Girls volleyball: Lake County all-area team
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Mickenzie Andrews Lake Zurich
Clearly under the radar with the power hitters in Lake Zurich's lineup, Andrews made a name for herself as a blocker. Make that a very good blocker. She's been a staple in coach Matt Aiello's lineup since her sophomore season. "She has developed into our best blocker and arguably the best blocker in the area," Aiello said. "She uses speed, athleticism and a long reach to help control a match." For the NSC champs, she collected 107 blocks and added 115 kills and 27 aces. The junior is versatile as well as she can play all three front row positions for the Bears. "As the season has gone on, Mickenzie has become an even greater part of our offense as well," Aiello said. "She can get kills from anywhere on the court. We are excited to have her as our anchor next season."
Alyssa Armada Carmel
The funny thing is this talented senior may not know how good she is. This is the key player in Carmel's magical season. She's the setter who feeds the hitters on nightly basis. The New Jersey Institute of Technology was wise enough to offer her a full ride to set for them next year. "She brings a competitive fire that keeps our team focused and upbeat," said coach David Pazely. "She is a two-year starter for us and runs our balanced 5-1 offense aggressively." For the season, the senior rang up 572 assists, 115 kills, 33 blocks, 69 digs and 26 aces. She is a two-time ESCC all-conference selection. "Her presence will be missed next year,'' Pazely said. "But her legacy of energy, competitiveness and leadership will continue on because of how she has positively influenced her teammates."
Alex Basler Libertyville
This junior is an imposing blocker for the surging Wildcats. Her future looks so bright. Libertyville coach Greg Loika did some research and found out his latest star provided the most kills (218) out of the middle since Ali Haws back in 2007. And, yes, the recruiters are out. The Ivy League is interested in Basler's services since she stands nearly 6 feet 2. "Alex is the focal point of the Wildcats offense and defense," Loika said. In addition, Basler stepped up with 73 blocks.
Megan Behrendt Lakes
Where did the Eagles find this player? Just a sophomore, the grand daughter of former Antioch girls basketball coach Dave Woods is making her mark on Lakes volleyball. "Megan has really stepped up in her leadership role," said coach Katie Cheek. "She continuously strives to get better and she set the bar high. We would not have had a successful season without her. When it is crunchtime, Megan will make the go-to play." Behrendt's 245 kills led the NSC Prairie champions. She didn't back down on defense and notched 311 digs. The sophomore also had 34 aces and 31 blocks. "I can't wait to see how she progresses in the sport of volleyball," Cheek said. "I am lucky to have her as part of the team."
Gabi Casper Grayslake Central
They won't soon forget what Casper brought to the Central program. She played varsity volleyball for four years. "Gabi has truly embodied what it means to be a Grayslake Central volleyball player," said coach Jason Janczak. "She is the smartest hitter I have coached and has the ability to get solid kills off broken plays or bad sets. She is also the heart and soul of our team — and sets the tone for our practices and our match." Her defense stood out this year with 290 digs. In addition, she had 149 kills and 33 aces. "Her passion for this sport and her team raises the bar for what future GCHS volleyball players should aim for," Janczak said. "We have been very lucky to have her as a part of our program for the past four years."
Beka Couch Grant
Evidently, every team that took on Grant this fall knew to look out for the senior. She seemingly had one main job for the Bulldogs. That was to pound the volleyball. "She was our go-to player all season," said coach Susan Thompson. "And took the majority of our swings. She really focused on improving her passing and defense so she could play the back row for us." For the campaign, Couch had 202 kills. She also added 29 blocks. At the serving line, this jump server notched 40 aces. In addition, she had 55 digs. "She had a good deal of success with her jump serve and became one of the power hitters in the division," Thompson said. "Good things always happened when she was on the floor. She was also selected as our team MVP."
Alex Dahlstrom Grayslake Central
Even in the powerful Fox Valley Conference, they knew who Dahlstrom was. That's the girl who puts the ball away for the Rams. Officially, it was a team-best 303 kills in her final campaign at Central. She was tough at the serving line, too, with 67 aces. "She is an incredibly strong hitter," said coach Jason Janczak. "She has superior placement and ability to get clutch kills in tight matches. Alex is arguably one of the most powerful hitters in the county." No one would argue with that comment as Dahlstrom dominated at times this fall. She will bring that heavy hitting to Lindenwood University in Missouri next year. "Alex's blocking ability also allowed us to neutralize any threats from the right-side that other teams had," Janczak said. "Alex also had a very strong year at the serving line for us with her tough jump float serve."
Maddie Demo Lakes
Another excellent find for the Eagles. How good this player will be remains to be seen but right now she's on target for an excellent career. Demo is another reason the Eagles succeeded this fall. "Maddie is completely coachable," said coach Katie Cheek. "She has great sportsmanship and is very team-oriented. She works for the team and is the definition of a team player. She always wants what is best for the players." In her first season directing the Eagles' offense, Demo collected 542 assists. She was also effective from the serving line with 47 aces. Demo had 161 digs and 54 kills.
