sometime this spring.
Also back are defensive specialist Peter Surlina (186 digs, 14 aces), 6-1 outside hitter Matt Smith (27 kills, 9 bocks), junior defensive specialist Nick O'Brien (139 digs, 4 aces), junior libero and SPVB 18 Lenny standout Jacob Bojan (139 digs, 8 aces), setter John DeCicco and 6-4 middle hitter Aidan DeLeon.
Rounding out the roster will be sophomore setter Patrick Campuzano, junior setter Brenden Cardott, setter/opposite Preston Cox, junior outside Kurt Csech, 6-2 junior middle Clay Hohman (out 4-6 weeks with a broken finger), 6-4 junior middle Cal Iwinski, junior outside Adler Joiner, and defensive specialists Kevin Saxon and Jack Wozniak.
“We are very excited about this year,” Maier said. “With Kwidzinski out recovering from ACL surgery, we kept a large team this year. We have many versatile players that can play multiple positions and that will help until we can get Fil back.
“We have our entire defensive crew back from last year, so we should be strong defensively,” she added. “We are encouraged by what we have seen so far. We hope to be balanced offensively and defensively by the end of the season.”
South Suburban Conference member Tinley Park will field a boys’ volleyball team for the first time in school history this spring under the guidance of former Richards head girls’ volleyball coach Geri Kizior.
“Our boys are enthusiastic and excited to be a part of this new memory for the school,” Kizior said. “Their court knowledge, strategy and team collaboration have grown exponentially in the very short time we have been working together.”
Kizior will build her team around 6-1 rightside/outside hitter Joel Zackavec, also a Titans football standout, and sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Eli Williams.
“I am so impressed with the boys’ drive, dedication and willingness to learn about technique,” Kizior said. “These gentlemen have the potential to do great things just through their determination.”
"Thank you for challenging the Viper, and enjoy your day at Six Flags."
John Folts has heard that recorded message ... or one just like it ... more than 100 times.
Since he was a young boy, Folts liked watching things move ... especially things that moved fast. Like roller coasters.
“I liked to watch things move and see how they worked,” said Benet's 6-foot-3 outside hitter. “One the first video games I got was a roller coaster designing game. I feel like that helped fuel my passion.”
As Folts got older, he watched television programs about amusement parks and roller coasters.
“I thought roller coasters were cool,” he said. “I liked to watch them work, but I wasn't tall enough to go on them. Once I was tall enough, I really loved it. I love the thrill. It was something you really can't find anywhere else.”
Folts’ first roller coaster experience was at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
“It was Goofy's Barnstormer,” he said. “My family would go to Disney World every year. I wasn’t tall enough to ride roller coasters the first couple of years we went. Then I didn’t know if I wanted to. But I said, ‘Why not?' I really enjoyed it. It has gone up from there.”
Since that first experience, Folts has challenged more than 115 different roller coasters across the country, from California to New York with stops at Ohio and New Jersey in between.
“Wherever my family goes for vacation, I always try to find an amusement park nearby,” he said.
His favorite roller coasters include Millennium Force at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, a park that features 18 world-class roller coasters, and El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, home to Kingda Ka, at 456-feet and with a maximum speed of 128 miles per hour the tallest and second-fastest roller coaster in the world.
He did not have to travel far, however, to find his least favorite ride.
“Iron Wolf at Six Flags Great America (in Gurnee, Illinois),” Folts said. “It’s not there anymore. I think it’s been moved to Six Flags America (in Woodmore, Maryland). I believe it's called Apocalypse now. It just hurt.”
But it did not hurt as much as Benet’s recent losses in the regional semifinals – 25-23, 29-27 to Plainfield North in 2017 and 25-19, 24-26, 25-17 to Neuqua Valley in 2016.
“They hurt because you're not able to play again for the rest of the season,” the third-year varsity veteran said. “You have to wait another nine months to play for your high school.”
Folts began playing volleyball at St. Petronille School in Glen Ellyn, where his teammates included Glenbard West’s 6-7 outside hitter Stone Metz.
“Pretty much every guy played in fifth grade,” said Folts, who played club at Sports Performance with Glenbard West’s 6-10 JT Ardell before moving to Breaker Volleyball Club (formerly Naperville Volleyball Club) during his sophomore year.
