Bartlett HawksCoach: Bob Schwantz
2013 record: 7-21 (0-5 Upstate Eight Valley)
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Top returning players: Seniors Mike Gulczynski (6-4, OH), Jake Martin (6-2, OH), Joe Butler (5-10, Libero), Jon Cruz (5-8, S), Ethan Schmitz (5-8, S), James Wells (5-10, RS), juniors Dominik Stanisz (6-9, MB), Ben Saldivar (5-9, RS)
Key newcomers: Senior Chris Dungey (6-1, RS), sophomore Ricky Foster (6-1, MB)
Outlook: Bartlett returns a large experienced group headlined by all-conference pick Gulczynski, who will continue his career at Loyola-Chicago next season. "This is Mike's last hurrah," said Schwantz. "He's ready to play." Schwantz has seen advancements in all phases of the game. "All-around we have improved," he said. "If we stay healthy, we should be all right. Eight of the 11 guys on the team are seniors so we have a ton of experience. I don't think these guys will be happy with another 7-21 season. They won't let it happen. We're a better team this year." Bartlett's first home match is April 3 where it will retire Gulczynski's No. 15 jersey. His late brother, Lenny, also wore that jersey number at Bartlett. Lenny Gulczynski died in Afghanistan. "It will be a dual retirement," said Schwantz. "As soon as Mike graduates, the No. 15 jersey is gone from the program."
Elgin MaroonsCoach: Scott Stewart
2013 record: 9-25, 0-5 (UEC River)
Top returning players: Seniors Kyle Paquin (5-11, OH), Jason Michalik (5-10, OH), Sajan Patel (5-11, DS-MB), Eric Hernandez (5-10, S-RS)
Key newcomers: Senior Ethan Magsombol (5-5, DS-Libero), juniors Travis Paquin (5-10, RS-S), Brian Munoz (5-8, DS-Libero), Dennis Keophilalay (6-0, MB), Daniel Carbajal (5-10, RS), Ulisses Dominguez (5-8, OH-MB), Kal Daranikone (5-6, DS), Scotty Valena (5-8, MB-RS)
Outlook: Elgin lost a good chunk of senior contributors from last year's team, including three-year varsity players Keith Turner and Brendon Geils, but does return four players. "We have eight new players who were on a pretty good JV team last year," said Stewart. "Our goal this year is simple: be more competitive. We were in a lot of close games last year and we want to be able to finish them out this year. Where we lack height, we'll make up for it in heart." Stewart said the team is looking to establish a new school record for wins in a season (12 would be the record). "The only obstacle standing in our way is us," he said. "With the team we have this year though, I believe anything is possible."
Larkin RoyalsCoach: Henry Graack
Top returning players: Seniors Rodolfo Hernandez (5-8, S), Eriberto Pelayo (5-8, Libero), junior Thomas Hendershott (6-0, MB)
Key newcomers: Senior Victor Rosas (5-11, MB), Victor Vyleta (6-6, MB), sophomore Abel Saenz (5-10, OH)
Outlook: Pelayo and Hernandez provide the Royals with the most experience on a relatively young roster. Larkin is starting three players with a year or less of experience. Height will be one key benefit. "We have a lot of height for this year for us," said Graack. "We have three guys at more than 6-foot, so we have the blocking ability. The only problem is our inexperience. It's going to take a little while to adjust, but we'll have that block up and that will help our defense. Defense definitely will be a strength. We have a lot of hustle on defense." Graack feels that inexperience will wane as the season goes on. "We just need some more reps," he said. "We will be a lot better by the end of the year. This group has a lot of room to grow. We will look like a different team by the end of the year."
South Elgin StormCoach: Adam Plach (6th season)
2013 record: 17-15, 2-3 (UEC Valley)
Top returning players: Seniors Nate Marotta (OH), Ian Sexton (MB), Dan Gibadlo (MB), Chris Gibadlo (S)
Key newcomers: Juniors Jose Gomez (OH), Chris La Calamita (OH-Libero)
Outlook: Plach likes the makeup of his 2014 roster. "I feel like we have a great core of returning players combing back as well as a good group of new varsity players," he said. The Storm has a variety of benchmarks they would like to hit this season. "Some of our goals include finishing in the top three on our side of the conference, winning a regional championship and getting 20 wins," said Plach. "The main obstacle is ourselves. If we can control the volleyball on our side, I think we can compete with most teams." Plach sees another competitive season in the UEC Valley. "Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley are usually two of the top teams, but our whole side of the conference usually is pretty competitive."
Streamwood SabresCoach: Lisa Vazzana (4th season)
2013 record: 16-20 overall, 2-3 (UEC River)
Top returning players: Seniors Quinn Enno (6-2, MB), Bill Lewy (5-8, OH), Yaju Majida (5-5, Libero), juniors Jonah Exline (6-3, OH), Anthony Berrios (6-1, MB), Brandon Montemayor (6-2, RS)
Key newcomers: Seniors Carlos Garcia (6-6, MB), Ricky Kiepura (5-8, S), senior Martin Blancas (5-9, S-DS), juniors Demarco Chancellor (5-9, OH), Miles Juarez (5-8, DS)
Outlook: Streamwood got off to a strong start in its season-opener against West Chicago. "For a first game I thought we looked good," said Vazzana. "We still have things to work on, but it was nice to win in two." Vazzana is excited about the upcoming season. "We have very hardworking and very talented players," she said. "We have a lot of offensive threats and we're good defensively. I feel we have a very strong team this season. We're very fortunate that every player can contribute one was or another. Guys can play a lot of different positions. A lot of them played club in the off-season. They play very well together. There is a lot of energy, drive and intensity on this team."
Westminster Christian WarriorsCoach: Josh Landers
2013 record: 3-23
Top returning players: Senior Logan Hopp (MB), junior Matt Swing (MB), sophomores Drew Dahlman (MB), Danny Kott (OH)
Key newcomers: Senior Alex Wojcik (S)
Outlook: Landers said the team is in a rebuilding mode of sorts after losing a large portion of last year's team. "There are many holes to be filled at the varsity level," he said. "This newness provides a sense of optimism, though. Guys are stepping up and being extremely coachable. We are not the same team as last year, but these guys are working hard and working together to make the most of every practice and match. We have a goal to finish close games. Last year we lost a number of matches in three sets after we had a lead. It caused our record to not show our growth, though the boys came a long way in both their individual and team knowledge of the game. Our strength this year will be a never-give-up attitude. I have a number of guys willing to sacrifice their body to get a ball. We're also growing in our chemistry on and off the court. This helps to ensure quality communication and knowledge of each other's strengths in the game. We lost quite a bit of height from last year, but the guys keep growing and make the most of every inch they have." Wojcik is new to the team, but has club volleyball experience. "Alex has great leadership potential," said Landers. Kott, only a sophomore, will help on the outside. "Danny is a leader of our team and has a high knowledge of the game," said Landers. Swing is in his second year of volleyball. "As a former baseball player, his arm strength is a major weapon," the coach noted. Dahlman also is showing progress as a sophomore. "Drew is a very athletic sophomore who is learning the game and growing in confidence every season," said Landers. "He has the potential to be a major threat at the net."
St. Edward High school did not provide information for this preview.