By Joshua Welge
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Coach: Dan Styler.
Last year: 20-14 overall, 4-2 (third) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to West Chicago 25-23, 25-16 in the Class 4A Glenbard West regional semifinal.
Top players: Christina Capuani, sr., S/DS; Juliana Selvaggi, sr., OH; Nina Capuani, so., S/OPP; Jessica Mell, so., M; Nicole Pudlo, so., OH; Sara Petrbok, fr., OH.
Scouting report: Second-year coach Styler sounds much like a person crafting a jigsaw puzzle. That is, he is trying to figure out where the pieces fit best. The Capuani sisters and Selvaggi are his top returners; added to them, the Blazers are starting three sophomores and a freshman. Styler is also counting on a few girls to learn new positions. Styler likes the athleticism and potential of his younger kids. The Capuanis are the workhorses of the program, the kind of kids Styler noted "eat, sleep and drink volleyball." The Blazers are only average, size-wise, which means they will need to win the serve and pass game, improve their ball control and become strong situational hitters. "There will be that learning curve," Styler said, "but I'm excited about the commitment to get better."
Coach: Brad Baker.
Last year: 40-2 overall, 7-2 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference; Beat New Trier 21-25, 25-22, 25-17 in the Class 4A championship.
Top players: Brittany Pavich, sr., M; Rachael Fara, jr., M; Caroline Wolf, sr., L; Natalie Canulli, jr., OH; Stephanie Sinnappon, sr., S; Whitney Battoe, sr., OH
Scouting report: Stop if you've heard this before. Benet is defending a state title this fall, but doing it with a completely new cast. The Redwings surprised many last year in winning their second straight Class 4A crown; now they'll try to three-peat with a new setter, libero and all new pin hitters. It's still an ultra-talented bunch. Boston College-bound Pavich, sidelined for now with shoulder tendinitis, and Northwestern recruit Fara might be the best pair of middles in the state. Canulli, committed to Penn State, plays libero for her club team but is at outside here. Battoe is another hitter to watch. Wake Forest recruit Wolf fills the big shoes of 2012 Daily Herald All-Area Captain Sheila Doyle at libero, and lanky 6-footer Sinappon, Baker's biggest-ever setter at Benet, steps in for Hannah Kaminsky. The names are new, but not the expectations. "The girls expect to be great," Baker said. "Everybody who doesn't think we'll be as good, they want to prove them wrong."
Downers Grove North
Coach: Mark Wasik.
Last year: 18-18 overall, 4-2 in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Downers Grove South 15-25, 25-17, 25-22 in the Class 4A Naperville Central regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Katherine Mahlke, sr., OPP; Grace Larson, jr., OH; Mary Helen Beacom, so., S; Lexi May, so., M; Selene Ushela, jr., L.
Scouting report: Slow starts, better finishes seem to be the Trojans' recent modus operandi -- see last year's 1-7 start Downers Grove North dug out of. This group should be better equipped to change that pattern. To start, the three freshmen starters of a year ago are now sophomores, and the Trojans return seven -- but are still young with just three seniors. One of those, Michigan-bound lefty Mahlke, had 277 kills and 43 blocks, and Wasik thinks she could top even those numbers as one of the state's elite hitters. Larson brings back 86 kills and 22 aces, and Beacom set 338 assists as a freshman. Downers Grove North struggled with the block last year but should be much improved with 6-4 sophomore May in the middle. "We're still young," Wasik said, "but we look to be competitive."
Downers Grove South
Coach: Trisha Kurth.
Last year: 21-16 overall; lost to Benet 25-16, 25-10 in the Class 4A Naperville Central regional semifinal.
Top players: Katie Vondra, jr., OH; Cassie Lueken, jr., OH; Jess Faber, jr., L; Jen Graham, sr., OH: Hannah Wood, jr., DS; Rachel Schneider, so., M; Renee Kryk, fr., S; Meghan Muench, jr., S; Meghan Mayer, so., RS.
