Coach: Jamie Atkinson (seventh season)
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Last season: 7-16
Players to watch: Fr. S Nathan Borries, Sr. S Glen Wiemerslage, Sr. OH Ian Keller, Sr. OH Ryan Lannert
Outlook: There is some optimism from the Sequoits camp. "I am thinking that this will be one of Antioch's strongest boys volleyball teams,'' coach Jamie Atkinson said. For one thing, the Sequoits will rely on a ninth-grader to set the volleyball. And Atkinson is pleased to hand this key role of setter to freshman Nathan Borries. "He is learning so much everyday,'' Atkinson said. "And as he learns more, we will start to see the whole team improve around him." Borries will have some help, as the Sequoits run a 6-2 offense. Glen Wiemerslage is a senior and has had some experience setting the ball. "Glen is able to deliver the ball to the hitters at a quicker tempo and put the ball where they need it to be." Look for two other seniors to take some key roles. Ian Keller is making the move to outside hitter. "Ian is a great defensive piece,'' Atkinson said. "And we will benefit from having him play all-around. He has made huge strides in the off season." Also helping on the outside is 12th-grader Ryan Lannert. Atkinson thinks Lannert is the fastest and quickest hitter in the program. "This year's team has a lot to learn,'' she said. "But they have already proved they are a strong team. We will have to work on our speed in terms of blocking and our defense. As one of the smaller teams in the county, we have a difficult road ahead, but I see that the players are committed to getting better every practice."
Coach: Kevin Nylen (sixth season)
Last season: 23-13, 7-1 in ESCC (co-champ)
Players to watch: Matt Campbell (6-3, Sr.), Zach Rappe (6-5 Sr.), Andrew Wloch, (5-11 Jr.), Derek Clement (6-2 Jr.), Brad Gadek (6-4 Jr.), Kyle Zeman (5-10, Jr.), Patrick Meadie (5-10 Fr.)
Key losses: RS Kevin Fitzgibbons (2012 All-ESCC), S Alex Dunlap, (2012 All-ESCC), L Frankie Cohen, (2012 All-ESCC), OH Henry Dominicis (2012 All-ESCC), MH Will Collazo (2011 All-ESCC), OH Anthony Rengers OH
Outlook: Graduation took its toll, but don't feel sorry for the Corsairs. Coach Kevin Nylen is high on his 2013 squad. "(Matt) Campbell and (Andrew) Wloch are both solid setters who can also hit from the front row,'' Nylen said of the two juniors. "Both have great serves." Zach Rappe is a returning varsity starter at middle who could also play the right side. Nylen calls Derek Clement a natural volleyball player who can hit anywhere in the front row. Kyle Zeman and Patrick Meadie are "high volleyball IQ guys" who know where to position themselves on the floor, Nylen said. "Both are solid serve-receive passers, which will help the offense," Nylen said. Carmel's season opened with a win over Lakes. "We had a solid first match against a much-improved Lakes team,'' Nylen said. "We struggled to adjust to their blocks and jump serves at first, but once we settled down and matched their energy level we played pretty well. I imagine that will be the story for the first few weeks of the season. Until we can establish an identity, we will have some ups and downs. But because of our talent, we will be able to hold our own. ... We have a talented and dynamic group overall. We have a number of guys who can play multiple positions well, which leads to a number of different lineup possibilities."
Coach: Wayne Schultz (fifth season)
Last season: 12-17
Players to watch: Sr. Mason Solbrig (6-6), Jr. Richard Galat (6-1), So. Dalton Solbrig (6-5)
Key losses: Chase Binkley, Sean Donovan, Eric Metzelaar
Outlook: Mason Solbrig, a 6-6 senior, is headed to Dominican University in River Forest in the fall. "Mason should be one of the top players in the region,'' said coach Wayne Schultz. "He can do it all for us this season and is an impact player. We have a mix of young players and seniors that should blend for a strong season for us. We have an athletic team that should be a lot of fun to watch. We should have a very competitive season." Junior Richard Galat is a natural athlete. "Richard is a high energy player and can jump out of the gym,'' Schultz said. Dalton Solbrig, Mason's kid brother, will certainly see time this spring. "Dalton is a force in the middle and has a strong game for a young player,'' Schultz said.
Coach: Lesly Ravenscraft (fourth season)
Last season: 11-25
Players to watch: Jr. Michael Savio (5-9), So. Matt Carmody (6-1), Jr. Brent Sweetwood (6-2)
Outlook: With an opening season win over Buffalo Grove, maybe this is the year for the Bears. "I believe that we may surprise some teams this year,'' said coach Lesly Ravenscraft. "Although our program is still developing, we have a core group of dedicated and skilled players who are buying into the belief that we can be competitive." Will the Bears be able to compete against the likes of Stevenson and Warren? Time will tell, but Ravenscraft seems optimistic. "We are looking forward to a great season,'' she said. "They are willing to work hard and work together to achieve that success."
