ANTIOCHCoach: Jamie Atkinson (second year)
Last season: 20-8, 6-1 in NSC Prairie
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Key losses: Marissa Grant, Sam Falco (Eastern Michigan)
Returning players: Amanda Spera (6-0 MB), Bianca Ori (5-8 OH), Hannah Skoog (5-5 L)
Outlook: The Sequoits bring back some key players from a 20-win squad and seemed poised to win a regional. Amanda Spera is a 6-foot middle. "She's incredibly and quick as a night light," coach Jamie Atkinson said. "Amanda can hit a ball from any spot on the court and make it look easy." Bianca Ori, a 5-8 outside hitter, also returns: "She took her off-season very seriously and came back in the best shape of her life," Atkinson said. "She's a terrific team leader." All-area softball player Hannah Skoog (5-5) is back to play libero. "Her instincts are as sharp as ever," Atkinson said. "And she has demonstrated an ability to get to most every ball."
CARMELCoach: Dave Pazely (fourth year)
Last season: 31-8
Key losses: Alyssa Armada, Shauna Meagher, Elizabeth Rengers, Lauren Fornier
Returning players: Grace Schofield (OH), Sierra Kepski (L), Morgan Meade (RS), Allie Wayland (OH), Elizabeth Tworek (DS), Grace Butler (S)
Notable additions: Cate Halverson, Taylor Luhr
Outlook: A 30-win season and a regional title highlighted last year's team. Pazely believes he has another squad that can compete at a high level. "Although we graduated several starting seniors, I believe that the returning captains combined with several other key players will make this year's team just as strong if not better," Pazely said. Carmel won its summer league, beating Crystal Lake South in the championship. CL South went downstate last year. "So the potential for a great season is there for us," Pazely said. "It's simple, really. If (Grace) Schofield is hitting the volleyball, get out of the way".
GRANTCoach: Sue Thompson (18th year)
Last season: 15-20
Key losses: Beca Couch
Returning players: Kylie Mueller (OH), Katie Kiser (S)
Notable additions: Hannah Johnson (MH), Megan Gebauer (MH), Jordynn Hundley (OH)
Outlook: The Bulldogs will be young team. "This is a close-knit group and they are hungry for success," coach Sue Thompson said. "We want to capture the division title and make a run at the conference title and win a regional."
GRAYSLAKE CENTRALCoach: Jason Janczak (ninth year)
Last season: 23-14
Key losses: Gabi Casper, Alex Dahlstrom, Lexi Beckman, Anna Basten
Returning players: Allie Daul (MH), Hayley Peterson (MH), Dani Sentz (DS), Taylor O'Neil (MH)
Notable additions: Juliana Frusolone, Marie Gerbasi
Outlook: The Rams are making the jump to Class 4A, so that will be a challenge. Coach Jason Janczak remains optimistic. "We are becoming more versatile on offense and are developing many different options both in system and out of system," Janczak said. "We continue to work on serving aggressively and being a force blocking at the net. If we continue to work hard and grow as a team, we should be competitive all season long."
GRAYSLAKE NORTHCoach: Jim Sarver (first year)
Last season: 15-25
Key losses: Joanna Guhl, Kelsey Klausner
Returning players: Kendall Buchman (OH), Madison Helm (S), Stefeni Kelwitz (OH), Nicole Labaron (MH), Maggie Fish (MH)
Outlook: Former Grayslake North girls basketball coach Jim Sarver takes the helm of the volleyball team, replacing longtime coach Nikki Kirchway. Sarver is hoping his first squad specializes on defense."We want to make the other teams earn points," Sarver said. "These Knights have good athleticism and have a good mix of juniors and seniors."
LAKESCoach: Kate Cheek (second year)
Last season: 28-9
Key losses: Haley Halberg
Returning players: Lisa Buehler (L), Megan Behrendt (OH), Maddie Demo (S), McKenna Lahr (MB)
Outlook: After her Eagles won 28 matches last season, coach Kate Cheek brings back some key players. The Eagles should again be a force, but they are also making the jump to Class 4A for playoff action. "After coming off a successful season last year, it is important to start with a new team and work on one game at a time,'' Cheek said. "The girls are really excited to start fresh with a challenging schedule." The one-two punch of setter Maddie Demo to hitter Megan Behrendt will be fun to watch. Behrendt is a 5-8 junior who was voted as a team captain. "Megan has really stepped up as a team leader," Cheek said. "The girls on the team respect her playing ability and look up to her in the leadership role." The junior Demo stand just 5-6: "Maddie is very vocal and passionate about volleyball," Cheek said. "She works very hard in the off-season and always pushes herself to accomplish her goals. I am looking to her to run the floor and make (in-game) decisions that will better our offense." Senior libero Lisa Buehler (5-5) is another tenacious player. "She is a senior that is setting the bar high and giving the underclassmen someone to look up to," Cheek said. "She pushes the other players in practice everyday and is helping to promote team chemistry. I am excited to see her improve even more in her senior year."
