Blake Burton Mundelein
Burton's senior season was clearly a success. He was the Mustangs' MVP and captain for two years. In his final season at Mundelein, Burton banged out a team-high 235 kills and provided 134 digs. "Blake is a great leader on and off the court,'' coach George Dressen said. "He gives 100 percent every time he takes the court." Burton clearly stepped up, adding 100 more kills than he had a year ago and leading the team in serve reception.
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Matt Campbell Carmel Catholic
You might think this was one powerful setter. Not only did Campbell register 134 assists, he also banged out 120 kills. Well, it was a little more complicated than that. Campbell surrendered his setting role and turned into a front-row hitter. This ESCC player's versatility helped the Corsairs this spring. "Matt handled the move incredibly well, and throughout the season proved just how versatile he was,'' coach Kevin Nylen said. "He was a great leader on and off the court." Campbell was one tough server too, notching 22 aces.
Derek Clement Carmel Catholic
Here's another Carmel player who took some time finding out his role. And that was to pound the volleyball. "So a few weeks into the season he became our primary hitter,'' coach Kevin Nylen said. "And he did a great job with it. Because of his talent, we expect to see even bigger things from him next year." Clement managed 211 kills to go with 35 blocks and 25 aces. "He has a high volleyball IQ,'' Nylen added. "And a good connection with our setter, Andrew Wloch.''
Brian Dubinsky Stevenson
Sure, the Pats had special players this spring. And it also helped to have someone who could play defense. Dubinsky was Stevenson's libero. 'Brian was one of the top liberos in the area,'' said coach Tim Crow. "He is such a great player and teammate. His ability to absorb the big swing and to read opposing hitters set him apart from other players in his position." Credit Dubinsky with 295 digs for the NSC champions.
Richard Galat Lakes
Here is another player who switched positions for the better of the team. The junior excelled at hitting the volleyball. "Richard made the switch from setter to outside hitter for us this season," coach Wayne Schultz said. "His passing and defense were outstanding all season. Richard was money in serve receive. Offensively he is an explosive hitter with great court awareness." The three-year starter managed 245 kills and added 156 digs.
Mike Heinz Vernon Hills
Heinz played on an excellent squad that fell one win short of a team trip to state. Just imagine if he was healthy the whole season. A back injury slowed him but he was healthy when the Cougars needed him. "He's our best server at putting pressure on the other team and our second best passer,'' said coach Chris Curry. "More than the numbers, though, he's so talkative on the floor, helping other players correct mistakes, identifying what's available for other hitters, and generally just keeping guys in the moment. Mike's the only junior I can remember getting voted as a captain by his teammates, and there's good reason they chose him." Despite missing time, Heinz helped out with 169 kills and 142 digs.
Bryant Holland Warren
Although Holland is just a junior, he's taking his spot in the Warren record books. He also switched positions late in the season. Holland became the team's libero in the last seven matches this year. "Since I've been at Warren there are only two players that ever led the team in more than two categories," coach Yun Chen said. "Kyle Schwede in four out of five categories, and Bryant in three out of five categories. This shows Bryant is quite a well rounded player. I'm looking forward to what Bryant will bring next season." Holland led the Blue Devils in kills (175), digs (316) and aces (41).
Arvind Kouta Warren
Warren introduced a new setter, and Kouta seemed to adjust to the role right away. His first year moved him second in the Blue Devils' record books with 776 assists. "This is Arvind's first year setting on varsity, and overall we thought he did a great job running the offense,'' coach Yun Chen said. "Arvind definitely accomplished a lot this season. I'm looking forward to what he will bring in 2014." The setter also checked in with 141 digs, 36 blocks and 24 aces.
Ryan Lannert Antioch
Leading the strong senior class was this outside hitter, who made a transition from right side hitter to outside hitter. "Against every team in the conference, he had at minimum 5 kills,'' coach Jamie Atkinson said. "Ryan led the team in conditioning and was an inspiration to the younger players." Lannert also earned the best teammate award from his peers.
John Lentz Mundelein
On the court, here's a Mundelein player who is truly focused. "He is one of the most intense players on the team,'' coach George Dressen said. "He plays every point as if it's the final point of the game." Off the court, the sophomore was up to good things too. "He is the player that asked for us to start a new tradition, a Teacher Appreciation Night, to honor teachers that have gone over and above their duties to make a difference in their education," Dressen said. "That went over great." On the court, he added 100 kills from a year ago and finished with 171. He also had 56 digs.
Brett Lerner Stevenson
This player might have flown below the radar with all the big players in the lineup. However, they knew full well how good a player Lerner was. Lerner was willing to help in many ways. He notched 197 kills and chipped in with 113 digs. "He was the X-factor for us this season,'' coach Tim Crow said. "He brought offensive balance to our team. It was great to watch him grow a player and person the past two seasons."
