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updated: 8/25/2012 7:26 PM

Girls volleyball: Scouting Northwest

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MID-SUBURBAN EAST

Buffalo Grove

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Coach: Matt Priban (first season)

Last year's record: 17-14, 7-3

Graduated players: Victoria Ito, Kelly Kowal, Megan Lundgren, Katie Okamoto, Liz Tiedje, Paige Smith, Lauren Wells, Mary Guth, Kathy Hampton

Returning varsity players: Alyssa Mills (6-1 Sr. RH), Mary Zawlocki (6-0 Sr. MB), Alaina Murphy (5-11 Jr. OH), Bailey North (6-1 Sr. MB).

Newcomers: Monica Browne (5-6 So. OH), Marie Georgoulis (5-8 So. S), Rebecca Katz (5-8 So. MB), Lea Masciopinto (5-8 Jr. L), Celine Murphy (5-5 Jr. DS), Colleen Nowlan (5-11 Jr. MB), Sarah Rivera (5-7 Jr. OH), Katie Schumacher (5-5 Sr. DS), Katelyn Sommers (5-8 So. S)

Outlook: Priban is beginning his fourth year teaching math at Buffalo Grove and his first as the varsity girls volleyball coach. For the last three years, the Illinois State graduate coached the sophomore girls. As a student in high school, he spent four years in the Niles North boys program and ended up playing club volleyball for two years at ISU. He says his first varsity BG girls team has worked extremely hard over the offseason trying to get prepared for this fall. "We are looking for a lot out of our returning players Alaina Murphy (outside hitter) and Mary Zawlocki (middle blocker)," Priban said. "We have an extremely young team this year, so we are looking to build up as much experience as possible and expect to be competitive. This group has been extremely fun to work with and made my transition into the head coaching position much easier." Priban replaces Marianne Mendoza, who retired last school year as the school's girls sports coordinator and girls volleyball coach.

Elk Grove

Coach: Stephanie Kezios (third season)

Last year's record: 11-25, 2-8

Graduated players: Alyssa Conley, Krista Soesbe, Samantha Hopkins, Brittany Tickner, Melanie Jarocz, Mallorie DeWitt

Returning players: Bridget Chaput (6-1 Sr. OPP), Diamond Boyd (5-10 Sr. OH), Christine Juha (5-7 Sr. S), Katie Prochenski (5-4, Sr. DS), Emily Wary (5-6 Sr. OH), Kerry Souder (5-5 Jr. S), Becca Siwicki (5-11 Sr. OPP).

Newcomers: Martyna Sopalska (5-8, Sr. MH), Kelsey Conley (5-5 Jr. DS), Taylor Socha (6-0 Jr. MH), Amber Lindfors (6-4 So. MH)

Outlook: Kezios welcomes back returning starters Boyd, Wary, Juhas, Souder and Lindfors from last year's squad. Boyd, an all-area performer in volleyball and basketball, led the Grens in kills (167) and blocks (82) last fall while also collecting 82 digs and 29 aces. "We are really looking forward to this season," Kezios said. "Our senior class is the most committed, competitive group of seniors I've had. We're looking toward Diamond and Emily to have stand out years for us, as they are both returning offensive weapons." Kezios also believes Siwicki, Chaput, Socha, Sopalska to be big, reliable additions to the front row. "Katie (Prochenski) and Kelsey (Conley) are great, defensively," she added. "We've been looking very scrappy in the recent weeks. Christine (Juhas) and Kerry (Souder) are returning setters for us so I'm excited to see them run our offense, as more experienced players." Lindfors will be out for a few weeks at the beginning of the season, due to an unfortunate health diagnosis. "We look forward to her return in mid-September, hopefully," Kezios said.