“I decided I wanted to play,” he added. “I really liked it. Both of my seasons on the varsity at Benet have been incredibly fun. We all have fun together and we've been pretty good throughout the years. Winning is fun.”
Folts has been the fuel driving Benet’s success. As a junior, he had 250 kills, 14 aces, 15 blocks and 77 digs to lead the Redwings to a 25-11 record including a 7-1 mark in the rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference.
“John is a huge leader on the court,” Benet coach Jeff Steinberg said. “He's always making sure that everyone is focused on the same goal. He brings people up when they make errors on the court. He brings a lot of energy when he makes big plays. He gets everyone excited.
“His volleyball IQ is very high,” the coach added. “He’s seen a lot. And with it being his third year on the varsity, he’s gotten to work with other players and has an idea how other people have led the team. That's helped him lead these guys.”
Next year, Folts will forego volleyball and pursue academics at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, where his older sister, Jacquelyn, a National Merit Scholarship Program semifinalist and former softball standout at Benet, is currently a student.
“My cousin went there when I was 9 or 10 years old,” he said. “I just started rooting for the Fighting Irish. It was like, ‘Yeah, I could see myself going there.’ Of all the schools I visited, it’s the one I loved the most.
“Academically, it ranks very high,” added Folts, who scored a 35 on his ACT and thinks he might have received one “B” at Benet to mar what has been an otherwise unblemished record. “It will help me take the next step in the future.”
But before he embarks on his college career, however, Folts has some goals to achieve on the volleyball court.
“I want to win,” he said. “I don't know how good the teams in our sectional are, but I'd like to win the sectional and win state. It will be tough. I don't know how good everyone else will be, but I want to win state.”
Winning state … another roller coaster Folts plans to conquer.
The 2018 Illinois high school boys’ volleyball season kicked off with the first day of practice Monday. Here’s a look at Loyola, St. Patrick, Stagg, Leyden, Montini and Mundelein.
Loyola will seek its seventh regional title in the last 10 years – and possibly more – behind a veteran crew led by three-year starter Jack Howard.
Howard, a 6-foot-5 junior outside hitter and an all-Catholic League selection the past two years who plays club for Adversity 18 Purple, played with the USA boys select A1 national training team over the summer. Last spring, he led the Ramblers with 303 kills, 40 blocks and 32 aces.
Also back from last year’s team that went 21-16 (4-4 in Catholic League Blue division) is second-year starter Drake Johnson (D1 Elite 18 Green), a 6-7 rightside hitter who had 97 kills as a junior, 6-3 middle hitter Matt Wiertel (Pipeline 18 Swoosh) and 6-1 junior outside Henry Clemons (Chicago Bounce 17 Red), who had 89 kills and 37 aces last spring.
Newcomers include 6-4 middle hitter Nick Howard, who should solidify the front line with decent size and athleticism, and 6-3 sophomore setter/outside hitter John Hitt (D1 Elite 16 Green), who was named an All-American for his club team over the summer.
Loyola will have to contend with Brother Rice in the Catholic League and neighborhood rivals New Trier and Glenbrook North on the North Shore.
“We look to get back to the top of the Catholic League and contend for a sectional championship,” said coach Lionel Ebeling. “Early season tournaments at Vernon Hills and Wheaton Warrenville South and a conference matchup with Brother Rice will test us in the first two weeks of the season.”
Joel Anderson’s Shamrocks finished 19-12 overall and third in the East Suburban Catholic Conference in 2017. Six starters return from a year ago hoping to bolster St. Patrick’s bid to return to the state quarterfinals for the second time in three years.
Among the veterans is 6-1 outside hitter Brett Rosenbusch (Chicago Elite B18 Elite), a four-year starter and two-time all-East Suburban Catholic Conference selection who led St. Patrick with 381 kills last season.
Also back are 6-5 outside hitter Frank Mott, a 2017 all-ESCC choice; 6-8 middle hitter and three-year starter Eric Lis; 6-5 junior middle hitter Liam White; 6-1 outside hitter Chris Lara; 5-7 libero and three-year starter Rich Hernandez; and 5-8 defensive specialist Josh Reider.
Mott, Reider and White also play club for Chicago Elite B18 Elite.
