Emily Aigner Lakes
One of the best offensive threats in the North Suburban Conference, the senior outside hitter led the Eagles to their second Prairie Division championship in as many seasons. She led the team in several categories during the regular season, pounding 232 kills, recording 242 digs and serving 56 aces. Coach Molly May called the hard-hitting Aigner "one of our top passers on serve receive." A repeat all-area player, the team captain also posted 22 blocks. "Emily is one of the most hardworking and determined players I have coached," May said. "She has a competitive drive and isn't happy with anything but her best. The past couple of years Emily is one of our go-to players. She is genuinely concerned about the development of herself and teammates and is always looking for ways to step up her game."
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Alyssa Armada Carmel Catholic
The Corsairs got more than a setter and hitter when the junior transferred in from Loyola Academy. They got a server, blocker and defensive specialist. The versatile talent headed into the state tournament with a kill percentage of 29 with 189 kills, while dishing out 439 assists. She serve-receives at a 2.27/3 rate, and her other numbers include 42 aces, 132 digs and 38 blocks. "These stats are great for any hitter or setter, but to be able to (have) both is a rare commodity," coach David Pazely said of his right side player. "As for Alyssa herself, stats alone do not put into words how much energy she brings to every point of every game. Her competitive fire is second to none and she pushes her teammates to get the best out of themselves. Alyssa is a leader by example who plays all six rotations and can play every position on the court if she has to. She is our leading setter, has the highest kill percentage of all hitters, is second in aces and third in digs and blocks."
Caitlin Barry Carmel Catholic
Barry can bury volleyballs. And while her regular-season numbers -- team-best 48 aces, 148 kills, 114 digs -- were good, they would have been better if she didn't suffer a midseason back injury. A team captain, she started on the Corsairs' Class 3A sectional-championship squad last year. "She is still an amazing player with even greater determination and courage to play through the constant pain from her injury," coach David Pazely said. "She is another six-rotation player that can make an impact offensively and defensively from the frontcourt and back court. Caitlin's amazing athleticism gives her the ability to make a play out of nothing. Too many times, when we are scrambling to get a ball up and over, we have relied on Caitlin to make an aggressive play and she has answered the call time and time again. Her strong will and confidence have earned her the respect of her teammates and is why they have nominated her as team captain. ... Carmel will miss Caitlin's personality and humor next year along with her leadership and all-around talent."
Brooke Buckley Grant
Luckily, the Bulldogs had Buckley. The senior outside hitter had a breakout season, providing her team with a legitimate threat at the net. The Bulldogs' go-to player slammed a team-leading 236 kills, while also registering 70 digs and recording 23 solo block and 22 assisted blocks. "She worked very hard in the off-season and came back as one of the best hitters in our conference, and most teams had trouble stopping her," coach Sue Thompson said. "She played front and back row, was one of our floor captains and a great role model, on and off the court for her teammates and younger players in the program."
Gabi Casper Grayslake Central
It's easy to get gabby about Gabi. The junior outside hitter does so much for the Rams, and she's gotten better each of her three seasons on varsity. Since she's been a part of the program, the Rams have won 20 matches each season. Her regular-season numbers included 186 kills, 220 digs and 26 aces. "As a third-year varsity starter, Gabi has improved on all aspects of her game this season and has really stepped up her level of play at the serving line and on defense," coach Jason Janczak said. "Every good team needs an emotional leader on the court, and Gabi provided that for us and more with solid offense and defense. She played a pivotal role in making our defense become solidified and did an outstanding job as an outside hitter, getting us big kills in clutch situations and continuing to develop her ability to read the opponent's defenses to pick them apart with tips, roll shots and swings. We are lucky to have someone with the unique combination of both knowledge and passion for the game like Gabi in our program."
Alexandria Dahlstrom Grayslake Central
What's more intimidating than a 6-foot-1 player jump-serving? A tall player who's good at it. The junior outside hitter, who played middle hitter last year, headed into the state tournament with a school-record 82 aces. She also led the Rams with 215 kills during the regular season. "She has a powerful arm at the net and really can put the ball away against our opponents," coach Jason Janczak said. "At the serving line, Alex has fine-tuned her jump serve this season. ... Alex has done an outstanding job transitioning from a role player as a sophomore to a team leader this year on the court. She has grown tremendously as an athlete and is one of the key reasons for our success this year. She continues to work hard in the gym and only wants to make herself and her team better."