Hersey

Coach: Nancy Lill (25th season)

Last year's record: 31-6, 10-0

Graduated players: Nicole Havel, Allison Johnson, Lindsay Bovin, Kristen Pedersen, Kelsey Haas, Sam Moran, Maggie Hogen

Returning players: Abby Fesl (5-10 Sr. S), Taylor Schill (5-6 Sr. L), Erica Hill (6-0 Sr. MB),

Anna Mullen-Muhr (5-10 Sr OH), Allie Mueller (5-4 Sr. DS), SR- DS, Katie Krebs (5-7 Jr. DS)

Newcomers: Julia Swan (5-9 Sr. RH), Michelle Brown (5-8 Sr. OH), Megan Solans (5-8, Jr. OH), Carly Pisano (5-8 Jr. S), Jola Ignaciuk (5-9, Jr. MB), Courtney Stedman (5-10, So. OH), Gabriella Olhava (5-11, So, MB), Liz Fuerst (5-10, Fr. RH-MB)

Outlook: Coming off another 31-win season, the Huskies looked primed for another stellar fall with the return of many key players. Fesl is one of the top setters in the state and Schill is a top libero. Both are three-year starters for Lill, who needs 19 wins to join an elite list of girls volleyball coaches who have won 800 matches in Illinois. "Our defense is going to be a definite strength with Taylor, Allie Mueller (three-year varsity player) and Katie Krebs," Lill said. "We graduated our big swings and need to reload offensively." Fesl handed out 759 assists in the 2011 regular season with an amazing .427 efficiency. She also led the team with 39 aces and played solid defense with 230 digs. She has committed to Northern Florida. "It makes the task easier with Abby giving our hitters the ball," Lill said. Mullen-Muhr and Stedman can be threats at the net. Hill returns to the middle and Lill welcomes newcomer O'Hara, a sophomore middle who has shown some outstanding potential. Swan or Fuerst will handle the right side. "Both have shown they can play," Lill said. "We will have a nice blend of seniors with some very young players. We will improve as the season progresses and we get more experience. We hope to defend our East Division championship and return to the conference championship."

Prospect

Coach: Mike Riedy (19th season)

Last year's record: 11-20, 4-6

Graduated players: Danielle Siwik, Kelly Ziegenfuss, Shea Gallus, Sage Rebecca, Katie Canonaco, Maura Benson, Michele Di Fatta

Returning players: Lauren Yearian (5-9 Sr. OH), Annie Geweniger (5-4 Sr. DS-L), Amanda Cipek (5-8 Sr. RS), Carissa Weis (5-6 Sr. DS), Carly Thompson (6-1 Jr. MB)

Newcomers: Allie Skowron (5-11 Jr. MB), Maggie Haaning (5-4 Sr. S), Bree Geweniger (5-3 Sr. S), Christine Hood (5-3 Sr. DS), Baylee Porter (5-6 Sr. DS), Sam Loebbaka (5-7 Sr. OH), Julie Mazur (5-5 Sr. OH), Josie Sajbel (5-9 Jr. OH), Holly Hunt (6-0 Sr. RS), Mary Liberty (5-8 Sr. MB).

Outlook: Although Riedy enters his 19th season with 12 seniors on his roster, many have very little varsity experience. "Therefore, I believe we will take our lumps early but as time goes on we will start to get in the groove and surprise some people," Riedy said. "It should be a great season with a great bunch of ladies." Yearian is a returning outside hitter who Riedy expects to be the Knights' go-to attacker. Yearian and Geweniger have the most varsity experience. Riedy has a number of talented defenders who will compete for the libero jersey. Thompson has improved tremendously in the off-season and should be a force in the middle while Skowron is the second middle. Haaning and Geweniger take over setting responsibilities this year replacing Danielle Siwik and Shea Gallus. "They have big shoes to fill but I have no doubt that they will step up and take charge," Riedy said. Hunt is expected to lead the charge as a right-side hitter. For the first time in 16 seasons, Riedy will not have Daria Schaffeld assisting in the program as the former Fremd volleyball player is expecting her first child in September. It will be the first time Schaffeld has not been involved in the sport either playing or coaching since the fifth grade when she started club volleyball under former Palatine girls volleyball coach Ken Sutula.