Expected to join the rotation are 5-9 setter Sean McGing (Chicago Elite B18 Black), 6-foot junior setter John Euler (Chicago Elite B18 Black) and 6-1 sophomore outside hitter Jonathan Rodriguez.
“I love these kids,” Anderson said.
Anderson also loves the future of the program.
“Rosenbusch and Lis each played on and had senior brothers (setter Blake Rosenbusch and middle hitter Pat Lis) on the team that went to Hoffman Estates in 2016,” he said. “Each have baby brothers, too, so the future is bright for the Shamrocks.”
Stagg went 15-18 overall and 1-7 in the Southwest Suburban Conference with a senior-laden team that graduated five starters.
“We will be young and inexperienced on the varsity level this year,” coach Tim Kaczmarek said. “We have only two seniors on the team, and neither of them saw much time last year due to a heavy load of seniors.”
Six-foot-2 junior outside hitter Mike Kazanecki, who plays club for Chicago Volleyball Club 17 Adidas, is the only returning starter for Kaczmarek, who will count on 5-10 outside hitter Matt Dudzinski, 6-2 middle hitter Mike Miller, 6-foot junior setter Jeff Oblazny and 5-10 sophomore middle hitter Owen Erickson.
Leyden won its first regional championship since 2012 last spring, defeating Fenwick 27-25, 21-25, 25-19. With three returning players and some talented newcomers, the Eagles hope to build upon last year’s success (18-15 overall, 3-2 in the West Suburban Gold).
“We have a lot of player returning with experience and a talented group of newcomers,” coach Shelly Mueller said. “I expect to see great leadership out of our returning players, setting a competitive tone every day in practice that will make us a very competitive team this year.”
Back from last year’s group are 5-9 outside hitter Robert Elem, 6-2 middle hitter Tom Radziszewski and 5-11 junior outside hitter Jason Kemp.
Expected to join those three in the starting rotation are 5-6 junior libero Axel Castillo and 6-1 sophomore rightside hitter Tyler Morgan.
Four starters are back from the 12-16 team that went 6-0 and won the Chicago Catholic League White Division.
Head coach Brian Opoka welcomes back 5-7 junior setter Drew Vogrin, 6-4 rightside hitter Charlie Woods (SPVB 18 Echo), 6-2 outside/middle hitter Christian Navas and 5-4 sophomore libero Miles Marciniak.
Expected to join the rotation are 6-3 junior outside/middle hitter Mark Zheng, 5-10 defensive specialist Nate Lukasic and 6-1 sophomore outside/middle hitter Connor Lindemann.
“We should compete for a conference championship,” Opoka said. “Our goal is to stay competitive with every team we play.”
George Dressen begins his 17th season as boys volleyball coach and his 29th year coaching volleyball at Mundelein seeking to lead his team back to the 20-win plateau and a strong showing in the state tournament.
Six veterans return from the team that went 14-18 last spring and lost to Rolling Meadows 25-23, 25-23 in the regional quarterfinals, including 5-8 libero Ben Arebalo, 5-11 setter Steven Miritello, 5-11 outside hitter Abram Nazario, 6-2 junior middle blocker Marc Rey, 6-foot junior outside/rightside hitter Martin Carrillo and 5-10 junior outside hitter Eric Morales.
Miritello plays for Lake County VBC 18 Thunder while Carrillo competes with Lake County VBC 16 Yang during the club season.
Top newcomers for the Mustangs are 6-1 junior middle blocker Tyler Vander Ploeg, 5-9 junior outside Moises Huerta, 5-6 junior defensive specialist Joshua No, 5-10 sophomore rightside/outside hitter Samuel Jeon, 6-foot sophomore outside hitter Andrei Varanic and 5-7 junior setter Uvaldo Guzman.
Vander Ploeg plays with Lake County VBC 17 during the club season while Varanic toils for Lake County VBC 16 Storm.
The 2018 Illinois high school boys’ volleyball season kicked off with the first day of practice Monday. Here’s a look at Marist, Glenbrook North, Naperville North, St. Ignatius, Sandburg, Lyons and Neuqua Valley.
Marist perennially fields some of the top teams in the state. The RedHawks won state titles in 2002 and 2010 – stunning Wheaton Warrenville South 25-22, 25-23 to win its most recent title – and qualified for state on three other occasions.
