Oyinkan Akinola Schaumburg
Akinola, who put down 164 kills in the regular season, could turn a match to the Saxons favor at any time. "Oyinkan's play and presence in the frontcourt often alters the game plan for our opponents," said Saxons coach Jeanette Pancratz. "She can hit a ball straight down and block two-thirds of the net." Akinola, a 5-foot-11 junior, hit with a .211 efficiency, had a 92.4 percent passing efficiency, 54 blocks and 140 digs. "Her drive to become a complete player led her to be one of our primary passers and back court defenders," Pancratz said. "She is athletic, caring, encouraging and dedicated, and has only touched the surface of her potential. The sky's the limit for her future."
Kim Butler Palatine
A two-year starter as the middle blocker, Butler has led the Pirates with 118 on 264 attempts. Not many players in the area can match her imposing 6-foot-2 frame. "Kimberly is an integral part of our offense," said Pirates coach Dan Gavin. "Her .322 kill efficiency makes her one of the most efficient attackers in the area." Butler, a senior, is equally formidable defensively, racking up a team-leading 51 blocks. "She is the consummate teammate, a hard worker and a terrific all-around competitor," Gavin added. A three-sport athlete, Butler is also a standout in water polo and track and field.
Emily Casaletto Barrington
Casaletto was one of the top liberos in the area, and Barrington coach Rob Ridenour heard about it often. "The best compliment for Emily is that we've had multiple opposing coaches mention how great she is after matches," said Ridenour, who had guided the Fillies to Mid-Suburban League title two times in the last three seasons. The 5-foot-7 senior led her team with 464 digs, was second with 33 aces, first with a 95 percent serving percentage and first with her 2.26 serve receive score out of 3.0. "Emily does so many little things that make our team better," Ridenour said. "She has a great volleyball IQ and has been so much fun to coach."
Mary Cleary St. Viator
Cleary, a longtime middle hitter, showed her versatility this fall. The two-year Lions captain has always been a force in the front row but this season she moved to the outside and put down 200 kills in the regular season with a .348 kill percentage, 29 aces, 46 blocks and 82 digs. "Mary is a force to be reckoned with every time she is in the front row," said Lions coach Charlie Curtin. "She is a player who can overtake a game with her power." The 6-foot-2 senior is also the Lions' best blocker. "That forced opponents to set away from her," Curtin said. "Mary has the capability to go both above the block and around the block when she chooses to. Her versatility allows her to hit from every position on the court."
Jenn Donnell Conant
For four years, Donnell has been an impact player and formidable opponent in the Mid-Suburban League. This season, the 5-foot-11 senior honed her leadership skills and led the Cougars to a 4-1 second half run in the MSL West Division. Donnell, who had a 92 percent serving percentage, led the Cougars in attack with 223 kills and in serve receive efficiency at 88 percent. "Her teammates looked up to her and appreciate the experience and skill that Jenn brings to the court both in practices and matches," said Cougars coach Peggy Scholten. "Her future collegiate plans include competing in both volleyball and track."
Liz Fuerst Hersey
When it came to kills, Fuerst was first on the Huskies with a team-high 226 in the regular season. Only a sophomore, the 5-foot-10 outside hitter made some huge strides this fall, moving from the right side to the outside hitter spot. "Liz was our go to hitter all season, and has the ability to jump over just about any block and put the ball down," said Hersey coach Nancy Lill. "She hit with an unheard .325 efficiency, which is rare for an outside hitter." Fuerst also collected 190 digs, 32 blocks while serving 94 percent with 16 aces. "She has developed her all-around game and become a solid six-rotation player," Lill said. "Liz has a very bright future ahead of her and MSL opponents will have to deal with her for the next two years."
Allison Grzebien Maine West
When Maine West needed the big kill, Grzebien was usually there to provide it. The 6-foot-2 sophomore led the Warriors on attack. She had 10-plus kills in 13 of the Warriors' 29 matches during the regular season. Grzebien also passes very well which gives her added opportunities as a back row attacker. "Allison sees the block well and is able to hit over, around, or through it," said Warriors coach Randy Tiller. "She swings with power in both the front row and back row. Her future is very promising as her kill total surpassed the sophomore total of our last star outside hitter, Alise Tupuritis, who was the first Central Suburban North MVP."