Rolling Meadows

Coach: Joe DiSilvio (first season)

Last year's record: 19-14, 6-4

Graduated players: Olivia Falk, Natalie Canizzo, Veronica Drabowksi, Julie Unti, Kelly Sarussi, Sarah Kazanow, Abbey Hill

Returning players: Morgan Keller (6-0 Sr. MB), Rachel Mickey (6-0 Sr. MB), Ashley Montanez (6-0 Jr. OH), Jenny Vliet (6-2 Jr. S-OH), Amy Wenzel (5-5 Sr. OH)

Newcomers: Sam Anderson (5-5 Sr. S), Martha Gasiewski (5-7 Sr. DS), Mia Harper (5-4 Jr. DS-OH), Sami Kay (5-4 Jr. S), Hanna Mickey (6-0 Fr. OH), Hannah Powers (5-7 Sr. OH), Katie Shewmon (5-11 Jr. MB), Grace Skorin (5-7 Jr DS), Lauren Sokolowski (5-7 Jr. DS)

Outlook: DiSilvio, who coached at Elk Grove from 2001-2009 (156-134 record and a regional crown in 2005), takes over a team that returns a pair of all-area players in Mickey and Vliet. Mickey led the MSL with 148 blocks last fall and she put down a team-high 118 kills. Vliet handed out 334 assists while also collecting 73 blocks, 177 digs and 18 aces as a 93 percent server. She was also an all-area forward for the MSL champion girls basketball team. At 6-foot-1, Vliet is one of five 6-footers on the roster. "This is one of the tallest teams I have been fortunate enough to coach,' DiSilvio said. Montanez, Keller and Wenzel are also returning varsity players. "The girls are doing a great job adapting to a few changes in the offense while playing some different positions. There is a good deal of competition among the team, which is providing for some great scrimmages. We are still trying to figure out which offense meets our strengths, but overall we are looking forward to playing."

Wheeling

Coach: Jason Kopkowski (fifth season)

Last year's record: 7-29, 1-9

Graduated Players: Emma Jensen, Joanna Stankowicz, Kim Voltaire, Nia Evans, Mayra Ocampo, Sydney Keith, Deanna Hanna, Charlene Figueroa, Kellie Kuzmanic

Returning players: Allison Talken (5-7 Sr. OH), Haley Singer (5-7 Jr. OH), Sydney Keith (5-10 Sr. MB), Elizabeth Smith (5-10 Jr. OH), Jessi Zuba (5-11 Sr. OH), Cayla Iwaniuk (6-0 Sr. MB), Amanda Mullin (5-9 Sr. S), Sara Kern (5-8 Sr. OH), Caitlyn Slussar (5-6 Jr. L), Lindsay Figueroa (5-2 Jr. S), Emily Walker (5-8 Sr. OH), Deanna Kuzmanic (5-10 So. S)

Newcomers: Cali Paris (5-1 Jr. DS), Alexa Laureano (5-3, So. L-DS), Syndey Kieth (5-10 Sr. MB), Yesenia Matinez (5-1 Jr. L-DS), Sabrina Semeria (5-5 So. S), Brittany Roman (5-11 Jr. MB), Sammi Alexander (5-6 Jr. OH), Kaeleigh Willming (5-6 Jr. OH), Nikki Mikosz (5-3 So. OH), Lani Greenberg (6-1 So. MB), Hailey Dammeier (5-8 So. OH), Nisha Karwal (5-4 Jr. OH), Rekha Varghese (5-4 Jr. OH)

Outlook: Despite graduating all-area volleyball/basketball standout Kellie Kuzmanic and eight other seniors from the program, Kopkowski believes he has a solid core of girls returning. One of them is Keith, who is back for her third varsity campaign. "I expect Sydney to lead on and off the court, as well as make a significant impact in every match that we play," Kopkowksi said. Mullin, Zuba and Kern return for their second season after playing a significant amount of volleyball during the off-season through clubs and other leagues. "They will see a significant amount of playing time, which will lead to positive results," Kopkowski said. Sophomores Kuzmanic and Dammeier, who both were members of the Elite Eight girls basketball team last winter, will be making their varsity debuts. "Both still have a lot to learn, but will help this team move to the next level with their athleticism and skill-set," Kopkowski said. Smith, Slussar, Talken and Walker also gained a lot of experience in the off-season. Iwaniuk adds height and a strong attack to the front row. Singer will have the role of utility player. "I am looking forward to a successful season," Kopkowksi added. "Within our program we have a number of girls competing for the same position and playing time. Every day the energy levels are high and the effort of each girl is at 100 percent. We expect to improve on our overall record, conference record, and continue to make it further in the state playoffs then the previous year."