But the emergence of Lincoln-Way North (prior to its closing) and the presence of the Lincoln-Ways, Sandburg and Brother Rice – depending how the IHSA stretches its rubber bands -- make getting out of the south suburbs problematic.
Last season, Marist went 31-7, won the East Suburban Catholic Conference and reached the sectional semifinals before falling to Sandburg 27-25, 25-15. Yet despite the loss of Jack Berglind and Mike Coogan to graduation, the RedHawks bring back a solid core of veterans.
The RedHawks will be led by 6-2 junior outside hitter Marty Jepsen, one of the top players in his class and a fixture for Ultimate 17 Gold. As a sophomore, Jepsen led Marist with 316 kills and added 228 digs and 39 blocks.
“Jepsen has established himself as a top player in his age group,” Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said. “He makes an impact in every statistical category front and back.”
Also back are 6-4 middle blocker Patrick Mahoney (Ultimate 18 Blue), who had 208 kills, 79 blocks and 19 aces in 2017, 5-10 libero Brady Mack (Ultimate 18 Blue), a 6-1 junior setter Rocky Mayer (Ultimate 17 Blue), who had 567 assists and 161 digs as a sophomore.
“Mahoney will build off a solid junior season and look to be dominant in the middle at the net, while Mack has made big strides in the offseason as a defensive/control player,” Vidovic said. “Mayer brings a rare athletic ability to the setter position.”
Marist’s biggest addition may not be on the court. Former Downers Grove North star and Lewis University All-American Greg Petty, home after suffering a knee injury while playing abroad, will serve as an assistant coach.
Does anybody get more out of less – he guided the Spartans to a second-place finish in 2012 without a single starter over 6-foot-3 – than Glenbrook North’s Chris Cooper?
He will certainly have to work his magic in 2018.
Glenbrook North was a senior-dominated team in 2017, going 28-5 and winning the Central Suburban North at 10-0 before losing to rival New Trier – a team it had beaten during the regular season -- 25-19, 20-25, 25-16 in the sectional finals.
Only four players return from last year’s roster and only one – 6-foot outside hitter Jack Ferber – saw significant playing time.
“We are replacing every starting position this season, but hopefully it will be more of a reload than a rebuild,” Cooper said. “We have talent, but it just may take some time for us to find our groove.”
The other three seniors on the roster are 6-foot setter Jackson Weil, 6-4 middle hitter Mike Roane and 5-8 libero Matt Zhang. Juniors who will compete for playing time include 6-2 outside hitter Jack Joselit, 6-foot middle hitter David Gusis, 5-8 libero Mike Zilber and 6-foot setter Daniel Lee.
Sophomores Timmy Lillig (6-4 middle hitter) and 6-3 outside Ethan Brodell could also be in the mix. Lillig, Brodell, Joselit and Lee play their club ball for Chicago Bounce Volleyball out of Deerfield.
“Our conference will be tough this year,” Cooper said. “Deerfield is the frontrunner, but we will be able to compete with most teams again this year.”
Bounce back. That’s the operative phrase at Naperville North.
“We are looking forward to a bounce back season after getting knocked out of the playoffs in the first round for the first time in program history,” said Naperville North coach Nate Bornancin, whose team slipped to 11-25 (3-5 in the DuPage Valley Conference) in 2017.
Complicating matters, however, Naperville North graduated eight seniors and lost a 6-foot-5 outside hitter to an out-of-state transfer. Only two players return, but they should help Naperville North put last season in the rearview mirror.
John Jaworski is a 5-10 junior setter/outside hitter/libero who had 479 assists, 165 digs, 61 kills and 13 aces as a sophomore. Six-foot-6 middle blocker Chase Olson contributed 83 kills and 47 blocks. Both play club at Sports Performance.
“Jaworski is one of the top all-around players in the conference and can contribute as a passer, setter or attacker,” Bornancin said. “The guys will be looking to John and Chase for their on-the-court leadership.”
Two of the younger players who will look to Jaworski and Olson for guidance are 6-2 sophomore outside hitter Zach Vaughn and 5-10 junior libero Michael Tang.
“What this group lacks in experience they will make up for with hustle, determination and heart,” Bornancin said. “Defense and a strong serve receive will help anchor our team as we grind out wins.”