"I can always count on her to run the floor and make game time decisions that will better our offense," Cheek said.
Ashley Dina Lake Zurich
Clearly the defensive star for the NSC champs. The way she digs volleyballs makes you wonder how she would look playing third base on the softball team. "She makes the difficult play look easy," said coach Matt Aiello. "And she has worked so hard to play under control. We funnel our blocking scheme toward Ashley, just begging teams to challenge her. I actually think her passing has allowed us to create the balanced offense that we have." Who approaches the 1,000 mark in digs? Dina may reach that magic number if the Bears go deep in the playoffs. She finished the regular season with 902 digs. "She is able to take a lot of pressure off our other players," Aiello said. "And makes up half of our 2 person serve receive. Ashley has a court awareness and presence that has stabilized our team this season. She is also our emotional charge that keeps our team intensity up at all times."
Khaila Donaldson Stevenson
Before she heads to the nation's capitol and Howard University, it's time to salute this senior. Donaldson has made herself into an excellent volleyball player. At Stevenson, she led the way on offense with 279 kills and 41 serving aces. "She has done a tremendous job for us once again," said coach Tim Crow. "Her focus and competitive spirit has been a huge asset to our program. She has taken over many matches for us this season both front row and back row." Even with her ability to take over matches, she found time to play defense as she was second on the team in digs (218). "She has had one of the most dominant seasons statistically to date," Crow said.
Samantha Falco Antioch
Eastern Michigan University didn't waste any time signing this 6-foot-4 middle blocker. After all, you can't teach height. She naturally gained attention playing for the Sequoits. This tall team captain was fun to watch. "When Sam is fired up, the team follows right along with her," said coach Jamie Atkinson. In her final season, Falco's kill efficiency was a sharp 45 percent. She was third on the team in blocks with 30.
Marissa Grant Antioch
The setter isn't afraid to swing away. Grant dished out 395 assists in her junior year. She's already committed to Central Michigan. "Marissa isn't afraid to take control as a hitter," said coach Jamie Atkinson. The team's top setter was second in total blocks with 33. She also worked hard on defense and registered 81 digs. "Marissa ran the court for us," Atkinson said.
Haley Halberg Lakes
While the younger players stood out for the surprising Eagles this year, there was a strong senior who helped the cause as well. Even thought Halberg stands just 5 feet 8, she became a potent force at the net. She led her team in blocks (65) and turned in exactly 100 kills, good for third on the team. "She has developed great court sense and strong leadership skills in her third varsity season," said coach Katie Cheek. "Voted a co-captain, she wanted to set the bar high and give the underclassmen someone to look up to." Halberg was also effective at the serving line with 37 aces. "She pushes the other players in practice everyday and is helped to promote team chemistry," Cheek said. "Her drive and desire to compete is amazing and has a positive effect on everyone around her."
Yasmeen Johnson Mundelein
Coach George Dressen Jr. is well aware he has a special athlete in the junior. She can do so many things on a volleyball court and he's glad she's coming back for another season." She's our junior captain who leads by example," Dressen said. "She's good at placing the ball very well. She also jumps out of the gym. She could be exceptional next year." Place her on a list of players to watch next year.
Susan Karloff Wauconda
Karloff didn't leave much behind in her final season at Wauconda. She had a whopping 241 kills and 292 digs, both tops on her team. Those 50 serving aces also led the team. "Susan was a two-year captain for us and provided leadership on the court by stepping up when we needed her," said coach Alison Williams. "She also provided guidance to the younger players on the team. She will be greatly missed next year." And for good measure, Karloff was second on the team in assists (250).
Sierra Kepski Carmel
Opponents' first mistake is underestimating this junior. Sure, she's 5 feet 2 but in this sport it really doesn't matter. "This girl lives in the gym," said coach Dave Pazely. "What she lacks in height she more than makes up for in speed, strength, intelligence, anticipation, energy, competitiveness, consistency and, most importantly, heart." Kepski helps out on the court on three of six rotations but that didn't stop her from getting 239 digs. She also added 35 aces. She's been a varsity starter since her sophomore season. "Having Sierra on the roster is like having another coach in the locker room," Pazely said. "She will keep our defense solid next year as our libero. Sierra is another player who I'm sure will continue competing at the college level and afterward will probably be a coach. This game is in her blood."
Vicky Liu Libertyville
The word versatile comes to mind when discussing Liu's attributes. This senior can play just about every position for the Wildcats. "Vicky has played every defensive position for the Cats this season," said coach Greg Loika. "And that includes setter. She also played one match as an outside hitter." Her serving has provided the Wildcats with 53 aces. And that paced the team this fall. She also gave Libertyville 223 digs.
