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posted: 8/30/2012 5:02 PM

Scouting DuPage County girls volleyball

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  • Madeleine Payne, left and Meg DeMaar, right, of Glenbard West in action during their two-game win over Glenbard East Tuesday in Lombard.

       Madeleine Payne, left and Meg DeMaar, right, of Glenbard West in action during their two-game win over Glenbard East Tuesday in Lombard.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 

By Joshua Welge

jwelge@dailyherald.com

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Addison Trail

Coach: Dan Styler (1st year).

Last year: 18-16 overall, 4-2 (third) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to West Chicago 25-11, 25-13 in the Class 4A Geneva regional semifinal.

Top players: Sabrina Muell, Sr., OH; Viviana Hernandez, Sr., OH; Devin Fruzyna, Sr., DS; Christina Capuani, Jr., S; Katie Dzaibis, Jr., MB; Juliana Selvaggi, Jr., MB; Crystal Marinelli, Jr., DS; Nina Capuani, Fr., RS.

Scouting report: Styler reached the pinnacle of high school volleyball in his playing days. Now he tries to build his own program. The Oak Lawn native played on Marist's 2002 state championship boys team. Now in his fifth year teaching social studies at Addison Trail, he takes over the girls program after two years as freshman coach and two coaching the sophomores. Interest in volleyball appears to be emerging at the lower levels; Addison Trail had 42 freshmen try out and more than 100 girls showed up at a youth camp. "We're starting to generate a buzz," Styler said. The Blazers bring back four girls with varsity experience. Capuani was a role player running a 6-2 and with Muell are the biggest constants returning. Styler likes the focus of a group with three seniors and girls stepping into new positions. He is also thinking big picture. "Above all else, we want to develop a new culture," he said.

Benet

Coach: Brad Baker (6th year, 181-21)

Last year: 39-3 overall, 7-2 (second) in East Suburban Catholic Conference; beat Cary-Grove 25-14, 22-25, 25-16 in Class 4A championship game.

Top players: Hannah Kaminsky, Sr., S; Sheila Doyle, Sr., L; Brittany Pavich, Jr., M; Cara Mattaliano, Sr., OH; Brittany Kmieciak, Sr., L; Nikki Barnes, Sr., OH; Racheal Fara, so., M; Caileen Moran, sr., OH; Abby Willet, Sr., M.

Scouting report: An exodus of some serious offensive firepower has the defending 4A champs more under the radar than any year in recent memory. Benet graduated 10 seniors and 95 percent of its offense, and Maddie Haggerty's transfer to St. Francis left a big void. The cupboard is far from bare, though. North Carolina recruit Doyle is one of the area's better liberos, keying what should be a very good defensive Benet team. Baker calls Kaminsky a "winner" who has never lost a tournament match in high school. Boston College-bound Pavich was thrust into action because of injuries last year and will be a go-to hitter in the middle. Fara is a future star in the middle and Baker said Mattaliano has made big strides. "We still think we're pretty good," Baker said. "The fact that nobody is going to expect anything out of us motivates the girls."

Downers Grove North

Coach: Mark Wasik (5th year, 80-68).

Last year: 22-16 overall, 4-2 (tied for second) in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Whitney Young 25-20, 25-21 in the Class 4A Whitney Young sectional semifinal.

Top players: Katherine Mahlke, Jr., RS; Carolyn Nojiri, Sr., L; Hannah Rogoz, Sr., OH; Karissa Brazdys, Sr., MB; Abby Crane, Sr., S; Mary Helen Beacom, Fr., S; Madison Sturm, Fr., MB.

Scouting report: Wasik was spoiled his first four years in Downers Grove, always able to count on do-all talents Taylor Kasal and Jessie Tulacka. They're gone now, but the drop-off shouldn't be too severe. Lefty hitter Mahlke has offers from Miami (Ohio) and several other mid-majors, with interest from Notre Dame and Northwestern. Fellow third-year starter Nojiri, a top-notch libero, could play volleyball and softball in college. Rogoz has had limited varsity court time, but Wasik likes the strides she's made. Setting is a question mark, with two candidates who have never set on varsity. Wasik's seniors won conference as sophomores and could contend in a Silver that's not as loaded as recent years. A roster with three freshmen and two sophomores lends some uncertainty. "This team is young and eager," Wasik said. "That doesn't always translate to wins, but we have potential."