Scouting report: Graduating nine, fielding a lineup with just one senior, it goes without saying that the young Mustangs are still finding their rhythm. It is good to have Vondra back. Downers Grove South's kill leader last year, Vondra is the one girl who will play six rotations. Lueken, who will miss a few weeks with an ankle injury, responded well when thrown into the fire as a sophomore, and Graham gained consistency playing with First Alliance. Two setters are new; one of them, Kryk, is the sister of Steve Kryk who started for the Mustangs' boys state champions. Kurth expects a strong defensive team starting with Schneider in the middle. "We have work to do," Kurth said. "If we are a team that does anything it will be toward the end of the season."
Coach: Josh Payton.
Last year: 11-21 overall, 4-8 (fifth) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Elk Grove 25-16, 25-19 in the Class 4A Schaumburg regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Val Andrews, jr., OH: Nicole Celarek, sr., OH; Tina Guarino, sr., OPP; Giselle Aguirre, so., S.
Scouting report: The Bison program is taking baby steps forward. It nearly doubled its win total from 2011 a year ago and is far removed from the 1-30 record the year before Payton took over. His seniors are a big reason why. A core of six are going into their third year on varsity. It is an experienced group, with 11 returners. Celarek, committed to Central Connecticut, is Fenton's strongest offensive threat and will play six rotations. Sure-handed Guarino will hit right-side and also set, the Bison's clear court leader. Andrews has grown 2 inches to 5-11 and will move to the middle with another near 6-footer Natalia Szfraniec. "These girls have learned to deal with expectations and have dealt with loss and struggle," Payton said. "I don't feel we've topped out yet."
Coach: Marci Maier.
Last year: 5-31 overall, 0-14 (eighth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to South Elgin 25-18, 25-19 in the Class 4A Batavia regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Meghan Hanewall, sr., OH; Sam Bell, jr., S; Sarah Murphy, jr., M; Emily Hamaker, so., M/OPP; Dana Camp, sr., M/OPP; Allison Farrell, so., OH; Janni Palijo, sr., DS; Alex Ruffer, sr., S; Allison Achenbaugh, jr., S; Viky Bozenovaite, jr., OH; Samantha Sarles, so., OH; Jessie Spontak, so., DS.
Scouting report: How is Glenbard East better than last year? Maier can't point a finger on one spot, but rest assured she is encouraged. "We are visually better walking in the door this year than we were last year," said the Rams coach. Six girls return, but it's still a relatively young group with four sophomores. Fourth-year starter Hanewall, who had 244 kills playing outside, will lead the Rams wherever they go. Murphy had 42 kills and 36 blocks and returns in the middle, as does fellow junior Bell at setter. Of the sophomores, Hamaker started on varsity last year and Farrell got a taste of action. What Maier appreciates most is the fight in this group. "I have 12 girls who are competitors," she said. "That alone should take us much farther."
Coach: Jenny Farinella.
Last year: 16-19 overall, 7-7 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to St. Charles North 25-22, 25-19 in the Class 4A St. Charles North regional final.
Top players: Stephanie Tobison, sr., OH; Nicole Tobison, jr., M; Maria Perino, so., S; Emily Krohn, so., M; Stephanie Cole, so., OH; Sarah Peters, jr., DS.
Scouting report: First-year coach Farinella, a 2002 Lake Park graduate, has owned Dynamic Impact volleyball club out of Schaumburg for three years. This is her first shot at running a high school program, and she sounds ready to hit the ground running. "I'm excited about the idea of being able to start over and build their program," Farinella said. Seven girls at Glenbard North play for Farinella's club team, including sophomore Krohn. These Panthers will revolve around Stephanie Tobison and her sister Nicole, both varsity members since freshman year with Sports Performance experience. Wins will be nice, but Farinella is thinking long term. "I really want to develop structure in my program," she said. "I want them to bond, have a successful season and structure this program for growth."
Coach: Chad Grant.
Last year: 27-11 overall, 10-2 (first) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to St. Francis 25-18, 25-21 in the Class 3A IMSA regional final.
Top players: Tarah Valdez, sr., OH; Tomei Ball, sr., M; Sydney Bauman, jr., M; MacKenzie Watterson, so., OH; Alex LaPonte, jr., S; Riley Mullins, jr., L; Erin Millett, jr., OPP; Payton Carli, so., DS.