MID-SUBURBAN WEST

Barrington

Coach: Rob Ridenour (second season)

Last year's record: 28-8, 10-0

Graduated players: Lauren Dunseith, Amanda Dee, Madison Keller, Peyton Lang, Olivia Szuszkiewicz, Kaitlin Koenig, Natasha Singh

Returning players: Claire Waliczek (5-7 Jr. S), Emily Casaletto (5-6 Jr. L), Selina Jaramillo (5-11 Sr. MH), Lauren Shechtman (6-1 Sr. OH), Christy Roney (5-10 Jr. OH-OPP), Emily Watkins (5-8 Jr. OH-L), Julia Thompson (6-0, Sr. OH)

Newcomers: Maggie Daleen (5-10, Jr. MH), Nikki Nixon (5-7 Sr. L), Chase Kingwill (6-0 Jr. MH), Sarah Baldwin (5-11 Sr. OPP), Ellie Lauderback (5-7, Jr. L), Megan Talbot (6-2 Fr. OPP), Nicole Amato (5-8 Sr. OH), Katie Clement (6-0 Fr. MH), Christi Seibt (5-6 Sr. S)

Outlook: Thompson (211 kills, 263 digs, 23 aces, 30 blocks) and Shechtman (181 kills, 27 aces and 67 blocks) return as all-area selections for the defending MSL champions. Peyton Lang (214 kills) was also an all-area player for the Fillies last season but her family has moved to Michigan. Joining Thompson and Shechtman as returning starters are Waliczek, Casaletto and Watkins. Casaletto and Amato saw significant playing time. "We return a solid group this year including Julia and Lauren, who could be two of the better players in the area," Ridenour said. "Along with those two, Roney has looked really explosive in the preseason and I'm excited about our offensive potential." Casaletto, Amato and Watkins provide the Fillies with a lot of ball control and defense. Waliczek and Seibt have made a lot of progress in the offseason and give Barrington a pair of solid setters. "Our middle position will be competitive with as many as five players competing for playing time," Ridenour said. "The girls are very excited for the season to start and we have a great energy in the gym right now."

Conant

Coach: Peggy Scholten (36th season)

Last year's record: 17-20, 4-6

Graduated players: Allie Bauch, Sam Armando, Morgan Peterson, Jessica Kovar, Michelle Lauterbach, Megan Reff, Brittany Hoffman, Rachael Yordon

Returning players: Taylor Levitt (5-4 Sr. L-S), Suzi Loznjakovic (5-2 Sr. S), Anita Kajewski (5-3 Sr. DS), Jenn Donnell (5-11, Jr. OH-MB)

Newcomers: Saori Ishizuka (5-6 Sr. S), Danielle Sortino (6-0 Jr. MB), Sarah Manzcko (5-10 Jr. MB), Sarah Mazurek (5-8 Jr. S-RS), Drea Catalano (5-7 Jr. OH-RS), Stephanie Kosrow (5-5 Jr. OH-DS), Elisa Ambrose (5-6 So. DS-S), DeeDee Durr (5-9 So. OH), Katie Lomas (5-9 So. OH-MB), Alissa Wachal (5-9 So. OH-RS)

Outlook: As she begins her 36th season in charge of the Cougars girls volleyball program, coach Scholten's varsity features a small cast of returning players who will be complemented with a large group of talented multisport athletes. "This is a very unselfish group of girls willing to cross train in various positions to fill the needs of the team," Scholten said. Seniors Levitt (four-year varsity starting defensive player, who also set in a 6-2 offense last year) and Loznjakovic (set in a 6-2 offense last year) are well-respected captains who have set an upbeat and positive tone for the Cougars while their teammates compete for starting and support/reserve roles. Donnell is a three-year starter while Kajewski played a reserve role on defense last season. "The energy in the gym is exciting and contagious," Scholten said.

Fremd

Coach: Curt Pinley (15th season)

Last season's record: 26-10, 7-3

Graduated seniors: Rachel Doering, Taryn Lempa, Kelly Doherty, Jessi Wiedemann

Returning Players: Kendall Shoaf (Sr. MH-OH), Marilyn Lortz (Sr. S), Claire Brady (Sr. MB), Nicole Obos (Sr. OH), Nina Scott (Sr. DS-L), Lane Hindenburg (So, OH), Christine Cammenga (Sr. S-DS)

Newcomers: Kaylynn Pfister (Sr. OH), Maisie Koo (So. MB), Brianna Taylor (Sr. DS), Aubrey Stegich (So. DS), Arianna Messner (Jr. OH), Amy Anderson (Jr. OH)