Ashley Dina Lake Zurich
The Bears' second-half play included handing Stevenson just its third loss and coincided with the junior's transition from defensive specialist to libero. She's been on varsity since her freshman year and "took control of libero position" this fall, coach Matt Aiello said. She finished the regular season with 462 digs and 18 aces. "Her athleticism and energy/enthusiasm have been a key to our second-half surge to second in the NSC (Lake Division) ahead of Stevenson," Aiello said. "She has allowed us to run our offense and covers for some blocking breakdowns. We would not be in a position to be a threat in the sectional without her."
Khaila Donaldson Stevenson
The absence of three-time all-area player Rachel Baader, who missed the entire season with a knee injury, allowed other Patriots to get more hits. One of those players was Donaldson, who took full advantage. The athletic junior outside hitter pounded 150 kills during the regular season, while also posting 35 solo blocks, delivering 41 aces and notching 195 digs. She leads the squad in aces and service points. "Khaila has been huge for us this season," said coach Tim Crow, whose Patriots won 32 matches during the regular season. "She has developed into a talented six-rotation player. We would not have had the regular-season success without her play this season. The sky's the limit for her physically and mentally. We are excited to have her back next season."
Sam Falco Antioch
The graduation of a pair of college-bound players who were forces at the net, Brianna Grant (Texas Tech) and Jessica Ploss (Missouri-St. Louis), meant that the Sequoits needed a player to fill a significant role. Falco fit. The junior right side/middle hitter helped lead Antioch to 20 wins by pounding a team-leading 140 kills, while also leading the Sequoits with 71 blocks, including 6 in a three-set loss to Lakes in the regional semifinals. She finished second on the team in hitting attempts. "Sam played both middle and right side for us and made teams aware of her presence with strong blocking and consistent hitting," coach Glen Heitman said. "Sam has matured as both a player and team leader."
Marissa Grant Antioch
All all-area volleyball teams must have a Grant. Marissa, the talented sister of former Sequoits stars Brianna and Lauren, makes her second all-area appearance in as many years. She more than earned it. The versatile sophomore setter helped steer the Sequoits to a 20-16 campaign. She put down 65 kills, dished out 451 assists, ranked third on the team with 38 blocks and was first on the squad with 237 digs. She also served 304 of 343 (89 percent) and led Antioch with 76 aces. "Her assists were down from last year, but anyone who has played us knows our passing was inconsistent to say the least," coach Glen Heitman said. "She made many a bad pass hittable with some very athletic sets. She has matured both as a player and a leader."
Joanna Guhl Grayslake North
What's cool about Guhl? She kept getting better as a volleyball player, and as her final high school season of volleyball wound down, she and her teammates started playing their best. The lefty captain helped the Knights upset regional top seed McHenry to earn a berth in the regional final. "(She's) the epitome of what hard work is all about," coach Nikki Kirchway said of her four-year varsity starter and repeat all-area selection. "She's really come a long way since her time as a freshman. She's swinging at the ball really well, and she's doing great serving." Guhl leads the Knights in kills (156) and aces (39) and ranks second on the squad in blocks.
Sarah Horner Lakes
A cornerstone. That's Horner. A member of the varsity team for the past three years, she began as a right-side hitter but has contributed greatly to the team its past two seasons as an outside hitter. She finished the regular season with 181 kills, 62 blocks, 125 digs and 55 aces for the two-time North Suburban Prairie Division champs. One of the Eagles' top passers on serve receive, as well, she was awarded the NSC Prairie Division sportsmanship award this year. She is a repeat all-area selection. "I have had the pleasure of working with Sarah for the past three years," coach Molly May said. "It has been amazing to watch her develop as a player and young adult. Sarah always takes pride in what she does and puts her best foot forward. She has always looked for ways to bring the team together, putting the team before herself. On the court, Sarah's hard work has shown, especially with her hard-to-block swing and solid serving."
Paige Jespersen Warren
An injury kept Warren's star outside hitter out of the start of the state tournament this week. It's too bad, since she kept the Blue Devils in so many matches during her four varsity seasons and was largely responsible for them earning a No. 2 regional seed. "We brought Paige up to varsity as a freshman because of her athleticism, and she has gotten better and better each year," coach Julie Filippo said. "Paige is a quiet leader that makes her presence known on the court. She is an all-around player that gives 110 percent all the time." Jespersen stands only 5 feet 7 but was the Blue Devils' top hitter with 142 kills and best defensive player with 293 digs. The team captain also racked up 54 aces and 24 blocks while serve-receiving at a 70-percent clip. "She jumps out of the gym and has a quick strong arm," Filippo said. "The best part of Paige is her hustle and ability to push herself to be the best she can be for her team."