Scouting report: This is shaping up to be Grant's best group of hitters. They make Glenbard South primed to make some hay. Valdez leads that bunch, after putting down 250 kills with 166 digs last year. Ball, who had 38 kills and 23 blocks, and Bauman, 31 and 11, are both making the move from right side to their natural position in the middle. Meanwhile Watterson, who had 98 kills, 45 blocks, 40 digs and 27 aces, is sliding over from middle to her best position outside. Alex LaPonte, who takes over as starting setter, had 77 assists as a sophomore. Grant expects this group to be taller, faster and more athletic. If the Raiders can pass, they can be better than last year's 27-win team. "I like what we can get to," he said.
Coach: Pete Mastandrea.
Last year: 37-3 overall, 6-0 (first) in the West Suburban Silver; lost to New Trier 25-13, 23-25, 25-14 in the Class 4A Niles West supersectional.
Top players: Meg DeMaar, sr., L/OH; Natalie Schilling, so., OH; Kate Wagner, so., S; Katie Ball, sr., M; Caroline Jenkins, sr., M; Alison Burelbach, jr., OH.
Scouting report: Can the Hilltoppers climb even higher? They will be hard-pressed to top a 2012 season that saw Glenbard West set a program win record and claim its first sectional title in 27 years. Mastandrea likes his collection of young talent, and any coach would love DeMaar. The dynamite libero committed to Furman could play anywhere on the court, but Mastandrea needs her to anchor his defense. Schilling, a 6-footer who started as a freshman, is one to watch and could be Mastandrea's best-ever hitter. Wagner was a defensive specialist last year and now assumes the setter position with Caleigh Ryan moved on to Northwestern. Burelbach enjoyed a big summer but broke her hand and is near being cleared, while Ball and Jenkins return in the middle. Mastandrea beefed up his schedule to prepare for bigger matches ahead. The Hilltoppers will travel to the Crossroads Classic in Effingham and added Marist and Downers Grove South. "I know we can be good, but can we be good for long enough?" Mastandrea asked rhetorically. "I'm hoping the young, talented kids play like seniors."
Coach: Kelly Moran.
Last year: 14-26 overall, 2-4 (third) in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Mother McAuley 25-17, 25-15 in the Class 4A Mother McAuley supersectional.
Top players: Lauren Fuller, jr., OH; Claire Cornell, jr., M; Brooke Istvan, jr., S; Alex Davis, jr., L; Emily Sulik, jr., OH; Emily Wasz, sr., M.
Scouting report: This is a whole new team -- the Red Devils graduated five of their top nine girls, led by All-Area setter Meghan McDowell -- but Moran thinks it could be more well-rounded. Fuller, just committed to San Diego, is Hinsdale Central's top outside with better-developed first contact skills playing for Sports Performance's 16 Elite. Cornell and Sulik are taking on expanded roles, and the Red Devils will run a 6-2 with Istvan and Leah Ferro. Hinsdale Central must overcome the injury bug; Fuller, with lower back pain, was just cleared last week, outside Kylie Irvin has a stress fracture in her back, Regan Serwat bicep tendinitis and Ferro a broken pinkie. "The way the girls complement each other should be beneficial," Moran said.
Coach: Lisa Martinez.
Last year: 31-8 overall, 6-0 (first) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to Hinsdale Central 15-25, 25-21, 25-18 in the Class 4A Riverside-Brookfield sectional final.
Top players: Jackie Adelphia, sr., M; Sarah Garringer, sr., OH; Natalie Bochenek, sr., OH; Renee Bialas, jr., L; Lizzy Niestrom, jr., S; Veronica Cribbs, jr., S; Taylor Barns, jr., M; Cassidy Quinn, so., OH; Brittany West, so., DS; Emily Drenth, fr., OH; Amanda Pultrock, fr., M; Paola Gonzalez, fr., M/RS.
