Chris Akers LibertyvilleClearly a smart hitter for the Wildcats. Of course he was selected All-Academic. The Wildcats improved as the season went along and Akers hard work helped push the team forward. First-year coach Jennifer Smith appreciated Akers' work ethic from the very start. "He was a tremendous leader and force on the court,'' Smith said. "He gave us 100 percent in the preseason." As one of the six rotation players on the team, Akers had 190 kills and 31 blocks for the Cats. However, he didn't shy away from playing defense. He notched 204 digs, 413 receptions passing and passed at a 2.11 clip. "He's the player who always maintained the best confidence and composure on the court,'' Smith added.
Max Bongratz WarrenYes, they gave Bongratz a nickname on what turned out to be Lake County's best volleyball teams. He's the terminator. Yes, it sounds a little scary. "About 2 weeks before playoffs started, Max started putting the ball away very consistently and very efficiently,'' said Warren coach Yun Chen. "That is the reason for the nick name of terminator." Like his teammates, Bongratz peaked on the road to finishing second in the state. He was versatile around the net, hammering 165 kills, and led the Warren squad in kill percentage. His 66 blocks also led his Blue Devils. Bongratz was a three-year varsity performer. "Each year Max has improved himself to make sure he was able to contribute to the team,'' Chen said.
Pat Bush Lake ZurichThis setter truly stepped up during Lake Zurich's surprising romp to a division crown. He was able to spread the ball around to the young Lake Zurich hitters. Lake Zurich coach Lesly Ravenscraft handed the controls of her offense to Bush, and Bush delivered. "He knew his hitters extremely well, and worked to get them all involved in the offense,'' Ravenscraft said. "In addition to his setting, Pat could out-joust most front players at the net. He was a hard worker both in practice and in a match." As he spread out the offense, Bush chalked up nearly 20 assists a match as the sole setter on the team. "He is an unselfish player who believes we lose as a team, and we win as a team,'' Ravenscraft said. "Pat was a two-year captain for us, helping to lead our team to its best season this year."
David Everding MundeleinThat night the Mundelein team moved this senior to libero, it was like a man getting out of prison. Everding played just about every position for the Mustangs. However, he was born to play libero. Despite playing most every day at setter, Everding still managed to snare 210 digs. Clearly, coach George Dressen was glad to have this versatile player in his lineup on a every day basis. "He plays every set as if it was the last of the season,'' Dressen said. "He plays to win every time. He works hard and puts in extra time. What a senior leader." The Mundelein setter notched 365 assists on the seasons. As a hitter, he had 77 kills and 23 blocks. As a server, Everding managed 44 aces and served to an 85 percent level.
Brad Gadek CarmelSomeone had to step up, as Carmel had lost three starters due to injuries. A senior middle hitter named Brad Gadek turned out to be the solution for the Corsairs. "Brad was a model of consistency throughout, especially on the defensive side of the ball,'' said Carmel coach Kevin Nylen. "Brad was a leader on and off the court. He worked very hard in the off-season to improve his skills and his vertical jump and the results showed." Gadek managed 98 blocks and, as Nylen reports, he frequently took over matches. This all-ESCC selection, headed for more volleyball at St. Xavier, had 30 digs despite being a middle blocker. And he had 86 kills.
Richard Galat LakesThis soccer player knew how to play indoor volleyball as well. A 6-foot outside hitter? No problem for this athlete. This senior was named team captain. "That's because of his tremendous strength and ability to lead a successful team,'' said Lakes coach Katie Cheek. "Richard is one of those players with tremendous athletic ability. As good as he is at volleyball, he is that good at soccer. He can handle anything you throw at him. We would not have had a successful season without him." Galat led his club with 279 kills, 192 digs and the 2.49 serve receive. "When it is crunch time in a game, Richard will make the go-to-play,'' Cheek said.
Mike Heinz Vernon HillsSimply, if Heinz got a hold of a hit and delivered it, no one would able to dig it. He might have been Lake County's hardest hitter. "Mike was really the glue for the team when he was out there over the past three seasons,'' said Vernon Hills coach Chris Curry. "He's a great passer, clearly, but his hitting got overlooked. He continued to develop as a hitter all the way through the season. He was so valuable in so many areas." Heinz departs Vernon Hills in ninth place in all-time hitting. Heinz also excelled playing defense. He led the Cougars with 201 digs and finishes seventh all-time in that department. He notched 210 kills and hit with a great percentage of .311.
Bryant Holland Warren
Is this the player who almost single-handedly carried the Warren team to the state tournament. That's because he was dominant in Warren's upset of Deerfield in the sectional final. It's almost like Holland sneaks up on an opponent and then becomes unstoppable. On the second-best team in the state, he led with 234 kills. This was Holland's second year on varsity and with more than 400 kills and 400 digs, he's in select company. Warren coach, Yun Chen, reports that only one other player in Warren history has done that. "Bryant is a very versatile and skilled player,'' Chen said. And yes, Holland has a nickname on this Warren team as well. He's called a "greasy" player. He added 114 digs this season and had 32 blocks.
Arvind Kouta WarrenThis player has been around the block. The Warren setter guided his team to a second-place state finish. He simply knows how to spread a ball around to hitters. Kouta had no problem crossing over the 1,000-set mark for the season. "Arvind had an unbelievable season for a setter,'' coach Yun Chen said. "He is a smart setter and he worked so hard to become a great setter during the off-season." In addition to his 1,021 assists, Kouta had 107 digs, 33 blocks and 52 kills. Kouta heads to college as Warren's season and career leader for assists. "And Warren has had some great setters through the years,'' Chen said.