Downers Grove South

Coach: Trisha Kurth (3rd year).

Last year: 17-20 overall, 5-1 (second) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to Downers Grove North 25-17, 25-16 in the Class 4A Downers Grove North regional final.

Top players: Kirsten Zemke, Sr., M; Kristy LaRue, Sr., OH; Danielle Conrad, Sr., S; Olivia Zarek, Sr., OH; Annie Ciancio, Sr., S; Jess Faber, So., DS; Cassie Lueken, So., M; Hannah Wood, So., DS.

Scouting report: The Mustangs program, long one of DuPage County's elite, has gone through a bit of a downturn recently with three losing seasons since the 2008 regional champs. Downers Grove South looks to work its way back up the pecking order with eight returning seniors. A broken foot cost LaRue all of last season, and Zarek broke her foot this summer at nationals, but both outsides are healthy now. Faber wasn't on varsity until a week ago, but Kurth was complimentary of the work the sophomore is doing in the back row. Zemke and Lueken are both 6-footers, but the rest of the Mustangs top out at 5-9. The group seems to click better than recent years, as most of them play club together on the Lions Juniors. "Our outside hitters will be consistent for us," Kurth said. "We just need our sophomores to get the jitters out."

Fenton

Coach: Josh Payton (2nd year, 6-24).

Last year: 6-24 overall, 2-10 (sixth) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Vernon Hills 25-12, 25-21 in the Class 3A Regina Dominican semifinal.

Top players: Nicole Celarek, Jr.; Hannah Wassmann, Jr., S; Natalia Szafraniec, Jr., M; Tina Guarino, Jr., L/OPP; Nicole Susmarski, Jr., OH; Cheyenne Hull, Jr., S; Valerie Andrews, So., M.

Scouting report: A sophomore-laden group of Bison cut its teeth at the varsity level last year, winning five more matches than in 2010, and returns more seasoned. Payton, now in his fourth year in the Fenton program, said the junior class brings more height and potent athletic ability than previous groups. Celarek, at 5-foot-11, is one of the few club players in Fenton's program and with better defense around her could be a force. Payton loves the attitude of sure-handed setter Wassmann. Payton hopes a few tweaks to the schedule benefit the Bison, who will be challenged by a move up to Class 4A. "I think the girls will be ready for it," Payton said. "We've tooled up in every single one of our spots."

Glenbard East

Coach: Marci Maier (14th year).

Last year: 9-26 overall, 0-14 (eighth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Glenbard North 19-25, 25-22, 25-16 in the Class 4A Glenbard East regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Meghan Hanewall, Jr., OH; Brittany Peters, Sr., OH; Alex Symonds, Sr., RS; Megan Cotterill, Sr., S/DS; Kaely Cantua, Sr., RS; Hannah Walsh, Sr., DS; Sam Bell, So., S.

Scouting report: Maier has nine seniors this fall, but there's no doubt who all eyes will be on in Lombard to lead. Hanewall had 163 kills and 72 blocks playing middle as a sophomore, and is now moving outside playing six rotations. "She will be one to watch," Maier said. "She's really turned herself into an all-around player." It is an older team, but a green group volleyball-wise searching for the right mix in the always-tough DVC. Peters did not play a lot last year and will start on the outside. Maier said sophomore setter Bell plays older than she really is and is eager to watch her develop. Maier likes the dynamic of a group that gets along well. "It's a strength, and if it develops we'll be in business at the end of the year," Maier said.

Glenbard North

Coach: Jeremy Bradley (3rd year).

Last year: 14-22 overall, 4-10 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to St. Charles East 25-13, 25-17 in the Class 4A Glenbard East regional semifinal.

Top players: Stephanie Tobison, Jr., OH; Stephanie Wade, Jr., OH; Nicole Tobison, So., OH; Bailey Andrews, Sr., L; Stephanie Orze, Sr., S.