Scouting report: A youthful team like this one can be a scary proposition -- but always feisty Martinez and her Hornets are never one to back away from a challenge. Hinsdale South will carry three freshmen and a couple sophomores on a 19-deep roster. Adelphia, a three-year starter, didn't play over the summer but is back now and leads a group of five middles. Garringer, in her fourth year with Martinez, gets her opportunity to shine now. Among the younger girls, Drenth is one to watch and the Hornets' most athletic player. Martinez's biggest issue is settling on a setter. "There will be some growing pains, but I think we're going to surprise some people," Martinez said.
IC Catholic Prep
Coach: Jean Field.
Last year: 26-10 overall, third in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue; lost to Nazareth 25-13, 25-18 in the Class 3A IC Catholic Prep regional final.
Top players: Kimmy Martino, sr., S/OH; Delaney D'Amore, sr., OH; Rory Manion, sr., OH; Molly Manion, jr., DS/L; Brianna Hernandez, jr., OH; Hannah Hartnett, jr., OH; Frannie Cervone, jr., OH/S; Erin West, jr., OH; Claudia Koch, so., S/OH; Kerry Mulligan, so., DS/L.
Scouting report: Field has taken to calling the trio of Martino, D'Amore and Manion her "senior triangle." It sure looks like they have the Knights pointed toward a big fall. They are three of the five returners off a team which, dropping back down to Class 2A, could be poised for a deep playoff run. Martino, who will set a 5-1 with older sister Liz Martino graduated, is in her fourth year setting varsity and amassed 269 assists, 257 assists and 31 aces a year ago. D'Amore, labeled one of PrepVolleyball.com's "Defensive Dandies", had 379 kills to go with 301 assists as a junior and two-sport standout Manion 204 kills and 195 digs. "I think we can be competitive with the bigger schools in our conference," Field said. "It will be a good measure for us. I'm excited."
Coach: Tom Bergen.
Last year: 16-14 overall; lost to Glenbard West 25-19, 25-12 in the Class 4A Glenbard West regional semifinal.
Top players: Colleen Ochab, sr., OH; Amanda Hahn, jr., OH; Sarah Battersby, so., S; Maria Kubalewski, jr., S; Karlie Wolf, jr., M.
Scouting report: In assessing his team's chances, Bergen takes a practical approach. "We're not going to jump over the top of people," he said, "so we're going to have to play smarter." The Lancers, moving to the DuPage Valley Conference this fall, beat themselves too often last year. Bergen estimates that Lake Park gave away 12-15 points a match. With that in mind, the Lancers spent much of their summer working on defense and quickness and minimizing mistakes. Ochab returns much improved and confident after a year of club. Wolf, Lake Park's tallest girl at 5-foot-11, has enhanced her jumping ability, and Bergen notes it's essential to get sets to her. "We want to at least give ourselves a chance at the end of matches," he said. "Being small, we want to speed up the game."
Coach: Matt Hrubesky.
Last year: 15-24 overall, 6-4 (fourth) in the Interstate Eight Conference; lost to Westmont 25-8, 25-22 in the Class 2A Lisle regional final.
Top players: Summer Stitt, sr., OH; Hannah Kiesling, jr., S; Robyn Griffin, so., M; Nina Briehan, jr., M; Lauren Holub, sr., RS/DS/OH.
Scouting report: Lisle's success will start and end with Stitt. Hrubesky is effusive in praising his best player and only starter back. "She just does so many things right," he said. "She works the hardest, she is a joy to be around, she has a good arm on the outside. We are going to ride her a long way." Beyond Stitt, Briehan and Griffin are two girls with good size at 5-11. Griffin is making the jump from the freshman team, but Hrubesky likes how she carries herself with gained confidence playing club. Hrubesky forecasts a work in progress, saying, "we're going to have to get our offense where we can get it" and that the Lions will have to pass and serve well. "We have to decide that we're going to be tough and gritty," he said.
Coach: Dave Macdonald.
Last year: 18-13 overall, 5-1 in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to West Aurora 25-23, 25-19 in the Class 4A Waubonsie Valley regional semifinal.
Top players: Ellie Petersen, sr., S; Kaylyn Torain, sr., M; Lexie Lobdell, jr., OH; Nina Tuszynski, sr., OH; Autumn Long, so., L; Ashley Walker, so., M.