Kara Maleski Stevenson
The big block in Stevenson's attack this fall, this is one player who improved seemingly every time she took the court. Evidently that made an impression in Kansas. So Maleski will continue her volleyball career at Wichita State University. "Kara has made huge strides over the past three seasons," said coach Tim Crow. Of course she paced the team in both solo blocks (43) and assist blocks (62). She also had time for 108 kills. "Her leadership has gotten stronger this season," Crow said. "And she has been a difference maker in many matches."
Kiley McPeek Lake Zurich
Here's another Bears player who will take volleyball to college. McPeek is headed to New York and Cornell University. "Kiley has developed into one of the more consistent all around players in the area," said coach Matt Aiello. "She is an integral part of our two-person serve receive alignment and covers a lot of court. She plays fast and knows how to find court space when hitting." McPeek was certainly a force with 258 kills, including a career-high 19 kills against Libertyville. "She can play a finesse game or a speed/power game," Aiello said. "It doesn't matter to Kiley how she scores points. She is always a positive influence on the court, in practice, and with her teammates. When Kiley gets it going, she is really fun to watch." McPeek excelled on defense with 344 digs.
Allyson Mitchell Warren
Coach Julie Filippo considers Mitchell her most improved player of the fall season. A year ago, the senior was a JV player and now she'll take her game to the next level at Greenville College. In addition to her 155 kills and 253 digs, Mitchell also took a turn setting the ball and notched 32 assists. She also paced the Blue Devils with 37 aces.
Shauna Meagher Carmel
This three-year starter gives the Corsairs special defense. "She has made plays that no one has any business making," said coach David Pazely. "And she is a consistent defender every time she steps onto the court." The libero had 406 digs and added 43 serving aces. "She has been a model of excellence and that has rubbed off on her teammates," Pazely said. "That causes all of them to step things up defensively as well. She has had over 20 digs in a match multiple times this season and is the reason we have stayed alive against tough competition all year long."
Mallory Parsons Lake Zurich
Just another power hitter in Lake Zurich's lineup. Parsons is headed to Carthage College next season for more volleyball. At the top of volleyball resume is those 270 kills and 278 digs. "Mallory is extremely athletic and a powerful player," said coach Matt Aiello. "She gets kills from all spots on the court. She has grown into an all-around player who plays with a lot of intensity. Her ability to get kills front and back row places a lot of pressure on the opposition."
Rhiannon Prentiss Libertyville
The senior doesn't look intimidating on a volleyball court. Of course that was before that kill went whistling past the other team. Prentiss is natural libero who moved to outside hitter in the Wildcats lineup. No matter, she still managed 212 kills and also showed off her libero skills with 298 digs. "Prentiss has been an outside hitter for two seasons," said coach Greg Loika. "And a steady swinger with an error in only one of 10 swings." Prentiss also checked in with 31 blocks and 17 aces. She's been a three-year starter.
Elizabeth Rengers Carmel
She's been a fixture in the middle for the Corsairs. And now she's a big part of this very successful team. "Ellie has set the tone up front all year long," said coach David Pazely. "Our other hitters would not be as effective as they are if not for Ellie being such a threat out of the middle. Because other teams have to respect her when she goes up, she opens things up for our pin hitters to get one-on-one blocking where we can usually convert for a kill. She spent the club season playing with (teammate) Alyssa (Armada) and the two of them found a chemistry that coaches can only dream about between players." Rengers paced the Corsairs with 70 blocks and was second on the team in kills (126).
Grace Schofield Carmel
It's simple really. Schofield is the girl in the Carmel lineup who can really pound the volleyball. "Gracie is a big impact player and has been a varsity starter since her sophomore year," said coach David Pazely. "At Six feet tall and with a powerful arm, she can hurt a defense all night long. But she has more in her bag of tricks than just a strong swing. She's smart and can tip, roll, cut, tool or turn line at any time." Schofield's power game helped her to 236 kills this fall. Also, 60 digs, 34 blocks and 34 aces. "She is a huge reason why we have been so successful this year," Pazely said. "And she will only get better her senior year when she is able to play all 6 rotations instead of just 3."
Amanda Spera Antioch
Coach Jamie Atkinson may be new to girls volleyball but she knows what a middle blocker is supposed to do. And she likes what she sees from Spera. "Amanda is the most fluid middle hitter I have seen," Atkinson said. "She effortlessly dishes out a quick middle attack from all spots on the court." Spera paced the Sequoits with 46 blocks. She also took top honors on the team with 107 kills and a sparkling 45-percent kill efficiency. And when she headed to the back row she picked up 66 digs.