Susan Karhoff Wauconda
In her second varsity season, the junior saw her responsibilities grow, and with it, so did her game. The setter/outside hitter led the Bulldogs in several categories during the regular season. She put down 194 kills, dished out 210 assists, recorded 217 digs and served 42 aces.
Shannon Nugent Vernon Hills
The Cougars' regional-semifinal loss included a Nugent nugget: The four-year varsity player became the school's all-time leader in kills, finishing with 658. She also served a school-record 141 aces in her stellar career, which included all-area recognition the last three seasons. The outside hitter finished second all-time in VH history with 200 block kills and ended up eighth in career digs with 413, despite playing all the way around only the last two years. Her senior campaign included 211 kills, 46 block kills, 34 aces (94-percent serving) and 76 digs. She posted a serve-receive efficiency of 1.9 on 306 attempts. "She is one of the best all -- around players that I have coached here at Vernon Hills, both as an assistant and as the varsity coach," coach Abbie Gutzmer said. "She has been on our varsity squad for four years and played a role in all of the successes that we have had during that time -- not only in her play, but in her leadership, as well. It will be weird to watch a volleyball match next year in which she will not be a part of." Nugent recently committed to Emory University. "We are very excited to see her continue to play," Gutzmer said.
Liza Pflugradt Stevenson
The "P" in Pflugradt is silent. Her game screams. The 6-foot senior outside hitter, who will play Division I volleyball, played a major role in a 32-3 regular season for the Patriots. She pounded 194 kills, served 37 aces, recorded 174 digs and chipped in 22 blocks. "Liza is one of the most mature kids that we have had here at Stevenson," coach Tim Crow said. "She has been a staple of our team the past two seasons. It has been great watching her develop as a player and leader the past three seasons. She is supportive of everyone and loves to compete." A repeat all-area choice, she will continue her volleyball career at Jacksonville State University.
Jenna Radtke Stevenson
Part of the Patriots' "twin towers" with Liza Pflugradt, the 6-foot-1 Radtke was a tower of power at the net. The senior middle blocker racked up 167 kills, 68 solo blocks, 60 assist blocks and 38 aces during a regular season in which the Patriots lost just three times. Mind you, she's still relatively new to volleyball. "Jenna is one of the best athletes and middle hitters we have had here at Stevenson," coach Tim Crow said. "She did not start playing volleyball until sophomore year. She has been a dominant player with both her attacking and blocking this season. Her hitting percentage is .454. She is a fun kid to watch and truly loves the game." Radtke will be playing at Northern Illinois University next season.
Izzy Rodriquez Round Lake
She led the Panthers in kills -- and she stands all of 5 feet 6. The versatile junior outside hitter/defensive specialist delivered 103 kills, while also leading the Panthers in aces (48), digs (167) and passion. "Izzy is a player every coach dreams of having and that every player turns to," coach Kristin Lilla said. "As a natural leader, she was the one who put her team on her shoulders when things got difficult and spoke the words they needed to hear when situations became unbearable. She could have started in any position for my team, but her natural position is as a defensive specialist. She would have had a positive impact for any team in our area if she were on their team. We needed her to go all the way around and hit for us, and despite her size, she was still able to collect kills with her smart, aggressive play. If our team were a body with each individual representing a different part, Izzy would undeniably be the heart of our team."
Gracie Schofield Carmel Catholic
Volleyball fans haven't seen the sophomore's best just yet. Gracie is more power than grace, but there is no denying her ability. Although she didn't play all the way around, the hard-hitting outside hitter headed into the postseason as the Corsairs' leading hitter in kills with 221 and a kill percentage of 27. She also accumulated 31 blocks. "She was moved from the middle to the outside this year as we tried to deal with several injuries at the beginning of the season," coach David Pazely said. "Once she started there, she dominated and we knew it was the right place for her. She has had several double-digit kill matches for us, and we have been able to lean on Gracie when we need a side out. As her confidence grew this season, so did her performance and rhythm with the setters. We always try to find the hot hand offensively, and more often than not it's Gracie. As she continues to grow, improve and get stronger, I know she will be a game-changing player that opponents will have to fear."