Scouting report: For the second straight year Metea is breaking in a new coach. But there is a lot of familiarity here, which should keep the Mustangs' arrow pointing upward. Macdonald, Metea's sophomore coach the last three years, takes over the program's most experienced varsity team to date that is nine seniors deep. Three girls -- seniors Petersen and Torain, and Lobdell, a junior -- are in their third year together. Lobdell is a dominant outside getting several collegiate looks. Long, a sophomore libero, has been a nice surprise. The expectations are high. Macdonald hopes to compete for a conference title, and the girls are intent on winning the program's first regional. "They want it bad," he said. "It makes it that much easier when you have kids that want a goal that bad."
Coach: Steve Dowjotas.
Last year: 21-12 overall, 10-1 (first) in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to IC Catholic Prep 25-21, 25-22 in the Class 3A IC Catholic Prep regional semifinal.
Top players: Joyce Balash, sr., M; Bridge Lucas, sr., L; Natalie Lopez, sr., OH; Monica Loftus, jr., OH; Tricia Ilich, sr., S; Gina Capetta, so., S; Jordan Bruscianelli, jr., RS; Mary Bowe, jr., OH; Mary Long, jr., DS.
Scouting report: Dowjotas, entering his third year, makes no bones about it -- if Montini is to make a splash on the volleyball scene, now is the time. Montini returns virtually its entire lineup with six seniors and eight juniors. It starts with Lewis commit Balash, who comes off a 115-block season, in the middle. Loftus put down 150 kills as a sophomore, and Dowjotas thinks she could double that total this fall. Lucas is Montini's all-time dig leader with 1,015 and could be the best libero in the conference. Lopez, 127 kills and 123 digs, brings three years of varsity experience to the table. Montini already made an early statement, beating Glenbard West last weekend in the Wheaton North final. "Ultimately this is the best team we've ever had," Dowjotas said. "This is the year it all comes together. We'll see where it ends up."
Coach: Jeff Danbom.
Last year: 28-9 overall, 12-2 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Benet 25-18, 25-20 in the Class 4A Naperville Central regional final.
Top players: Phoebe Havenaar, jr., M; Rachel Downs, sr., S/RS; Alexandra O'Brien, sr., OH; Andi Davenport, so., S; Quiana Ware, so., M.
Scouting report: It's an entirely different look in Naperville this fall. Not only did nine of last year's 10 girls graduate, but coach Brie Isaacson stepped down after 10 seasons and two state championships. The program is in good hands, though. Danbom was Isaacson's assistant the last six years and was in the boys program for 10 years, three as coach. He understands the expectations. "We have 12 brand-new faces, but we'll never use that as an excuse," Danbom said. Havenaar is the lone returner, and Danbom said hs junior middle soaked in well the program values from older girls. The challenge is for the other girls to acclimate to playing together at varsity speed. Isaacson is gone, but the Redhawks will still be built on defense, communication and a consistent message. "Fortunately they all know that," Danbom said, "and that won't change."
Coach: Jennifer Urban.
Last year: 27-10 overall, 11-3 (third) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Naperville Central 25-22, 29-27 in the Class 4A Naperville Central regional semifinal.
Top players: Angie Jurek, sr., M; Ellie Ivancich, sr., L; Sydney Cheatham, sr., S; Emily Kwak, jr., S; Megan Wernette, jr., M; Jen Dore, so., S; Emily Mankowski, sr., OH; Nina Yu, sr., L; Maddi Henry, sr., RS; Lexi Turek, sr., OH; Emily Bushman, so., OH.
Scouting report: Entering her 10th season with the Huskies, Urban thinks this could be her deepest team yet. Easy to see why with eight returners off a 27-win group. Wernette and Jurek provide Urban one of the better middle combos around. Kwak, in her third year on varsity, and Cheatham, bring leadership and consistency to the setter position and provide flexibility offensively. Keep an eye on much-improved Mankowski, one of five Huskies 6-footers. The Huskies should be the class of the DVC, with a deep playoff run a possibility. "Every girl has made improvement since last year," Urban said. "We've definitely had a lot of competition in practice."
Coach: Kelly Simon.