Outlook: The Vikings took a big setback when Rebecca Clarke suffered a knee injury toward the end of the summer which will sideline her for the season. An all-area hitter as a junior, Clarke clicked for a team-high 160 kills while serving at a 93 percent clip with 31 aces last fall. "Without Rebecca, we need to have some people step up to replace her presence on the floor, which will be a difficult task," said Pinley, who is 17 wins shy of 300 for his career as a girls coach (more than 650 combined with boys coaching). "Looking forward, we really want to improve on last season. We have set some goals and I know this group will work hard to achieve them." Scott, an all-area libero, is one of six seniors returning with experience. She was the anchor to the back row last fall, leading the Vikings with 111 digs while serving 97 percent with 12 aces. "This group of seniors has been successful throughout their years here at Fremd," Pinley said. "They are a very hard-working group and know what it takes in order to succeed." Hindenburg was one of the top freshman middles in the area last fall. Pinley feels the overall team chemistry is some of the best he's ever had in his 15 years as the Vikes coach. "That alone will take us far," he added. "We are looking forward to this season to see who we are and what we can become."

Hoffman Estates

Coach: Dan Hutton (sixth season)

Last year's record: 7-23, 0-10

Graduated players: Ali Engelhardt, Nicole Lechowicz, Mirela Lechowicz, Sam Janicki, Karina Zolp, Shannon Keane, Becky Knapik

Returning players: Brittany Williams (5-4 Sr. DS), Clare Shaffer (5-10 Jr. MB), Destinee Young (6-0 Sr. OH), Becca Stoczynski (6-0 Sr. OH), Bella Zach (5-6 Jr. DS)

Newcomers: Vivian Rios (5-3 Sr. DS), Brianne Curcio (5-9 Sr. MB), Renee Clemment (5-8 Jr. S), Sarah Willie (5-9 Jr. OH), Rachel Mirabile (5-7 Sr. OH), Crystal Zick (5-7 Sr. OH), Brittany Otto (5-7 Sr. S), Miranda Lewis (6-3 Sr. MB)

Outlook: Hutton graduated eight seniors from last year's team but he has nine eager 12th-graders ready for this fall. "They have been waiting for their chance to play on varsity and have been working hard all summer to come together as a team.," Hutton said. "They are very encouraging to each other and are progressing to where we want to be." One of those seniors, Stoczynski, is one of the top outside hitters in the MSL. Stoczynski took on a leadership role last fall, and the multisport athlete put down a team-high 181 kills along with 215 digs, 44 blocks and a .349 hitting efficiency. Young is a three-year starter and all-area forward for the Hawks girls basketball team. Shaffer suffered a season-ending injury during the first match last season. "We are excited to have her healthy again," Hutton said. Newcomers Lewis, Willie and Otto all could break into the starting lineup. "The girls' goals are to be competitive in the MSL and advance further into the state series," Hutton said. "We open with a challenging seven matches the first week of school and that hopefully lets us work out our lineup and find the best suited players for MSL competition."

Palatine

Coach: Dan Gavin (sixth season)

Last year's record: 19-17, 5-5

Graduated players: Laura Kluk, Alex Keelty, Heather Suiter, Madison Rodriguez

Returning players: Casey Dolen (5-7 Sr. L), Cayla Kendzior (5-9 Sr. DS-OH), Cassie Chaplinsky (5-10 Sr. OH-OPP), Val Soderstrom (5-11 Sr. OH-OPP), Taylor Fricano (6-3 Sr. OH-OPP), Alex Heidrich (5-9 Sr. S), Sarah Schiffner (5-9 Sr. S)

Newcomers: Kim Butler (6-1 MB), Katie Erdmann (5-10 MB), Ashly Frankenthor (5-8 DS), Amanda Engel (5-6 DS), Hannah Bridier (5-9 MB-OH)

Outlook: Gavin knows the MSL West is tough but the Pirates are hoping to contend with five returning starters, including Dolen, who will be starting her third season as the libero. Also back is Fricano, who has committed to Dayton. "The MSL is always competitive and I think this year will continue that trend," Gavin said. "There is always a lot of talent so the team that blends that talent with hard work, consistency and chemistry will likely be the team that comes out on top." Other players with starting experience for Gavin are Soderstrom, Chaplinsky and Bridier, who was called up for the regional last fall. "We have some experience coming back, especially on the pins and in the backcourt," Gavin said. "And I am very pleased with what I have seen so far."