Layne Self Lake Zurich
When Self hits, players on the other side of the net can be excused for going into Self-defense mode. Self smashes volleyballs, piling up a hefty 427 kills during the regular season. The 6-foot-1 middle blocker, who serves as a captain this season, is a three-time all-area selection. "Arguably, she is the best offensive player in Northwest suburbs and in discussion as a top offensive player in state," coach Matt Aiello said. The senior also racked up 71 blocks, served 76 aces and recorded 130 digs. She will play Division I volleyball for the University of Rhode Island.
Alex Silvola Lakes
Silvola shined. Which wasn't totally surprising since she's been a main contributor to the Eagles' success the last three seasons. But what made the senior's season particularly special was that she served as the team's setter in several matches. She's played right side on varsity since her sophomore campaign. Her versatility was key for the Eagles in their pursuit of the North Suburban Prairie title, which they won for the second year in a row. Her regular-season numbers included 81 kills, 25 blocks, 138 digs, 150 assists and 22 aces. "I have also had the opportunity to coach Alex for three years," coach Molly May said. "As a team captain this year, she has put in the extra hours to better her team and herself. Alex is a player who would not miss practice or any other team event. She even practiced with laryngitis this year. She is a player I can count on to communicate no matter what the circumstance."
Megan Tallman Wauconda
A finger injury sustained during club ball sidelined the veteran star early in the season. When she returned to the court, Wauconda started winning consistently. It was no wonder. The highly talented, long-armed setter/outside hitter makes her fourth appearance on the all-area team. Playing for her third varsity head coach, Allison Williams, she didn't miss a beat -- nor a pass, set or hit. Despite her late start to the season, she racked up 137 kills, 183 assists, 147 digs and 29 aces. She committed to Indiana University before her junior campaign.
Kristen Walding Lake Zurich
She's the Steve Nash of volleyball, an assist machine who can pass with the best. The junior setter and captain is making her second straight appearance on the all-area team after surpassing 1,000 assists for the second consecutive season. "Other than Cindy Zhou from Libertyville and (Abby) Fesl from Hersey, Kristen is the best setter I have seen all year," coach Matt Aiello said. "She actually is so talented that she blocks out of the middle for us while setting. She is a great threat at the net blocking and attacking. Walding dished out 1,009 assists during the regular season to go along with 72 kills, 53 blocks and 21 aces.
Kristen Webb Libertyville
She wondered if she would make the varsity team her freshman year. She did. And since then, the libero has made winning a habit for the Wildcats. In her four varsity seasons, the squad had won 118 matches heading into Thursday's regional final. Her 629 digs this season shattered the school record she set two years ago. "She's everything that we do defensively -- reading where the ball's going, covering hitters," coach Greg Loika said. "Every aspect that you would expect to come from a great defender, she does to a T, perfectly." A four-time all-area selection and co-captain of the 2012 squad with teammate Cindy Zhou, she will finish her career with more than 1,900 digs. "Everyone has flaws. Everyone has bad games," Loika said. "But she's the most dependable player out there. She's the toughest kid we have and the most humble kid I've met who has the skill set that she has." Webb will take her skill set and leadership qualities to Butler University.
Madi Wilcox Mundelein
Madi is mad about volleyball. The three-year varsity setter, a varsity player since her freshman year, earns her first all-area berth. Besides being an effective setter, she also has the ability to finish at the net. "Madi is a player who works as hard in the off-season, playing club and going to top specialized setting camps as well, as she does during the (high school) season," coach George Dressen Jr. said. "She moves well and has a good control for the offense. Madi also has an aggressive serve that leads the team in attempts and aces that starts off each set. She is very energetic and leads by example."
Taylor Zant Libertyville
What can't Zant do? "We called her a jack-of-all-trades on senior night,"coach Greg Loika said. The 6-foot-1 senior started her volleyball career at Libertyville as a middle blocker her freshman year, before earning a spot as the varsity's starting right side as a sophomore. She played outside hitter last season, before moving back to right side this year. Wherever she played, the Wildcats could count on her to deliver at a high level. "She is a very dependable player who wants to win," Loika said. Zant led the North Suburban Conference champions with 183 kills, while also recording 137 digs as a six-rotation player. "She decided to be a full-time volleyball player after her freshman year, and it paid off in a huge way for her," Loika said.