Scouting report: The Panthers won't trot out a lineup of 6-footers -- Bradley said his tallest girl is a shade under -- but they will compensate for that lack of size with grit. "There's not a whole lot of quit in them," Bradley said. Glenbard North's focus in the preseason has been on siding out and playing good defense, the kind of scrap the Panthers will need to compete in the DVC. Stephanie Tobison, in her third varsity season, and Wade bring experience to the outside. Orze returns for her second year setting, and Bradley is counting on leadership from that position. With four starters back Bradley is hopeful that Glenbard North can improve on its 4-10 DVC finish. "These girls, they are hard workers," Bradley said. "I'm not sure what the outcomes will be but they are ready to go."

Glenbard South

Coach: Chad Grant (2nd year, 23-14).

Last year: 23-14 overall, 9-3 (second) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to St. Francis 25-15, 25-18 in the Class 3A St. Francis regional final.

Top players: Jane Trzaska, Sr., OH; Tarah Valdez, Jr., OH; Laura Quinlivan, Sr., MH; MacKenzie Watterson, Fr., MH; Sam Howard, Sr., S; Anna Watterson, Sr., RS; Colleen Cooney, Sr., L.

Scouting report: When Grant thinks of this senior class, one word most comes to mind. "Winners," Grant said. "They're not flashy -- they just get it done." Indeed, outsides Trzaska and Valdez started on Glenbard South's state championship softball team; other volleyball players have been to state in other sports. With 10 girls back from a 23-win team, Grant forecasts a whole lot more winning. The Raiders are dealing with injury, libero Theresa Scheet out until October after back surgery and Anna Watterson, second on the team in kills the last two years, working her way back from a shoulder injury. A deep bench gives Grant options. Trzaska and Valdez make it happen on the outside, but a more versatile attack is needed to beat elite opponents. "We're going to have a good year," Grant said, "I'm sure of it."

Glenbard West

Coach: Pete Mastandrea.

Last year: 31-6 overall, 2-4 in the West Suburban Silver; lost to St. Charles North 25-22, 24-26, 26-24 in the Class 4A Bartlett regional final.

Top players: Caleigh Ryan, Sr., S; Meg DeMaar, Jr., L/OH; Amanda Perry, Sr., OH; Megan Wagner, Sr., OH; Katie Ball, Jr., M; Allison Burelbach, So., OH; Kate Wagner, Fr., S/L.

Scouting report: The Hilltoppers have knocked on the door of the area's elite volleyball programs in recent years. This team looks like it belongs in that group. Led by Northwestern-bound setter Ryan and dynamite libero DeMaar, Glenbard West is poised to contend for a Silver championship and the school's first regional title since 1985. Ryan is the catalyst and like Perry are four-year starters whose growth has paralleled Glenbard West's as a program. DeMaar, also a starter since freshman year, grew 2 inches since last season and could also play outside. The Hilltoppers will still need to compensate for what they lack in size. A deeper bench does lend Mastandrea more options. The bitter memory of being a point away from winning a regional title still lingers with Mastandrea and his kids. Glenbard West put in to host a regional, eyeing a potentially deep playoff run. "We were unable to finish last year. That's all we've been talking about," Mastandrea said. "We are as good as we have been."

Hinsdale Central

Coach: Kelly Moran (1st year).

Last year: 20-18 overall, 4-2 in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Lyons Township 25-18, 25-19 in the Class 4A Whitney Young sectional semifinal.

Top players: Meghan McDowell, Sr., S; Dominique Millett, Sr., MB; Rachel Lenderman, Sr., L; Lauren Fuller, So., OH; Claire Cornell, So., MB.

Scouting report: Hinsdale Central, winner of 20-plus matches the last two years, has a change at the top. Sheralynn Kellough stepped down as coach after giving birth to twins in November. In steps Moran, a defensive specialist on the 2004 Hersey team that went to state who is the Associate Director of Sports Elite Volleyball Club, a sister program of Sports Performance. Hinsdale Central's first order of business is getting healthy. McDowell, a 6-2 setter committed to Virginia, missed most of last year with an ankle injury and showed up first day of practice in a cast. She is back now, but Millett is out right now with a cut on the arch of her foot among a rash of injuries. Fuller is raw but brings power and physicality. Hinsdale Central graduated a ton of talent the last few years, including All-Area outside Aly Davis. Talent still abounds, though. "There are so many tall, powerful kids here," Moran said.

Hinsdale South

Coach: Lisa Martinez.