Schaumburg

Coach: Jeanette Pancratz (22nd season)

Last year's record: 18-18, 4-6

Graduated players: Michelle Klages, Bria Hailey, Meghan Falsey, Allison McGinn, Sam Mellert, Cheyenne Pfeiffer, Jenna Gerber, Whitney Grossman.

Returning players: Kelly Koutnik (5-11 Sr. OH), Deanna Murphy (5-11 Sr. MB), Kiana Lewis 5-10 Jr. OH), Marisa Christy (5-5 Sr S)

Newcomers: Mary Camacho (5-7 Sr. RS), Laura Desautels (5-10 Sr. MB) Sarah Stuehm (5-5 Jr. L), Jada Blackwell (5-10 So. S/RS), Oyinkan Akinola (5-11 So. MB-OH), Madison Laramie (5-9 Jr. OH), Melanie Meyer (5-11 Jr. MB)

Outlook: As she begins her 22nd season directing the successful Saxons program, Pancratz welcomes back a pair of starting outside hitters in senior captain Koutnik and junior Lewis. "They are a tremendous nucleus to build our team," said Pancratz, who has won more than 715 matches in her career that includes a stint at Resurrection. Among the graduated players was all-area setter Falsey. "We are a team under construction," Pancratz added. "We are working diligently to become a team. Everyone needs to do her job. With this said, we expect to grow and develop as a team and finish strong."

Northeastern Athletic Conference

Christian Liberty

Coach: Natalie Salsgiver (fourth season)

Last year's record: 10-10

Graduated players: Rachel Sotomayor, Emily Houdek, Karla Yaskowski, Kelly Paul, Carly Baric, Jayna Rowland

Returning players: Beth Cunningham (5-9 Sr. MH), Isabella Miller (5-11 Sr. MH), Darby Calkins (5-5 Sr. L), Sarah Recker (5-6 Sr. S), Vivian Barclay (5-7 Jr. MH), Rachel Freeman (5-10 Sr. OH-MH).

Newcomers: Katelyn Carlic (5-5 So. S), Shelby Hernandez (5-10 Jr. OH), Megan Sullivan (5-7 Jr. OH), Jenna Pavlik (5-5 Jr. OH)

Outlook: Coach Salsgiver begins her fourth season directing an IHSA-affiliated girls volleyball team at Christian Liberty with her least experienced group. Cunningham, who led the Chargers in kills a year ago, and Barclay are co-captains and returning starters. "Beth provides leadership and encouragement," Salsgiver said. "She is there when the team needs her most. She always comes through. Vivian also brings a lot of leadership to the floor." Freeman also saw significant playing time in the front row last season. The Chargers won regionals in 2009 and 2010 under Salsgiver. "It's going to take a lot of hard work," Salsgiver said. "Our defense will have to win matches for us. We will do OK after we get a few matches under our belt. Then we should start clicking."

West Suburban Gold

Leyden

Coach: Danielle Kowalski (second season)

Last year's record: 14-17, 3-3

Graduated players: Jennifer Simian, Jennifer Sacksteder, Brooke Matz, April Markowski, Kinga Bielak, Danielle Zaccariello, Inez Carrasquillo

Returning players: Chrystal Arreola (5-6 Sr. L), Kelly Murphy (5-8 Jr. OH), Carly O'Kray (5-9 Jr. MH), Sarah

Newcomers: Ashley Lenon (5-7 Jr. RH), Kelly Bjorvik (5-7 Jr. S), Xochi Vega (5-5 Jr. DS), Emily Steininger (5-8 Jr. OH), Celia Colindres (5-5 Sr. DS), Alicja Dziobacka (5-9 Jr. MH), Sarah Smerz (5-5 Sr. S), Natasha Lenart (5-9 Jr. MH), Nikolina Jurisic (5-8 So. RH), Kathy Wojtulewicz (5-7 Sr. RH).