Kristen Walding Lake Zurich
Simply grand. For the third year in a row, the senior setter dished out 1,000 assists. She's the captain of the Daily Herald Lake County all-area team. "Along with great talent and physical attributes, she has an incredible volleyball IQ," said coach Matt Aiello. "I have put a lot on Kristen's shoulders during her career and she has thrived with that responsibility. Kristen has earned the respect of her teammates by always putting them first. She is genuine in everything that she does." Walding will continue her volleyball career at Northeastern University in Boston.
Jenna Walczak Warren
When coach Julie Filippo thinks about the future of Warren volleyball, the name Walczak comes up. Now a 6-foot sophomore, her future seems bright. "Jenna is a diamond in the rough," Filippo said. "She is a talented outside hitter who is only going to get better with training. Jenna is always open to instruction which makes coaching her a bonus. She's also one of the best passers on the team."
In her sophomore season, she had 153 kills and 232 digs.
Madi Wilcox Mundelein
No wonder Wilcox has a college scholarship. It doesn't long to figure out this senior is a pretty good setter. Make that an excellent setter. She will play next at Florida Gulf Coast University on a full ride.
In the final match of the season for the Mustangs, Libertyville coach Greg Loika commented that Wilcox was "a fantastic setter who runs a smooth offense." Mundelein coach George Dressen Jr. has had Wilcox on the varsity since her freshman season. "She pushes the team in practice," Dressen said. "She's a take charge senior captain."
Rachel Ziegler Warren
Ziegler might have felt a little lonely at the start of the volleyball season. That's because she was the lone returning starter. But she had no problem helping her Blue Devils. This captain and team leader did plenty of setting and also hit on the right side. Her setting duties in the 6-2 offense helped her collect 247 assists. "She has proved to be again a valuable player on this team," said coach Julie Filippo. In addition, Ziegler had 106 digs, 83 kills and 32 blocks.
Mickenzie Andrews Lake Zurich Jr. MH
Alyssa Armada Carmel Sr. S
Alex Basler Libertyville Jr. OH
Megan Behrendt Lakes So. OH
Gabi Casper Grayslake Central Sr. OH
Beka Couch Grant Sr. OH
Alex Dahlstrom Grayslake Central Sr. OH/MH
Maddie Demo Lakes So. S
Ashley Dina Lake Zurich Sr. L
Khaila Donaldson Stevenson Sr. OH
Samantha Falco Antioch Sr. MB
Marissa Grant Antioch Jr. S
Haley Halberg Lakes Sr. OH
Yasmeen Johnson Mundelein Jr. OH
Susan Karhoff Wauconda Sr. S/OH
Sierra Kepski Carmel Jr. DS
Vicky Liu Libertyville Sr. DS
Kara Maleski Stevenson Sr. MH
Kiley McPeek Lake Zurich Sr. OH
Shauna Meagher Carmel Sr. L
Allyson Mitchell Warren Sr. OH
Mallory Parsons Lake Zurich Sr. OH
Rhiannon Prentiss Libertyville Sr. OH
Elizabeth Rengers Carmel Sr. MH
Grace Schofield Carmel Jr. OH
Amanda Spera Antioch Jr. OH
*Kristen Walding Lake Zurich Sr. S
Jenna Walczak Warren So. OH
Madi Wilcox Mundelein Sr. S
Rachel Ziegler Warren Sr. RS/S
Ashley Anderson (Wauconda So. L), Val Barybina (Vernon Hills Jr. MH), Lexi Beckman (Grayslake Central Sr. MH), Melinda Blomberg (Round Lake So.), Sarah Bregenzer (Mundelein Sr. OH), Destiny Brown (Round Lake Sr. OH), Alexa Bykowski (Stevenson Sr.), Peyton Bykowski (Stevenson Sr. L), Summer Camper (Grayslake North Sr. OH), Teresa Curtis (Grayslake Central Sr. L), Kasey Firnbach (Vernon Hills Jr. MH), Maggie Fish (Grayslake North MH), Alaina Geissberger (Grayslake North Sr. MH), Sydney Glover (Lake Zurich Sr. OH), Elena Kelsh (Antioch Sr. OH), McKenna Lahr (Lakes Fr. OH), Morgan Meade (Carmel Jr.), Dana Meline (Vernon Hills So. OH), Morgan O'Brien (Libertyville Fr. L), Julia Osmond (Stevenson Sr. MH), Carly Ostmeyer (Libertyville So.), Cassie Ostmeyer (Libertyville Sr.), Hayley Peterson (Grayslake Central Jr. S), Izzy Rodriguez (Round Lake Sr.), LeAnne Sakowicz (Wauconda So. S/OH), Tori Smith (Vernon Hills Jr. S), Hannah Thomas (Grayslake Central Sr. DS), Marisela Valadez (Round Lake So.), Allie Wayland (Carmel So.)
Selection and profiles by Bill Pemstein
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