Last year: 27-10 overall, 6-0 (first) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to Whitney Young 24-26, 25-14, 25-20 in the Class 4A regional final.

Top players: Jessica Brezwyn, Sr., OH; Sharon Anderson, Sr., S; Colleen Lyons, Sr., RS/OH; Emily Mihalkanin, Sr., L; Sam Noble, Sr., MH; Rachel Kent, Sr., OH/RS; Jackie Adelphis, Jr., MH.

Scouting report: The Hornets, sectional champs two years ago, were stung by Young in the regional final last season. No surprise, then, that they're chomping at the bit to get back it. "They're hungry," said Martinez, and her team showed it by upsetting 4A favorite Marist in its season opener. Five starters return, led by the veteran dynamic duo of Brezwyn outside and Anderson at setter. Ever-quotable Martinez called Mihalkanin's defense right now "crazy ridiculous." Lyons isn't flashy but will play six rotations and is a threat from the back row. Graduating All-Area middle Melissa Nava was a tough loss, but the combination of experience and talent could make team this one of Martinez's best. Three seniors have been with her since freshman year, three more since sophomore season. "They really like to compete," Martinez said.

Immaculate Conception

Coach: Jean Field (38th year, 823-458)

Last year: 26-11 overall, 9-1 (first) in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to Timothy Christian 25-23, 25-23 in the Class 2A Westmont regional final.

Top players: Kimmy Martino, Jr., S/OH; Liz Martino, Sr., S; Delaney D'Amore, Jr., OH; Rory Manion, Jr., OH; Kathleen Ryan, Sr., L; Brianna Hernandez, So., MH/OH; Molly Manion, So., DS/L.

Scouting report: Eight is enough. The Knights varsity roster is only eight deep, but a solid returning core could make this one of Field's better teams in years. Kimmy Martino, who had 261 assists, 160 kills and 50 aces last year, returns even stronger to lead IC. Her sister Liz also set 261 assists a year ago and D'Amore 171 kills. Field expects versatile three-sport athlete Manion to get up to speed as the season progresses. Ryan returns for her fourth year as IC's libero. Field likes the unselfishness of this group and said it should be a good serving and defensive team to make up for what it lacks blocking. IC will be tested, moving over to the SCC Blue to join the likes of St. Francis and Marian Central. The Knights also got kicked up to Class 3A for the playoffs. "We're going to have to bring our 'A' game every day," Field said.

Lake Park

Coach: Tom Bergen.

Last year: 16-19 overall, 2-4 in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to WW South 25-23, 25-7 in the Class 4A Elk Grove regional semifinal.

Top players: Rachel Weslo, Sr., L; Colleen Ochab, Jr., OH; Amanda Ziemek, Sr., OH; Nicole Graf, Sr., MH; Maria Kubalewski, So., S.

Scouting report: The Lancers are a work in progress, with two sophomores in the middle, a sophomore setting and a sophomore right-side hitter. Veteran coach that he is, Bergen accepts that this is a growth process. Ziemek played for him last year outside, and Weslo was the Lancers' backup libero now counted on for leadership from the back row. Most of the rest played JV a year ago. Lake Park will need to play sound defensively, because the Lancers are not big with just one 6-footer. Bergen is stressing the importance of communicating on the court, always a nuance that younger players take time to pick up on. "Being so young they're going to take their lumps," Bergen said, "but the kids are positive. It's a good group of kids."

Lisle

Coach: Matt Hrubesky.

Last year: 25-11 overall, 9-0 (first) in the Interstate Eight Conference; lost to Immaculate Conception 24-26, 25-22, 25-21 in the Class 2A Westmont regional semifinal.

Top players: Abby Tarasewicz, Sr., MH; Erin Kasik, Sr., S; Kelly Urban, Sr., OH; Summer Stitt, Jr., OH; Kristina Fernette, Sr., S; Michelle Kasik, So., OH; Jessica Fedlacek, Sr., MH.

Scouting report: Hrubesky doesn't hide it -- after graduating his top eight players, including star outside Vanessa Abenante off a 25-win conference champion, the Lions are starting from scratch. Big shoes must be replaced, and this isn't a very big team. "I think all my kids fit in the 5-foot-4 to 5-8 block," Hrubesky said. "We're all the same kid, basically." It is a senior-heavy roster, but one short on experience. Stitt brings a strong arm to the outside and Tarasewicz, though just 5-5, is a quick leaper in the middle. Lisle can't physically dominate teams at the net, so Hrubesky said the Lions need to get it done by playing cleaner and faster than their opponents. They won't get out-competed. "These kids, they will battle," Hrubesky said. "I don't expect us to struggle."