The Wolfpack won their first conference title in school history when they went 10-0 – and defeated Providence and Montini in their crossover matches – in the Chicago Catholic League’s Green division.
Four veterans return for coach Erik Eastman, including D1 Chicago 18 White teammates and twin 6-6 outside hitters Jack Fyda and Harrison Detroy.
Also back are 6-3 middle hitter Andrew Kaminski and 5-1`0 junior setter John Ross, who could be joined in the starting lineup by 6-foot sophomore libero Michael Eastman (Ultimate 16 Gold), 6-2 junior middle/rightside Walt Fieweger and 6-1 junior rightside/setter Henry Zapata.
St. Ignatius went 22-9 in 2017 and reached the sectional semifinals before losing to top-seeded Hinsdale Central 25-17, 25-13.
“We should make another run at winning the CCL Green division for the second straight year and a regional title,” Eastman said. “This will be one of the best teams we have had at St. Ignatius.”
Two is the magic number at Sandburg, where coach David Vales begins his second year in his second go-round with Sandburg looking for his second appearance at state.
Two starters are back from last year’s 27-11 team that won a regional before losing to Brother Rice in the sectional title match in two sets, 25-18, 25-23.
Those two veterans are 6-8 middle hitter and Trinity Christian recruit Jake Ostema (134 kills, 59 blocks in 2017) and 6-3 opposite hitter Will Marks, an Ultimate 18 Black club player who had 152 kills as a junior.
Expected to join the starting rotation are 6-4 junior setter Cameron Petrusevski, 6-1 junior outside hitter Luka Vuksnic and 6-1 junior outside Cort Jensen.
“We graduated both outsides and our setter, so it will take a little time to gel,” Vales said. “Our reliance on juniors and a couple of underclassmen will help solidify the program for the future.”
The Joann Pyritz farewell tour begins March 31 at the Conant Invitational.
Pyritz, who announced her retirement at the end of the season, was a member of the school’s first state girls’ championship team in 1976. She took over the program in 1989 and promptly led Lyons to its second state title.
In 2011, she was named National Coach of the Year by Prepvolleyball.com after guiding Lyons to a 41-1 record and a third state title.
As the boys’ coach, Pyritz has amassed a 567-306-6 record during her 24-year career and led Lyons to five state appearances including a third-place finish in 2002. The Lions have also finished fourth three times and reach the state quarterfinals in 2016.
Last spring, the Lyons’ boys went 22-14 and claimed a regional title before losing to Riverside-Brookfield 23-25, 25-19, 25-20 in the DeLaSalle sectional. The Lions hope to earn their outgoing coach a little more hardware in 2018.
Among the returnees from last spring is 6-4 outside hitter Sean Ryan, a four-year varsity player and Ohio State recruit who was a member of the U.S. Boys Youth National Team in 2016. The Adversity 18 Purple club player had 166 kills, 10 aces, 96 digs and 26 solo blocks as a junior.
Also back from a year ago are two-year starter Robert Spencer, a 6-5 opposite hitter who had 73 kills and 25 solo blocks in 2017, and 6-3 middle blocker and two-year starter Matt Molly, who collected 84 kills and 43 solo blocks as a junior.
Veteran coach Eric Mendoza may be playing it cool about his team’s potential in 2018, but nobody else is buying his silence.
Four starters are back from the team that finished 27-9 and advanced to the sectional semifinals before losing to senior-laden Downers Grove North 25-22, 25-21, including 6-8 junior setter Kevin Kauling.
Kauling, who has committed to Lewis University, had 492 assists in 2017 despite missing seven matches will illness. The Sports Performance 18 Elite standout also led the Wildcats with 42 aces, and had 45 digs, 46 kills and 37 blocks.
Kauling’s favorite target this spring will likely be Jeremy Grove, a 6-3 outside hitter who plays club for Sports Performance’s second 18s team – SPVB 18 Lenny. Grove had 291 kills in 2017 and was an all-tournament selection at the Tiger Classic and Benet invitational.
Also back are 5-7 libero Francisco Comas (SPVB 18 Lenny) and 6-7 junior middle hitter Jeremy Cardenas (SPVB 18 Charlie).