Coach: Casey Aubin (second season)
Last season: 25-11
Players to watch: Sr. Ryan Stueckeman (6-2), Sr. Dan Tropple (6-1), So. Chris Akers (6-0), Jr. Adam Sachs (5-10), Jr. Michael Axe (6-3), Jr. Alex Mills (6-3), So. Zac Hauser (6-3)
Outlook: This is another successful squad hit hard by graduation. Only seniors Dan Tropple and Ryan Stueckeman saw playing time a year ago. "We have a young team, and that's to be expected when you graduate 10 seniors," coach Casey Aubin said. "We are very pleased with the work ethic and demeanor of our team. As with any young team, we expect some growing pains as players gel together out there on the court and settle into some new positions. But we strongly believe that we will compete in the NSC and look to be playing our best ball when it matters most, at the end of the season."
Coach: George Dressen (12th season)
Last season: 17-19
Players to watch: Sr. Blake Burton (6-4), So. John Lentz (6-2), Sr. Joey Tylka (6-3), Sr. Victor Magana (6-1), Jr. David Everding (6-0)
Key losses: Parker Tortorello (Cardinal Stritch), Owen Wilcox, Corey Flores
Outlook: The Mustangs have not been to state since the 2007 season, but coach George Dressen Jr. is hopeful his team can make its mark this spring. "We've been knocking on the door,'' Dressen said. "We are looking to beat the 20-win mark." Senior captain Blake Burton is being recruited by six colleges and looks ready for a breakout season. "He'll play all-around this year,'' Dressen said. "He's a great leader on and off the court." A hand injury hurt setter Victor Magana a year ago. But maybe because of it, he's back this year and seems he can hit with either hand. "If we are able to jell properly, we could do some amazing things,'' Dressen said. "We could be a surprising team. And a very aggressive offensive team."
Coach: Tim Crow (11th season)
Last season: 31-5, 6-1 in NSC (tied for championship with Vernon Hills)
Players to watch: Sr. Jonah May (6-3), Sr. Aaron Zalewski (6-4), Sr. Brad Tiller (6-4), Sr. Brian Dubinsky, Sr. Bret Lerner, Sr. Kevin Xu
Key losses: Jason Fleischman, Mitch Robinson, Collin Ryan
Outlook: It helps to return a setter as good as Jonah May. He's headed for a good education and some volleyball at Princeton University. A season ago, he dished off 733 assists. He and hard-hitting Brad Tiller are returning all-area players. "The guys have all improved from last season," coach Tim Crow said. "We like our talent level and depth. We have a lot of varsity experience returning this season." Blessed with good height, the 6-4 duo of Aaron Zalewski (6-4) and Tiller combined for 336 kills last year. "We look forward to a strong schedule and a very competitive North Suburban Conference,'' Crow said.
Coach: Yun Chen (ninth season)
Last season: 20-16
Key loss: Tyler Smith
Players to watch: Sr. Sam Wilson, Jr. Bryant Holland, Sr. Vuk Jakovljevic, Jr. Arvind Kouta, Jr. Max Bongratz, Jr. Mitch Maan de Kok
Outlook: Several new players have checked in for the Blue Devils, who got to a 2-0 start. "We have a lot of club experience, but only a couple of players saw significant varsity playing time last year,'' coach Yun Chen said. "So we will be learning together how to compete at the varsity level."
Coach: Chris Curry (13th season)
Last season: 32-5, 9-1 in NSC (co-champs with Stevenson)
Players to watch: Jr. Max Spiglanin (6-2), Jr. Mike Heinz (6-2), Jr. Ryan Opitz (6-4), Sr. Evan Borden (6-2)
Key losses: OH Thomas Robinson, OH Martin Niemczewski (Ball State)
Outlook: Will the Cougars win 30 matches every single year? Well, better not bet against them. They have an established setter in Ryan Opitz, who lofted 765 assists a season ago. "He'll have to run a much faster offense this year and make good choices for us to be successful,'' coach Chris Curry said. "He'll also have to attack more and improve his defense. He did a great job for what we expected from a sophomore setter. More is expected this year." Junior Mike Heinz can really pound the volleyball. "Mike's leadership on the court will go a long way to determining how successful we are, especially early in the season,'' Curry said. Junior Max Spiglanin may not look intimidating at the net but has an uncanny knack for blocking the volleyball. He led the Cougars in blocks last year with an even 100. The Cougars will be stronger when senior Evan Borden returns from an injury. A captain on the soccer team, Borden looks to demonstrate some of that leadership on the volleyball court this year. Curry is eager to see his team play. "We hope, as always, to keep ourselves in the mix for the conference title,'' he said. "The trick, as it is every year, is not to try to replicate last year, even if we accomplished some good things. This is a new group of guys. They've got to make their own team, find their own strengths, learn what works for them. If we do that, we can have a good year, compete for the NSC title and compete for tourney championships." Curry would like to see this club step it up once the postseason tournament opens. "We'll look to advance a step or two deeper in the state tournament than we did last year," he said. "Some of these guys were on the team that made it to state in 2011, and they've been working hard to get that experience again."