Metea Valley

Coach: Janine Wange (1st year).

Last year: 25-10 overall, 4-2 (third) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Plainfield Central 25-22, 25-23 in the Class 4A Plainfield Central regional semifinal.

Top players: Alyssa Ensminger, Sr., L; Ellie Petersen, Jr., S; Kaylyn Torrain, Jr., M; Lexie Lobdell, So., OH.

Scouting report: Metea made a big leap forward in its second varsity season with 25 wins, and a change at the top shouldn't alter that momentum. Wange, JV coach the last two years, takes over for James Milkert. Wange, who played collegiately at North Central, has been with the Metea program since its inception and expects a seamless transition. Graduating Jessica Boddy was a big loss in the middle, but all-conference libero Ensminger is back for her fourth year to stabilize the back row. Petersen set about half of last year and Torrain takes over as Metea's top middle. Wange expects even bigger things out of skilled sophomore Lobdell in her second varsity season. The Mustangs aren't a particularly tall team, and many of Metea's seniors haven't seen much court time. "We're ironing out the kinks right now," Wange said.

Montini

Coach: Steve Dowjotas (2nd year, 14-21).

Last year: 14-21 overall, 2-10 in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue; lost to St. Francis 25-10, 25-19 in the Class 3A St. Francis regional semifinal.

Top players: Joyce Balash, Jr., MB; Bridget Lucas, Jr., L; Monica Loftus, So., OH; Kyle Hodyl, Sr., S; Natalie Lopez, Jr., OH.

Scouting report: When Montini and girls sports is mentioned, basketball is what comes to mind. Dowjotas wants some of that aura to extend to his alma mater's volleyball program. The Broncos are starting to make waves. Three girls who played as sophomores on last year's team were named to PrepVolleyball.com's Soph 79, a list of the top sophomores around the country playing varsity. Leading that group is 5-11 middle Balash, who had 149 kills and 65 blocks. The two others were Lucas, who may be the best libero in the conference, and the versatile Lopez, who had 98 kills and 194 digs. Loftus made an impact as a freshman with 107 kills. Hodyl, Montini's only senior, is a converted attacker in her first full year setting. It's a young but experienced group that could surprise, with all the girls now playing club. "My job last year was to change the mentality here," Dowjotas said. "Now we are trying to change how the volleyball program is viewed here at Montini and around the state."

Naperville Central

Coach: Brie Isaacson

Last year: 22-14 overall, 11-3 (second) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Oswego 25-20, 25-17 in the Class 4A Oswego regional semifinal.

Top players: Alysia Baznik, sr., OH; Sammi Condon, MH; Nikki Connors, MH; Abbi Williamson, S; Carly Wesolowski, L.

Scouting report: No introductions necessary at Naperville Central this fall. Nine of Isaacson's 10 girls played last year, all of them seniors. Of that group five are in their third year at the varsity level. It adds up to what should be the best Redhawks team since the 2008 sectional finalists. All-Area outside Baznik, committed to Edwardsville, leads the way and will focus on hitting with Williamson setting six rotations. The Redhawks are strong on the pins and in the middle with Oakland recruit Condon and Connors, flexibility that will all hang on ball control. The banners on the gymnasium wall remind the girls what they are working toward. This group has the potential to be very good. "There is a certain sense of urgency when nine of the 10 girls are graduating," Isaacson said. "We just kind of picked up where we left off."

Naperville North

Coach: Jennifer Urban (9th year, 236-64).

Last year: 29-8 overall, 12-2 (tied for first) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Lockport 25-16, 25-17 in the Class 4A Lockport regional final.

Top players: Corinne Gajcak, Sr., OH; Colleen Larson, Sr., L; Emily Kwak, So., S; Bailey O'Drobinak, Sr., OH/M; Angie Jurek, Sr., M; Ellie Ivancich, Jr., L; Megan Wernette, So., M.

