Last season, St Viator enjoyed its best-ever campaign in boys volleyball, and Ethan Wolf was one of the big reasons why.
In his first year on varsity as a junior, Wolf led the Lions to a 24-win season.
Contact information ( * required )
This year, he and his teammates have their sights set even higher.
Wolf, an opposite hitter, swatted 154 kills, served up 18 aces, earned 190 digs and had 52 assists in 2013 to help propel Viator to the record-setting victory total.
Now the senior says that the program is aiming for a regional championship in 2014 -- at the bare minimum.
"The mood of the team is very confident," says Wolf. "Last year, I was considered the 'new kid.' This year I want to use the experience I've gained to help out the younger guys. The most important thing for them is to keep their heads up and not get down on themselves."
Wolf, who also plays varsity soccer, knows that a positive attitude usually leads to success -- which seesm especially true on the volleyball court.
"You can't afford to take a play off," said Wolf. "In volleyball you're always bringing it in and talking to each other. You talk as well in soccer, but it's not the same because you have a lot more field to work with.
"In volleyball, if someone gets down on themselves, it's up to his teammates to pick him up."
Lions coach Chris Boylan says Wolf was one of the integral components to last season's turnaround for the Viator volleyball program.
"Since he's been here," said Boylan, "his athleticism and intelligence has helped him stand out and earn the success he's had so far in his career. He leads not only by example, but also as a teacher in helping the rest of his teammates.
"Ethan is our floor coach. This comes from being in the gym a lot but also comes from playing soccer here under hall of fame coach Mike Taylor. Between the two sports he's become one of the faces of Viator men's sports in the East Suburban Catholic Conference."
Wolf started playing volleyball in junior high at St Theresa in Palatine, along with his older brother Ben.
Last year the siblings, both starting on varsity, fed off each other in enjoying stellar campaigns -- and Ethan Wolf says that there was a serendipitous feeling playing on the same team as his bro.
"It was definitely fun," said Ethan. "We were able to bring a different type of energy to the court, being brothers."
Now Ben has graduated and is at the University of Illinois, leaving behind a slew of Viator records such as most kills in a season (340), most kills in a match (23), and most aces in a season (45).
All marks that Ethan has the goal of matching or exceeding this year.
"Ethan has set high goals for not only his team but also for himself and his coaches," said Boylan. "He'll do all he can to get the team where we want to be -- holding hardware at the end of the season."
Wolf also said that a benchmark for how good the Lions can be this spring would be their early season matchup against perennial power Barrington, who the senior said that the Lions "haven't beaten in forever".
And if that game is any indication, it's going to be a very strong year for Viator, as the Lions extended the Broncos to three grueling games in their season opener before falling late on Tuesday.
A lot of bright spots -- and there's more to come, according to coach Boylan.
"We're off and running," said Boylan. "The kids came in with a lot of energy and excitement. We look to continue the change in culture of the program at Saint Viator, and with Ethan being one of two returning starters, he'll be taking a leadership role on and off the court."