LAKE ZURICHCoach: Matt Aiello (ninth year)
Last season: 35-5
Key losses: Kristen Walding, Sydney Glover, Ashely Dina, Kiley McPeek
Returning players: Mackenzie Andrews (MH), Lexi Gora (OH), Breanna Wold (OH), Hannah Sweetwood (S)
Notable additions: McKenna Zobel, Emily Little, Kiley Dykgraff
Outlook: Returning from a spectacular campaign, the Bears again should be a competitive squad. "We should be a solid team," coach Matt Aiello said. "We are not tall, but extremely athletic and talented." Lake Zurich always seems to be in the hunt in the NSC Lake and in the postseason. "We expect to challenge for conference supremacy again and be in a position to challenge in our sectional," Aiello said. "With a little, not a lot, of seasoning we will be a very tough team. People may underestimate us, but we will play a very entertaining brand of volleyball and be there in the end."
LIBERTYVILLECoach: Greg Loika (sixth year)
Last season: 27-11
Key losses: Rhiannon Prentiss, Vicky Liu, Kate Jarecki
Returning players: Alex Basler (MH), Liz Apgar (S), Hannah Zerwas (OH), Morgan O'Brien (L), Jacqui Widmark (MH)
Notable additions: Erin Dunleavy, Anna Lillydahl, Eryka Jones, Mikaella Faber, Sinead Prentiss
Outlook: It seems these Wildcats just reload ever year. This year's team is again a very tough and experienced squad. "With a heavy returning core of five starters, we feel like we will be in the mix at the end of the season," coach Greg Loika said. "Off-season development of our strong 2013 JV team has led to a balanced and experienced 2014 roster for the Wildcats." Alex Basler has started the last three years.
MUNDELEINCoach: George Dressen Jr. (ninth year)
Last season: 18-19
Key losses: Madi Wilcox
Returning players: Yasmeen Johnson (OH), Cindy Kokoszka (L)
Notable additions: Sidney Brunkow
Outlook: There are plenty of seniors on the latest addition of Mundelein volleyball. However, these seniors are not veterans. "It's their first year on varsity as seniors," coach George Dressen Jr. said. "There will be a learning curve with this team." Senior hitter Yasmeen Johnson may have to carry the Mustangs for a while.
ROUND LAKECoach: Kristin Lilla (third year)
Last season: 13-24
Key losses: Izzy Rodriguez, Destiny Brown
Returning players: Melinda Blomberg (S) and Marisela Valadez (MH)
Notable additions: Yesenia Mata
Outlook: Sure, five seniors have moved on but 13 wins and a regional win last season give the Panthers a great feeling heading into the season. "As I say every year, I believe Round Lake is starting to turn some people's heads as we become more and more competitive," coach Kristin Lilla said. "I think other teams will see the same from us this season."
STEVENSONCoach: Tim Crow (13th year)
Last season: 31-8
Key losses: Khaila Donaldson, Kara Maleski, Julia Osmund, Peyton Bykowski, Alexa Bykowski, Jen Kapov, Grace Duffy
Returning players: Jori Radtke (OH), Jackie Green (MH), Corissa Kurth (S)
Notable additions: Isabella Milejczyk, Morgan Berland, Jordyn Taborek, Anna Drozdzewicz, Dana Pflugradt
Outlook: Just another ho-hum 30-win season at Stevenson last fall. Graduation did hit the Patriots hard this time around, but there's plenty of reason for optimism for their coach. "This group excels at the defensive end of the floor," coach Tim Crow said. "All the girls have improved a tremendous amount from last season. We lack varsity experience, but I am confident they will adjust quickly. We will be tested early playing 14 matches within the first 2 weeks of the season."
VERNON HILLSCoach: Ray Rugebregt (first season)
Last season: 8-28
Returning players: Victoria Smith (S), Kasey Firnbach (OH), Jenna Joyce (MB), Jade Goldufsky (L), Val Barybina (MB)
Outlook: There is new coach in the building. Ray Rugebregt replaces Abbie Gutzmer and brings in a wealth of experience as a club coach and as an assistant at Cary-Grove. Rugebregt is hoping his team can compete this season. "There are a lot of new changes, and while it's too early to tell, the players are working hard and adjusting to all the new changes with a new coaching staff," Rugebregt said. "We are working hard to continue building the program that the previous coaching staff worked very diligently on building over the years. Our program goal is to improve on a weekly basis."
WARRENCoach: Julie Filippo (10th year)
Last season: 25-14
Key losses: Rachel Ziegler, Allyson Mitchell
Returning players: Jenna Walczak (OH), Kim Hengesh MH, Lauren Frericks (S), Lindsey Biedron (OH)
Notable additions: Claire Lundviet, Natalie McNally, Nicole Berzin
Outlook: The Blue Devils will have a young squad this fall. "This young team has worked extremely hard this summer in the weight room and during league play," coach Julie Filippo said. "They have the chemistry and determination to have a very good year." Is this the year Jenna Walczak emerges as a key player?
WAUCONDACoach: Alison Williams (third year)
Last season: 20-16, 3-3 in NSC Prairie
Key losses: Susan Karhoff
Returning players: LeAnne Sakowicz (OH/S), Sara Sexton, (MB), Ashley Anderson, (L), Becky Sidlowski (OH)
Outlook: Coach Alison Williams is encouraged because the Bulldogs bring back plenty of players from last's season's 20-win campaign. "We have a good group of kids that will be new to the varsity level this year that will help fill some spots on the court," Williams said. "I'm looking forward to working with this group of young ladies and excited to see what they can accomplish over the course of the season." Sara Sexton and LeAnne Sakowicz could be primed for big campaigns.