Last year: 17-19 overall, 5-1 in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to Naperville North 26-24. 25-22 in the Class 4A Naperville Central regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Kaylyn Hugdahl, sr., OH; Brenna Dunckel, sr., M; Abby Skryd, jr., OH; Rachael Chase, sr., M; Mary Tait, sr., M; Anne Botos, so., M; Lucy Kopchak, sr., S; Emily Krachenfels, jr., S; Kaelan Haag, jr., S; Jessica Mitchell, sr., DS; Ali Smenos, sr., DS; Solea Rodriguez, sr., DS; Tara Tralewski, sr., DS.
Scouting report: Simon doesn't teach science, but she seems to have an interesting study in chemistry here. The Wildcats return just two players in Hugdahl and Dunckel -- but it's an old roster with nine seniors. Then again, seven of those seniors have never played varsity and most will take the court together for the first time since they were freshmen. Hugdahl comes off a 166-kill, 194-dig, 50-ace junior season, and Simon said Dunckel, 69 kills and 70 blocks, has shown "more growth than anyone I've ever seen" after playing club for the first time. Dunckel is one of four Neuqua middles, and the Wildcats also have four setters. One of those, Skryd will be Neuqua's second outside. "The girls' perception is everyone sees this is a rebuilding year," Simon said. "With the versatility the girls offer it will come down to figuring out roles and the best chemistry."
Coach: Peg Kopec.
Last year: 37-5 overall, 12-0 (first) in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue; beat Richmond-Burton 25-21, 25-20 in the Class 3A championship.
Top players: Maddie Haggerty, sr., OH; Molly Haggerty, so., OH; Sam Dubiel, sr., L; Becca Shearer, sr., S/OPP: Natalie Murison, sr., S/L; Mary Boken, jr., M/OPP; Dani Messa, so., S; Kamryn Molloy, fr., OPP/OH.
Scouting report: Kopec is after her 10th state title -- and this loaded lineup has St. Francis the prohibitive favorite to do just that and repeat in Class 3A. Among Illinois teams, maybe only Mother McAuley can match the Spartans' talent. It starts with heavy hitters Molly and Maddie Haggerty, the latter committed to Nebraska, the best pair of pin hitters around. Dubiel, committed to Florida, Alabama-bound Murison, who takes over for McKenna Kelsay at setter and Boken and Shearer are other returners. Sprinkled in are a pair of younger kids, Messa at setter and freshman Molloy at right-side. Kopec does not wish to put any added pressure on her girls, but she is aware that all eyes will be on the Spartans this year. "We will not be an underdog in many matches," Kopec said. "I'm pleased not only with our talent level, but these girls' character is outstanding."
Coach: Scott Piersma.
Last year: 26-10 overall, 10-2 (tied for first) in the Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Nazareth 25-19, 25-19 in the Class 3A IC Catholic Prep regional semifinal.
Top players: Jenna Lodewyk, sr., S; Kacie Stoll, jr., M; Hanna Markewycz, jr., L; Brianne Cronenwett, sr., M; Elena Bulthuis, sr., OH.
Scouting report: Piersma, JV coach the last two years, takes over the Trojans program. He has much to build on. Timothy Christian has won 61 matches over the last two years and returns four starters, led by Lodewyk. The senior setter set 9.2 assists a game last year, with 187 digs and 66 digs. "She's a great asset to have," Piersma said. "She's so knowledgeable about the game." Also returning is Stoll, 285 kills and 65 blocks as a sophomore, Markewicz, who had 300 digs and 35 aces, and Cronenwett and her 48 kills and 32 aces. Add in Bulthuis and her 126 returning kills and it's a good mix. Piersma is setting the bar high, knowing the Trojans will be challenged by bigger schools in the soon expanding Metro Suburban and in the Class 3A playoffs. "I don't want us to be content," Piersma said.
Coach: Kristen Stuart.
Last year: 20-17 overall, 4-2 (second) in the Upstate Eight Valley; lost to West Aurora 25-18, 25-17 in the Class 4A Waubonsie Valley regional final.