Cindy Zhou Libertyville
The Wildcats have been spoiled by their "Zhou Factor" the last four seasons. The highly skilled University of Michigan recruit used her nearly 6-foot frame to dominate at the net again this season, dishing out 547 assists during the regular season in addition to slamming 179 kills and serving 32 aces, while leading the Wildcats to their second North Suburban Conference championship in three years. A three-time all-area selection and co-captain of this season's squad along with teammate Kristen Webb, she racked up more than 2,000 assists in her career (a school record). Coach Greg Loika said Zhou is ranked No. 91 nationally for senior recruits. "When she's 'on,' our team looks really good," Loika said. "Getting her to touch every other ball is something that puts us in good shape."
Rachel Ziegler Warren
The Blue Devils are set with the junior captain as their setter, but she's capable of doing so much more on the volleyball court. "Even though Rachel only sets during her high school season, she is a natural," coach Julie Filippo said. "She works extremely hard and wants to improve daily." Ziegler, a second-year starter, help direct the Blue Devils to 18 wins during the regular season. She led her team in assists (386) and was second in digs (100). She also recorded 74 kills, 30 aces and 17 blocks. "Rachel is a leader on and off the court," Filippo said. "We look for great things from Rachel in her senior year."
Player School Pos. Yr.
Emily Aigner Lakes OH Sr.
Alyssa Armada Carmel Catholic RS/S Jr.
Caitlin Barry Carmel Catholic OH Sr.
Brooke Buckley Grant OH Sr.
Gabi Casper Grayslake Central OH Jr.
Alexandria Dahlstrom Grayslake Central OH Jr.
Ashley Dina Lake Zurich L Jr.
Khaila Donaldson Stevenson OH Jr.
Sam Falco Antioch RS/MB Jr.
Marissa Grant Antioch S So.
Joanna Guhl Grayslake North OH Sr.
Sarah Horner Lakes OH Sr.
Paige Jespersen Warren OH Sr.
Susan Karhoff Wauconda OH/S Jr.
Shannon Nugent Vernon Hills OH Sr.
Liza Pflugradt Stevenson OH Sr.
Jenna Radtke Stevenson OH Sr.
Izzy Rodriguez Round Lake OH/DS Jr.
Gracie Schofield Carmel Catholic OH So.
Layne Self Lake Zurich MB Sr.
Alex Silvola Lakes RS Sr.
Megan Tallman Wauconda OH/S Sr.
Kristen Walding Lake Zurich S Sr.
*Kristen Webb Libertyville L Sr.
Madi Wilcox Mundelein S Jr.
Taylor Zant Libertyville RS Sr.
*Cindy Zhou Libertyville S Sr.
Rachel Ziegler Warren S Jr.
* All-area team co-captain
Ashley Anderson (Wauconda, L. Fr.), Alex Basler (Libertyville, MB, So.), Meghan Brewster (Grayslake Central, S, Jr.), Alexa Bykowski (Stevenson, S, Jr.), Jenn Claussen (Vernon Hills, OH, Sr.), Beka Couch (Grant, OH, Jr.), Jaime Dickinson (Warren, OH, Sr.), Ashley Dolin (Mundelein, MB, Sr.), Kendall Farmer (Warren, MH, Sr.), Anne Geocaris (Stevenson, RS/S, Sr.), Mallory Gizowski (Grant, RS, Sr.), Shannon Grant (Lakes, MB, Sr.), Madeline Johnson (Antioch, OH/MB, Jr.), Kelsey Klausner (Grayslake North, OH, Sr.), Lisa Lowry (Grayslake North, S, Sr.), Shauna Meagher (Carmel, L, Jr.), Mallory Parsons (Lake Zurich, OH, Jr.), Mary Paterkiewicz (Carmel, S, Sr.), Courtney Perreault (Mundelein, OH, Sr.), Rhiannon Prentiss (Libertyville, OH, Jr.), Lisiann Rodriguez (Warren, DS, Sr.), Taylor Rossi (Grant, S, Sr.), Julia Smagacz (Libertyville, MB, Sr.), Marina Treto (Grayslake Central, L, Sr.), Maura Zawaski (Carmel, DS, Sr.)
Selections by Joe Aguilar