Outlook: The Eagles are young but Kowalski believes each of her four returning players will play a huge part in this team's success. Returning seniors Sarah Smerz (setter) and Chrystal Arreola (libero) will play important leadership roles on the court. Murphy, an outside hitter, should be the Eagles' biggest offensive threat. "She has the most club ball experience and has played on the varsity team since her freshmen year," Kowalski said. O'Kray will play the middle again. "She is our best blocker and will be utilized often in our offense," Kowalski said. "These four girls have worked together for three or four years and will be the core of our team this year." The Eagles also have two returning seniors, who were sidelined last year with injuries: Wojtulewicz (outside hitter) and Colindres (defensive specialist). "Both will bring confidence and maturity on and off the court," Kowalski added. Leyden's fourth-place finish in the conference last season was one of its highest in years. "Every year, our schedule is packed with some very competitive teams for both dual matches and tournament play," Kowalski said. "However, I have high expectations for this group of girls. We hope to finish above .500 overall and compete for first in our conference. It's a positive group with great determination, work ethic, and attitude."

Central Suburban North

Maine West

Coach: Randy Tiller (seventh season)

Last year's record: 3-27, 2-8

Graduated players: Katie Fitzgerald, Alyssa Bojarski, Kayla Riportella, Brynn Einecker, April Escobar.

Returning players: Ashley Collins (5-10 Sr. RS), Brittany Collins (6-0 Jr. MB), Maddie Plantz (5-8 Sr. MB), Ariel Valles (5-7 Sr. MB), Tara Nykiel (5-10 Sr. RS), Georgia Petersen (5-5 Sr. DS), Bridget Burger (5-5 Sr. DS)

Newcomers: Julia Huinker (6-3 Jr. OH), Magda Czerlonko (5-9 Jr. OH), Kassidy Riportella (5-4 Jr. S), Janna Lopez (5-2 Jr. S), Abby Donovan (5-4 Jr. DS)

Outlook: As he begins his seventh season, coach Tiller is looking forward to the return of seven varsity players. "We are blessed with seven capable, returning players who know the system, and five, quick juniors, one of whom jumps the highest on the team," Tiller said. Senior Ashley Collins will move to outside hitter and is expected to be a major contributor to the offense. Junior Brittany Collins will switch to right side where she will be a formidable block (110-inch block touch) to opposing outside hitters. Valles will remain in the middle and complete the front row. Plantz, who was second on the team in kills last season, will remain outside and is expected to lead the team this season. Huinker joins the varsity, bringing a 115-inch approach touch. She is also expected to be a kill and block leader. Setters Riportella and Lopez are two of the quickest players on the team. "They have good instincts and can dish up the sweet sauce to all of the hitters," Tiller said. Burger, the Warriors' Most Improved Player last season and Donovan will compete for rotations in the back court as defensive specialists. "With six players touching over nine feet, we expect to be strong offensively and defensively," Tiller added. "With a very quick pair of setters and hitters, the offense should be productive and entertaining."

East Suburban Catholic

St. Viator

Coach: Charlie Curtin (sixth season)

Last year's record: 7-29, 1-9

Graduated players: Stephanie Mazanek, Rachel Horvath, Lauren Falotico, Emily Williams, Olivia Nuelle, Alex Byskoshm, Evelina Wozniak

Returning players: Beth Romano (5-3 Sr. DS), Caroline Young (5-5 Sr. DS), Mary Cleary (6-2 Jr. MH), Sara Lopez (5-7 Jr. L), Megan Mueller (5-8 Jr. OH)

Newcomers: Brooke King (5-6 Jr. RH), Molly Ziegler (5-8 Jr. S), Kristen Yi (5-2 Jr. DS), Julia Aube (5-4 Jr. DS), Lauren Mroz (5-7 Jr. MH), Caitlin Bremner (5-2 Jr. DS), Kaitilin O'Brien (5-8 So. S), Jenny Brandt (5-10 Jr. RH), Kristen Abrahamson (5-8 Jr. OH).

Outlook: The Lions will be a young team and very defensive-oriented this season. "The younger players have relied heavily on the returning players for guidance and assistance," said Curtin, who graduated seven seniors. "And the older players have stepped up wonderfully. The entire team has been working hard in the offseason with our strength and conditioning coach." Cleary and Mueller should be key players as the Lions look to improve on last season. "We are in great shape," Curtin added. "That will hopefully allow us to play deep into matches."

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