Scouting report: One needs only a quick scan of the roster to come to this conclusion -- these Huskies are huge. Six girls standing 6 feet or taller make this Urban's biggest, most physical team in years. That doesn't even include 5-foot-9 outside Gajcak, committed to Iowa to play libero, who played every minute of every match last year and was Naperville North's best all-around player. "That's the funny thing," Urban said. "Everybody has been (Gajcak's) size before and now she looks short on the court." Larson, last year's team MVP and dig and passing leader, is back at libero. Kwak saw extensive time at setter as a freshman. The tallest of the 6-footers is 6-2 Wernette, already being heavily recruited as a sophomore. "We have eight girls back that are coming in a lot stronger than last year," Urban said. "I'm excited to work with this group."

Neuqua Valley

Coach: Kelly Simon (12th year).Last year: 21-17 overall, 5-1 (second) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Plainfield Central 25-20, 25-21 in the Class 4A Plainfield Central regional final.

Top players: Taylor McKeown, Sr., OH; Brooke Antenen, Sr., S/RS; Kaylyn Hugdahl, Jr., OH; Allie Clarke, Sr., RS; Jenna Marquez, Sr., DS.

Scouting report: When Simon allowed team captains for the first time this fall, it's no surprise who her girls voted to lead. McKeown, a three-year starter who had 190 kills and 235 digs last year, and Antenen, a two-year starter who had 180 kills and 298 assists, are the undisputed go-to girls and set a good vibe. "You always want your best players to be role models," Simon said. "These kids truly are." It is an old, yet relatively inexperienced team with 10 seniors and two juniors -- but only four girls returning with any varsity experience. Antenen will run a 6-2 hitting three rotations. Hugdahl is a good athlete outside. Neuqua graduated three hitters playing Division I this year. Much lost, but much is gained with a dynamic, versatile group. "It's just a different team than any I've ever had before," Simon said.

St. Francis

Coach: Peg Kopec (37th year, 1,095-236)

Last year: 35-7 overall, 12-0 (first) in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue; beat Marian Catholic 25-20, 25-11 in the Class 3A third-place game.

Top players: Maddie Haggerty, Sr., OH; McKenna Kelsay, Sr., S; Michelle McLaughlin, Sr., OH; Lexie Riccolo, Sr., DS; Mary Boken, So., M; Molly Haggerty, Fr., OH/S/MH; Sam Dubiel, DS; Becca Shearer, S/OPP.

Scouting report: Expectations, always high at St. Francis, soared this spring when it was announced that Maddie Haggerty was transferring from Benet to join kid sister Molly this fall in Wheaton. Their addition makes the Spartans a clear favorite to win Kopec's ninth state title, first since 2006. Nebraska recruit Maddie Haggerty, the hero of Benet's championship-match win over Cary-Grove, is a physically dominant outside and maybe the best at her position in the state. Molly Haggerty, a highly touted freshman, could play anywhere and will start the season in the middle. They join a solid returning core of Kelsay, McLaughlin, Riccolo and Boken. Kelsay has the pedigree and experience to lead from her setter spot. St. Francis flew under the radar a bit last year. That won't happen again, but Kopec is careful not to heap too much pressure on her girls so early. "There's a lot that we can do with this team," Kopec said, "but it's a long season."

Timothy Christian

Coach: Lindsey Van Schepen (4th year, 82-32).

Last year: 35-4 overall, 12-0 (first) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Chicago Christian 21-25, 25-14, 25-21 in the Class 2A Lisle supersectional.

Top players: Jenna Lodewyk, Jr., S; Kacie Stoll, So., MH; Bridgitt Buikema, Sr., OH; Kaylie Pries, Sr., DS; Hanna Markewycz, so., DS; Elena Bulthuis, Jr., OH; Brianne Croenenwett, Jr., MH.

Scouting report: It will be hard for the Trojans to top their 2011 season, a year that included conference and sectional titles and a 32-match unbeaten streak. Van Schepen is stressing that this batch of girls find their own identity. Take-charge setter Lodewyk, one of the area's best floor leaders, is a good place to start. Last year's Metro Suburban MVP set 718 assists as a sophomore with 106 kills and 79 aces. Stoll had 119 kills last year and Buikema 157. Pries and Markewycz combined for 250 digs. Timothy Christian, which came a set away from state last year, faces a tough challenge back to supersectionals with a move up to Class 3A. Van Schepen doesn't seem fazed. "It got the girls a little more fired up," Van Schepen said. "They know the stakes will be higher. It pushes your team to see how much they can do." Waubonsie Valley

Coach: Kristen Stuart (6th year, 122-58).