Mitch Maan de kok WarrenHis nickname? It's The House. Chen reports that's because he's a devastating blocker. He's another reason, the Devils succeeded at the state tournament. "Mitch had an incredible year and a great career at Warren,'' his coach, Yun Chen, said. "This is his third season on varsity and each year, he improved so much. He has a great work ethic and never complains about anything." And for a blocker, he brought another weapon to the court. Maan de kok tied for team honors with 41 serving aces. He had 65 blocks and 232 kills. "Mitch worked hard on his serve during the off season and his hard work paid off with all those aces," Chen said.
Adam Sachs LibertyvilleIt's always nice to bring back a seasoned libero. And that's what new coach Jennifer Smith found waiting for her when she took the reins of this Wildcats team. And Sachs delivered in a big way. "The one thing consistent about our season was that our serve receive and defense were our strongest weapons,'' Smith said. "And Adam led that charge." Sachs, a senior, paced his team with 335 digs. He naturally was the leading serve receiver (455 passing with a 2.22 average). Sachs was also the team captain. His serving percentage was a solid 91.3 percentage, and he also earned All-Academic honors.
Dalton Solbrig LakesThe word scary comes to mind here. As in scary good. This 6-foot-4 slugger can really deliver a hard hit. And the great news up at Lakes is the junior will be back next year. "He has developed great court sense and strong leadership skills in his third varsity season,'' said Lakes coach Katie Cheek. "He was voted a co-captain. He wanted to set the bar high and give the underclassmen someone to look up to." His 247 kills showed what kind of power he had. He also checked with a team-leading 76 blocks. "He pushes the other players in practice every day with his tremendous strength and game knowledge," coach Katie Cheek said. In addition, Solbrig notched 35 aces
Max Spiglanin Vernon HillsHow are the Cougars going to replace this gifted blocker at the net? Not even close to being the tallest blocker around, Spiglanin always found a way to block a ball at an opponent. In his final season as a Vernon Hills players, Spiglanin paced the team in kills (224). He also played defense as his 195 digs show. He's now fourth all-time in kills despite not getting the ball all the time. He's also third all-time in digs. "Those numbers tell a huge story,'' coach Chris Curry said. "He did all the physical things a volleyball player can do. We're going to miss having a guy who can hit at any position and still be the best defender on the floor. Max always answered the bell. Always." Spiglanin was tops on the team in sets played.
Brent Sweetwood Lake ZurichIs he the most underrated player in Lake County? Sweetwood would simply go about his business, and when the ball came his way, he would put it away. Coach Lesly Ravenscraft noted Sweetwood had his best year during Lake Zurich's best season. "Brent was a key piece to our offense," Ravenscraft said. "And this year we were able to get him more involved, and thus, he was able to take over many matches for us. Brent was able to fool many defenses because he was just as lethal with his tip shot as he was with his full swing." The senior could be counted on 7 kills and 4 blocks a match. "Many liberos would just shake their head in frustration when Brent would get a kill dump right over the block,'' Ravenscraft said. "Brent is a competitive athlete who brought that competitiveness to the volleyball.court."
Lem Turner Vernon HillsHere's a Cougars player they don't have to say 'so long' to. This dangerous hitter/blocker will be back to cause havoc for foes. Coach Chris Curry noted opponents prepared for the power hits of Turner this season. But he still led a very good team with his .319 hitting average. "Lem had to adjust to being a known commodity this year after sneaking up on lot of people last year,'' Curry said. "He saw a lot more double blocks and people set away from him, leading to fewer chances to block." The junior still finished with 171 kills and 86 blocks. "He'll have to learn to handle a lot more attention next year,'' Curry said. "When we set Lem up where he can reach, no one could touch him."
Player School Yr. Pos.
Chris Akers Libertyville Jr. OH
Max Bongratz Warren Sr. MB
Pat Bush Lake Zurich Sr. S
David Everding Mundelein Sr. S
Brad Gadek Carmel Catholic Sr. MB
Richard Galat Lakes Sr. OH
Mike Heinz Vernon Hills Sr. OH
Bryant Holland Warren Sr. OH
Arvind Kouta Warren Sr. S
Mitch Maan de kok Warren Sr. MB
Adam Sachs Libertyville Sr. L
*Michael Savio Lake Zurich Sr. L
Dalton Solbrig Lakes Jr. MB
Max Spiglanin Vernon Hills Sr. RS
Brent Sweetwood Lake Zurich Sr. MB
Lem Turner Vernon Hills Jr. MB
Nathan Borries (Antioch So. S), Eric Chang (Stevenson Sr. OH), Dylan DeBoer (Vernon Hills Jr. OH), David Doherty (Lake Zurich Sr. DS), Peter Feely (Libertyville Jr. MB), Ian Flatley (Antioch So. OH), Keenan Herman (Stevenson Sr. RS), Jason Kaye (Grant Jr. MB), Jeff Maskalunas (Stevenson Sr. MB), Konnor McCormack (Libertyville Jr. RS), Sam Nelson (Mundelein Sr. OH), Ryan Opitz (Vernon Hills Sr. S), Tommy Orchard (Lake Zurich Jr. DS), Jeremy White (Warren Sr. RS)
Selection and capsules by Bill Pemstein