Top players: Rachel Minarick, sr., S; Katie Campbell, sr., M; Stephanie Tang, sr., L; Brooke Burling, so., OH; Caroline Cordes, so., M; Becky Breuer, jr., OH; Mackenzie Bratland, jr., DS; Taylor Dunwell, so., RS; Lauren Hiller, jr., S; Sydney Slevin, jr., DS; Lauren Howard, so., OH; Courtney Smith, sr., DS; Angela Lee, sr., M.
Scouting report: A year ago West Aurora rode a dynamic Big Ten-bound setter to a breakout season. Could Waubonsie Valley do the same across town? The Minarick-led Warriors, like West Aurora and Lauren Carlini a year ago, seem poised for big things. Minarick, committed to Michigan State, is one of the state's elite setters and could set a 5-1 but is also a strong hitter if needed. "She's just a special player that we're fortunate to have," Stuart said. Burling and Cordes both saw a lot of time as freshmen and return a year better. Dunwell is another one of four Waubonsie sophomores. Her addition at right-side gives the Warriors' attack diversity. Campbell is also back in the middle. Stuart sees a more athletic, more mature group with big things in store. "I do feel this is a year that we can make a solid run," Stuart said.
Coach: Kris Hasty.
Last year: 18-19 overall, 3-11 (sixth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Glenbard West 25-15, 25-10 in the Class 4A Glenbard West regional final.
Top players: Mary Kate Katarzynski, sr., S; Ronni Katarzynski, so., L; Devan Orr, sr., OH; Karissa Chernick, sr., M.
Scouting report: It's a new beginning in West Chicago. The Wildcats are moving over to the Upstate Eight Conference, and the change brings an extra dash of excitement for veteran coach Hasty and Co. Hasty returns four starters, led by Mary Kate Katarzynski, healthy after missing time with a concussion last year. "She brings a lot of confidence," Hasty said, "just a fierce competitor." Orr was an All-America libero for Club Fusion South 18 Silver but will hit for West Chicago. Hasty is transitioning a pair of outsides to the middle position, in recent years a big West Chicago strength. The Wildcats, whose tallest player stands 5-9, must compensate for what it lacks in size. "We're going to have to play good defense," Hasty said, "and we have girls who are good defenders."
Coach: D.A. Nichols.
Last year: 28-7 overall, 9-2 (first) in the Suburban Christian Conference Gold; lost to Glenbard South 25-18, 25-16 in the Class 3A IMSA regional semifinal.
Top players: Brianna Tellschow, sr., M; Sarah McClain, sr., S; Michelle Ridderhoff, sr., M; Clarissa Young, sr., DS; Sydney Vischer, jr., OH; Kaitlyn Franz, jr., RS/M; Jessica Bosse, jr., L; Samantha Krill, jr., OH; Annie Brcka, jr., S; Zoe Kight, jr., DS.
Scouting report: It isn't every day that a coach loses his star player but expects his team to not miss a beat. Nichols is preaching that confidence, with good reason. His Warriors graduated All-Area outside Bianca Cifaldi but returns virtually the rest of their lineup intact. It helps to have a healthy Vischer. She hurt her ankle midway through last season, and Nichols noted they weren't the same without her. "I think she's hungry," Nichols said. Tellschow picked up valuable experience moving up a level in club, and seniors like McClain, Ridderhoff and Young add experience and confidence. Health will be important, because this team isn't quite as deep or versatile. But the pieces are in place, a group eager to forge its own identity. "I think we'll be right there," Nichols said.
Coach: Carole Kristensen.
Last year: 13-19 overall, 6-8 (fourth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to St. Charles North 25-23, 25-19 in the Class 4A St. Charles North regional semifinal.
Top players: Grace Tiesman, so., OH; Amanda Mordacq, sr., M; Maddie Hutchinson, sr., OPP; Erica Walker, jr., L; Hailley Cound, sr., S; Kelly Thornton, jr., S; Alana Schouten, jr., OH.