Last year: 23-13 overall, 6-0 (first) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Oswego 25-23, 13-25, 25-19 in the Class 4A Oswego regional final.

Top players: Rachel Minarick, Jr., S/RS; Katie Campbell, Jr., MH; Noelle Linden, Sr., S; Lauren Lindell, Sr., OH; Lauren Vollrath, Sr., RS; Brooke Burling, Fr., OH; Caroline Cordes, Fr., MH

Scouting report: Waubonsie should look like a different team in two months than it does now, with good reason. For the first time in Stuart's six years she must replace both outsides, as well as her libero and a middle. Minarick is a good one to build around. The Michigan State recruit was an AAU All-America this summer setting for the Sports Performance 16 Elite team. Minarick will set and hit for Waubonsie in its 6-2. "Rachel is the real deal," Stuart said. "She's a junior now, not feeling like the young one." Linden will also set again and Campbell returns in the middle. Cordes and Burling, who play beach volleyball together, could be impact freshmen. Stuart was encouraged by Waubonsie's fourth-place showing in summer league. Waubonsie peaked toward the second half of last year and could follow suit again here. "We have a lot of good young talent," Stuart said.

West Chicago

Coach: Kris Hasty (19th year).

Last year: 25-13 overall, 7-7 (fourth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to York 25-13, 25-20 in the Class 4A sectional semifinal.

Top players: Kayla Katarzynski, Sr., L; Nora Palermo, Sr., OH; Andrea Skipor, Sr., MH; Mary Kate Katarzynski, Jr., S; Taylor Karg, Sr., RS; Devon Orr, Jr., OH; Karissa Chernick, Jr., MH/OH.

Scouting report: Any conversation about West Chicago volleyball the last four years began with Julia Conard, but now Conard's moved on to Illinois. Life goes on, and a nice core remains. Mary Kate Katarzynski is back at setter, as is sister Kayla at libero along with hitters Skipor, Palermo and Karg. The Wildcats will need to be sound defensively, because they are not very big after Skipor in the middle. Contending in the DVC against the likes of Naperville Central and Naperville North, as well as West Aurora, will be no easy chore. Winning a third straight regional title is also on the Wildcats' minds. There is no star like Conard but a group that seems to fit well together. "They got a little saying, that teamwork isn't about ego, it's about WeGo," Hasty said. "It's a little bit different tone this year, but it's exciting."

Wheaton Academy

Coach: D.A. Nichols.

Last year: 18-17 overall, 5-7 in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to Montini 24-26, 25-16, 25-16 in the Class 3A St. Francis regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Bianca Cifaldi, Sr., OH; Sydney Vischer, So., OH; Jessica Bosse, So., L; Brianna Tellschow, Jr., RS; Sarah McClain, Jr., S.

Scouting report: It's no secret whose team this is. Cifaldi, verbaled to Kent State, has long been Wheaton Academy's best player. Now she's the only senior on a Warriors team with five sophomores playing varsity. "This is her time," Nichols said. "She's ready to be that leader." Cifaldi has moved around from middle to right side for her Sports Performance club team but plays outside again for Wheaton Academy. Nichols calls her "fearless" and "an offensive juggernaut" whose best skill may be blocking. Vischer changed club teams and made big strides in her game, making a nice 1-2 punch with Cifaldi. Expect multiple lineups with youth in the middle and at setter. "They're coming along," Nichols said. "I think it's a group that will get better quickly as soon as we get matches under our belt."

Wheaton North

Coach: Carole Kristensen (16th year).

Last year: 8-23 overall, 3-9 (sixth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Geneva 25-9, 25-21 in the Class 4A Geneva regional semifinal.

Top players: Ali Royer, Sr., OH; Kendra Arenkill, Sr., OH; Erica Walker, So., L; Amanda Mordacq, Jr., MH; Grace Tiesman, Fr., MH.

