Coach: Bob Schwantz (2nd season)
2012 finish: 13-24, 1-4 (UEC Valley)
Top returning players: Senior Jack Blum (MB), juniors Mike Gulczynski (OH), Joe Butler (Lib.)
Key newcomers: Junior Jon Cruz (S), sophomores Ben Saldivar (RS), Dominik Stanisz (RS)
Outlook: Gulczynski earned all-conference honors as a sophomore last year. Schwantz knows the path to success is process, one in which his team is prepared to go through. "We ultimately want to win regionals, but we need to take it one step at a time," he said. "One of our greatest strengths is the fact a lot of the guys on our team have played together for a couple years now. Our biggest weakness is definitely our youth and inexperience. We have a few players who have never played the game before or only have one year under their belt." Bartlett will face a strong group of teams in the UEC Valley. "Playing in the same division as the three Valleys (Neuqua, Waubonsie and Metea) is the biggest obstacle. They will all be good matches."
Coach: Scott Stewart (3rd season)
2012 finish: 7-28 (1-5 UEC River)
Top returning players: Seniors Keith Turner (6-4, MB), Brendon Geils (5-9, DS-Lib.), Anuj Chokshi (6-1, DS-MB), Joe DeBrocke (5-9, OH), Charlie Wiltgen (5-8, DS)
Key newcomers: Seniors Brian Espinosa (5-9, S), Christian Valdivia (5-10, RS), juniors Kyle Paquin (5-10, OH-MB), Jason Michalik (5-9, OH), Sajan Patel (5-6, DS), Jon Lehnert (6-1, DS-RS), Hector Mondragon (DS-RS)
Outlook: Stewart returns a group of seniors that includes three-year varsity players Turner and Geils. "We are looking to build upon the success we had last year," the coach said. "We're looking to top the school record for wins set two seasons ago and we're looking to be more competitive in the tournaments we're in and hopefully take first in the Waukegan tournament that we took second in two years ago. There is a new excitement surrounding the team this year. We have some varsity experience returning from last year and we'll look to spread the offense." Stewart said height may come into play against taller teams, but overall he likes the makeup of this group. "I think we have a stronger team this year," he said. Another key will be finishing out matches. "We played really well against everyone last year, but struggled when trying to finish games," he said. "I believe we'll be able to finish matches this year."
Coach: Henry Graack (6th season)
2012 finish: 10-22, 3-2 (UEC River)
Top returning players: Seniors Max Rydell (6-2, RS-S), Riley Sadlon (5-10, OH)
Key newcomers: Senior Damian Trujillo (5-10, OH), junior Rodolfo Hernandez (5-7, S), sophomore Thomas Hendershott (5-10, MB)
Outlook: Rydell racked up 256 assists last year, while Sadlon also saw varsity action. "We have a team that lacks much varsity experience with only two returning varsity players, so the beginning of the season will be tough for us," said Graack. "As we gain experience I expect us to become more competitive. Our biggest strength has to be our ability to grow as the season moves forward. With so little varsity experience we will be improving each game. This season will not be successful or a failure based on our record, but on how much we grow before the state tournament."
South Elgin Storm
Coach: Adam Plach (5th season)
2012 finish: 10-21, 0-5 (UEC Valley)
Top returning players: Seniors Jake Dinneen (S), Joe Lullo (OH-Lib. 0RS), juniors Nate Moratta (OH), Dan Gibadlo (MB), Chris Gibadlo (RS)
Key newcomers: Senior Humberto Rios (Lib.), juniors Ian Saxton (MB), Nick Salas (Lib.), Nathan Wells (OH-RS-Lib.), Michael Vedrine (OH-Lib.-RS)
Outlook: Moratta was the team's leader in kills and passing last year and earned all-conference honors as a sophomore. Dinneen was the starting setter last year, while Dan Gibadlo led the team in blocks. "It's nice to know our best passer and hitter returns and it's also nice to know we have a setter who has a full season's experience under his belt," said Plach. The coach said passing and siding out will be keys to improvement this year. South Elgin returns only one of its passers from a year ago. "We would really like to be at or above .500 this year," the coach said. "We would also like to at least make it to the second round of the regional. The only things I see standing in our way of achieving our goals are ourselves and our schedule. Our side of the conference is very tough. As long as we continue to put in the work and improve I believe we can reach our goals."
Coach: Lisa Vazzana
2012 finish: 0-6 UEC River
Top returning players: Seniors Danny Nevarez (Lib.), Parimal Vyas (S), junior Phil Lewy (OH)
Key newcomers: Sophomores Jonah Exline (6-3, MB), Brandon Montemayor (MB)
Outlook: Nevarez is a three-year varsity player and was an all-conference honorable mention selection last year. Vyas is an accurate setter with strong court awareness, while Lewy is a hardworking player with a strong arm swing on the left side who will help both in the front and back rows. "I have a great group of boys," said Vazzana. "They are very dedicated and hardworking. We will excel defensively. Every drill that we have done that is offense against defense, the defense has commanded. They are very scrappy and very accurate." Vazzana likes how the team is improving on closing blocks. "Once we capitalize on that we will be amazing," she said. Vazzana is looking for her team to continue to improve as the season wears on. "I feel it may take a few weeks, but the boys will come together as one and put some nice wins on the board," she said. "I feel we may be overlooked at first, but not for long."
Westminster Christian Warriors
Coach: Josh Landers (3rd season)
2012 finish: 5-24
Top returning players: Seniors Aaron Wiewel (S), Travis Battle (RS), juniors Nate Sunday (MB), Logan Hopp (RS)
Key newcomers: Senior Yong Un Kim (Lib.), sophomore Matt Swing (OH-RS), freshmen Danny Kott (OH), Brad Barker (MB)
Outlook: Landers likes what the team has in the way of outside hitters and setters. "Our setters are strong and our hitters are improving with every day of practice," he said. "We have enough height and athleticism to surprise a number of teams this year." Westminster is sporting an 18-player roster this year. "We have a large team, nearly doubling our numbers from last year," said Landers. "With 10 freshmen on the team, the future of the program looks bright. However, with youth comes inexperience and nerves. If we are able to grow and maintain a level of confidence, we should have a good season. The keys are coaching the players at a high level, senior leadership and playing tough competition. I look forward to the struggles and successes that lie ahead. Through them all we will become a better team."
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