Scouting report: There is a lot of new in Wheaton this fall -- a new offense, two new setters -- and, by the end of the year, new renovations in the Falcons' gym. Kristensen and Co. are installing a more complicated, three-middle offense to capitalize on their strengths of depth and versatility. Sure-handed Cound and Thornton, who both set JV last year, are the new setters. Thornton could play front row and hit but for now is setting and playing a rotation of defense. Whichever girl sets, she'll want to get it to Tiesman. A kid Kristensen calls "a phenom" the 5-9 sophomore outside played right side on a Sports Performance national title-winning club team. With gym renovations starting in October, the Falcons will be on the road the last three weeks of the season. "The girls, they have the system down pat," Kristensen said. "We'll see which one works and which doesn't."
Coach: Bill Schreier.
Last year: 18-18 overall, 5-9 (fourth) in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Glenbard North 25-21, 19-25, 25-21 in the Class 4A St. Charles North regional semifinal.
Top players: Talia Holze, sr., S/OPP; Rachel Burau, jr., S; Brooke Closset, sr., OH; Erin Staunton, jr., M; Hannah Croci, sr., L; Kristin Martin, so., OH; Kara Watts, so., OH/OPP.
Scouting report: If a team's success starts with its setter, Schreier thinks his Tigers are in good hands. The tandem of Holze and Burau are Schreier's best pair of setters since Annie Luhrsen, class of 2007, starred at WW South. Holze, recently committed to Rutgers, is showing great growth and maturity in her third varsity season and Schreier is seeing Burau come into her own with improved second contact. Of Closset, who started part of her sophomore year and all junior year, Schreier said "we haven't had a hitter like her in a while." Croci is a returning starter at libero and Staunton in the middle. Martin and Watts, JV starters as freshman, add high-level club experience. "We have a lot of pieces to work with," Schreier said.
Coach: Sue Bower.
Last year: 11-25 overall, 2-4 (fifth) in the West Suburban Gold; lost to Lake Park 21-25, 25-14, 25-23 in the Class 4A Glenbard West regional quarterfinal.
Top players: Joanna Conley, sr., OH/DS; Kelsey Linnig, jr., S; Michelle Herz, sr., M; Maggie McNamara, sr., RS; Mia Railing, jr., OH; Danielle McNamara, so., RS; Jamie Chiapetta, fr., OH.
Scouting report: The Warriors have a young team with just three seniors but will build around a core four of returners with plenty experience playing together. Conley, 214 digs and 64 kills a year ago, is moving from outside to libero. Linnig, who had 302 assists, is emerging as a vocal leader with improved choice of sets. Herz, who had 77 kills, and Maggie McNamara, who had 68, are other returners. All four have experience playing not only high school but club together. McNamara and her younger sister Danielle, a lefty, bring blocking which Bower noted has been much needed. The Warriors will build around a strong defensive foundation and a good mindset. "They all have such a great attitude," Bower said. "They want to be there, they want to be playing and they want to win."
Coach: Patty Iverson.
Last year: 15-18 overall, 3-2 in the West Suburban Silver; lost to Batavia 25-14, 25-21 in the Class 4A Batavia regional semifinal.
Top players: Amy Nosek, sr., OH; Claudia Zerdin, sr., OH; Molly Schlecht, sr., M; Rachel Iverson, sr., S; Megan Hull, sr., M; Liz Pronove, sr., M; Halle Truett, so., L; Alexandra Pruess, so., OH; Sarah Milkowski, jr., DS/S; Sarah Rose, fr., S; Emma Baubly, so., OH; Megan Feeney, jr., OH; Kara Glavan, jr., OH/DS.
Scouting report: For the first time in many years, there won't be a Deatsch on York's roster. But there's a Rose and an Iverson, and that usually means good things. Indeed, with only three girls graduated and five seniors, the Dukes could be poised for a bounce-back year after a rebuilding 2012. It will help to have a healthy hitter in Pronove, who missed all of her sophomore year and part of her junior season with injuries. Zernin is probably York's strongest passer and Truett a year better after starting as a freshman. Iverson noted that the Dukes are athletic and well-stocked with 6-footers. Key is filling the leadership vacuum lost with the graduation of All-Area outside Melissa Deatsch. "We should be more competitive this year," Iverson said. "The girls individually are very competitive and we are more athletic across the board. We look good on paper, now let's see what we do."