Scouting report: The word in Wheaton is new. New season, new outlook with a young, ambitious group. Returning outsides Royer and Arenkill got their baptism under fire last year and return seasoned with their own individual styles. What may most excite Kristensen are her middles, including Mordacq and a freshman in Tiesman who looks like she's been there for years. Ogilview grew three inches and with Maddie Hutchinson and Leah Dunlap are the Falcons' tallest girls at 5-11. The Falcons are boosted by an increase in club players. They also received valued experience at a University of Illinois team camp in July. "I totally feel like we're ahead of the game," Kristensen said.

Wheaton Warrenville South

Coach: Bill Schreier.

Last year: 18-17 overall, 7-7 (fifth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to York 25-20, 25-21 in the Class 4A regional final.

Top players: Talia Holze, Jr., S; Stephanie Budlong, Sr., OH; Jessica Bossmann, Sr., S; Lily Kelly, Sr., L; Sammy Granger, Sr., MH; Erin Staunton, So., MH; Zoe Weber, Sr., OH; Brooke Closset, Sr., OH; Kathy Mummah, Sr., L.

Scouting report: The Tigers played some of their best volleyball toward the end of last season. Can that carry over? There is good experience to build on, Budlong and Bossmann both three-year starters and Holze, Kelly and Granger two-year starters. Holze has good athleticism and size for a setter at 6 foot, and is being recruited by several schools. Schreier seeks more consistency from Budlong, noting that "she can be the best player on the court at times." A better defensive group is expected, with a year of experience under Kelly's belt and Mummah back after missing all of last year with a stress fracture in her back. "It will be nice to start (playing well) earlier, but as long as it starts," Schreier said. "Ultimately we will get there."

Willowbrook

Coach: Sue Bower (ninth year, 123-164).

Last year: 9-25 overall, 2-4 (fifth) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to Elk Grove 25-21, 23-25, 25-22 in the Class 4A Elk Grove regional quarterfinal.

Top players: Marisa Klaassen, Sr., MB; Maddie Arnold, Jr., L; Becca Sullivan, Jr., OH/MB; Joanna Conley, Jr., OH/DS; Mary Annunziata, Sr., OH; Kelsey Linnig, So., S; Hannah Simons, Sr., RS; Melissa Rader, Jr., MB; Marge Annunziata, Jr., S.

Scouting report: Bower believes she has some talent, and added depth, to work with. What worries her are the intangibles. Specifically, who will step forward to replace three graduated seniors who were the heart and soul of last year's group. "We have the talent," she said. "They just don't know how to utilize it yet." Klaassen, who had 49 kills and 14 blocks as a junior, has progressed each year. Critical to the Warriors' success is passing well so they can run Klaassen in the middle. Arnold and Conley are probably Bower's two best passers when the focus is there. Bower likes the progress Sullivan has made with her swing. Bower is anxious to see this group in action, which it will this weekend at its Willowbrook Invite. "I think everybody is kinda going crazy, me included," she said. "We want to see how we can compete with the other teams."

York

Coach: Patty Iverson.

Last year: 32-4 overall, 6-0 (first) in the West Suburban Silver; lost to St. Charles East 25-21, 23-25, 25-22 in the Class 4A St. Charles East sectional final.

Top players: Melissa Deatsch, Sr., OH; Molly Schlecht, Jr., MH; Rachel Iverson, Jr., S; Liz Arnold, Sr., MH; Liz Pronove, So., MH; Halle Truett, Fr., L; Amy Nosek, Jr., OH;

Scouting report: A preseason trip to Covenant Harbor in Lake Geneva featured a ropes course and scavenger hunt. More than anything, it was an opportunity for the Dukes to bond and for Iverson to learn about this group's dynamic. It's a different look in Elmhurst this fall, for sure. Graduated is three four-year starters off a team that started last season No. 1, including 2011 Daily Herald All-Area Captain Caroline Rose and All-Area setter Katie Gallagher. This year's group, which includes two freshmen and two sophomores, will rally around third-year starter and Oakland recruit Deatsch. Rachel Iverson got a taste of experience setting varsity when Gallagher was hurt in regionals. She's tall for her position at 5-11. In fact, this is Patty Iverson's biggest team at York. "This is the most competitive outside hitting group I've ever had," Iverson said. "It will take a while to get used to each other, but this is a bright group."

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