Jonah May Stevenson
It's fair to say Stevenson doesn't win 30 matches without their magical setter. He crossed over the 700 mark in assists during this special campaign. "Jonah has been a huge factor in our teams success the past two seasons,'' coach Tim Crow said. "He is one of the best leaders I have ever seen." Officially that was 701 assists to go with 82 kills and 83 blocks. "His ability to make others around him better is a reflection of his abilities as a setter," Crow added. "He was one of the top setters in the state." There is more volleyball for May as he will play at Princeton next season.
Ryan Opitz Vernon Hills
It's clearly a good thing to have a 6-foot-4 setter in a team's lineup. And that's the role Opitz plays. Coach Chris Curry pointed out that this junior had a tougher role this year because his team graduated two major stars. Still, Opitz progressed and notched 756 assists, 130 digs, 78 blocks and 76 kills. "Ryan really understands what coach Charlie Mann wants him to do with the offense," Curry said. "And he puts his hitters in positions that give them an advantage against the blockers fairly regularly."
Adam Sacks Libertyville
It wasn't the best of seasons at Libertyville. But the Wildcats did find someone to play defense for them, Sacks. He managed 227 digs and served at a 93 percent clip. "Adam is a person of tremendous character,'' coach Casey Aubin said. "He was a player who has the skill and awareness to elevate the play of the people around him. Adam was someone we depended on this year to bring strong leadership and organization to our defense and is someone that we see as a building block for what we hope to accomplish in the future"
Mike Savio Lake Zurich
Only an injury spoiled the campaign of this dynamic server and all-around player for the Bears. If he was 6 inches taller, he would be the most dangerous player in Lake County. What couldn't Savio do on a volleyball court? Simple answer: little. He had a scary jump serve, and despite standing just 5-foot-9, he wasn't about to back down to anyone at the net. Savio believes his Bears will have a strong season next year, and he'll be leading them.
Tyler Small Vernon Hills
We could list this player as one of the surprise stories of spring volleyball. He wasn't expected to see the floor much, but there were some injuries in the Cougars' program. When he began to play, Small paid immediate dividends. Coach Chris Curry was glad Small stepped up. "He had our fifth-best blocking season by a player ever,'' Curry said. "And nobody is noticing. He's a huge part of what we're doing." As the season closed, Small approached the 100-block mark.
Mason Solbrig Lakes
Lakes is on the map in boys volleyball, and much credit goes to this 6-foot-6 senior. Solbrig is off to Dominican University for more volleyball. He led the Eagles with 280 kills. Add that to his team high 42 aces and 61 blocks. "Mason is a hard-working kid,'' coach Wayne Schultz said, "who wants the best for our team." And he wasn't too proud to play defense. The senior notched 123 digs.
Max Spiglanin Vernon Hills
This player is hard to figure out. He's listed as 6-foot-2 but can out-block the bigger players he faces. "He's just taking over when needed,'' coach Chris Curry said. "He had to move around a lot early this season, bouncing between opposite and outside hitter to help us cover injuries to other players, all after playing middle hitter for us as a sophomore. He's got a skill set that works anywhere on the floor, and he plays wherever we put him without complaint." In his breakout season, Spiglanin hammered out 297 kills to go with 222 digs, 80 blocks and 22 aces.
Brad Tiller Stevenson
The Daily Herald's honorary captain was a fierce hitter. The senior was a major player for the Patriots team that won 62 of 72 matches over the past two seasons. "He is a great teammate and has worked very hard in expanding his game,'' coach Tim Crow said. "He is a dynamic hitter who can play multiple positions and can attack from every position on the court." In his final season at Stevenson, Tiller had 304 kills and 140 kills. He also netted all-state honors. "Brad pursues excellence in all that he does on a daily basis,'' Crow said. "His leadership was a major factor in our team's success." Tiller has a 4.68 GPA and will attend Cornell University next fall.
Frank Tokarz Grant
It's tough to build a program from scratch, but at Grant it was helpful to have a player like Tokarz. The 6-foot-3 senior stood out, playing in the middle blocker role. "His defense was also extremely valuable in the front row,'' coach Jon Schapp said. Tokarz led in kills while hitting at .192 percentage. Those defensive skills paid off with 160 digs. He added 38 blocks. "The team MVP will be missed in the future,'' Schapp said.
Lem Turner Vernon Hills
Where did they find this kid? At times late in the season, he was the best player on the court and a scary hitter. At Vernon Hills, they will get two more years from him. "He has almost no volleyball experience, doesn't play club, and is just dominant some nights,'' coach Chris Curry said. A virtual blocking machine, Turner is already the program's single-season leader in that department and broke the old mark by more than 20. "He's fun, high-energy, and an absolute game changer for us,'' Curry added. "He really disrupts an opponent's offense when he's in there. Once he gets a little more experience, watch out."
Aaron Zalewski Stevenson
A three-year starter, Zalewski proved to be a difficult player to guard against. "Coaches would game-plan around him,'' coach Tim Crow said. "His ability to play multiple positions made him a game changer. His talent and big heart will be truly missed." In his final season, Zalewski managed 156 kills and 86 blocks. "He has such a significant impact on the game every time he steps on the floor,'' Crow said.