Lane Hindenburg Fremd
Hindenburg, a three-year starter, was named to the all-area team for the second straight season. The 6-foot junior led the team for the second straight season in kills (121 in regular season), is second on the team in serve receive attempts and passes (178-223). All this, despite battling a shoulder injury. "Lane has spent time during practices working to get better both on the floor and with our trainers," said Fremd coach Curt Pinley. "Her dedication and work ethic in both areas have led her to have another successful season as one of our key 'go-to' players on the floor."
Sami Kay Rolling Meadows
Meadows coach Joe Di Silvio calls Kay a born leader on and off the court. The 5-foot-4 senior setter had 315 assists in the regular season and served 93 percent with 29 aces (second highest on the team). Kay, who was a captain this fall, also had 114 digs. "Sami directs the offense and calls out where the setter is no matter if she is on or off the court," Di Silvio said. "She is always open to constructive criticism and looks to improve her game during every practice. What she brings to the team is what every coach would hope for in an athlete."
Katie Krebs Hersey
One of the top liberos in the area, Krebs was the glue to the Huskies back row and led the Huskies in the regular season with 422 digs. "Katie's play has been critical to our success this year," said Hersey coach Nancy Lill of her three-year varsity performer. "She has solid serve receive, passing and an outstanding, team-best 2.3 ratio that has enabled our setters to run the offense with ease." The 5-foot-7 senior is also one of the Huskies' top servers (93 percent with 18 aces). "Katie's relentless defense has frustrated opponents with her ability to keep the ball off the floor," Lill said. "She is definitely the top libero in the East Division and one of the best in the state and will be greatly missed next year."
Deanna Kuzmanic Wheeling
The all-area basketball player added all-area volleyball to her resume, serving 93 percent with 18 aces, serve receiving 83 percent, and setting at a .305 efficiency with 191 assists. "In every statistical category Deanna ranks in the top 3 among our team," said Wheeling coach Jason Kopkowski. "She is a vocal leader, demonstrates a solid work ethic on a daily basis, and is very consistent with her play, energy, and demeanor." The 5-foot-9 junior also had a .156 hitting efficiency with 73 kills, 21 blocks and 170 digs. "Often times, Deanna is the athlete on our side of the net that makes a remarkable play to give our team a chance to be successful," Kuzmanic said. "Throughout this season, she has improved on all skills and pushes her teammates to be better. She was voted as a team captain by her teammates and as her coach, I am really excited to see her continue to improve for her senior season next fall."
Kiana Lewis Schaumburg
Lewis' passion for the game does not go unnoticed. All eyes in the gym are on the senior who is clearly a major impact player in all of the Saxons' matches. "Her vision, her leadership, her attitude drive our team's success," said Saxons coach Jeanette Pancratz. "Her relentless and enthusiastic pursuit of perfection allows her to achieve excellence in every aspect of the game. She is fundamentally sound." The 5-foot-10 senior has been a leader in kills (289), kill efficiency (. 265), aces (43) and passing (262 digs). "Kiana has gone beyond being the best," Pancratz said. "She has left footprints on our hearts and for others to follow."
Amber Lindfors Elk Grove
After having taken a year off due to illness, Lindfors made an outstanding comeback this year. The 6-foot-4 junior middle hitter led the Grens in kills (138), hitting efficiency (. 344) and blocks (30) during the regular season. "Amber is a competitive athlete who is inherently driven to succeed," said Grenadiers coach Stephanie Kezios. "She has put in the hard work this year that resulted in productive play and we are looking forward to having her return to Elk Grove next season."
Lea Masciopinto Buffalo Grove
When the Bison needed a big dig or save in the back row, they knew they could count on Masciopinto, one of the top liberos in the area. The 5-foot-8 senior also has a 94 serving percentage with 11 aces. She surpassed 200 digs during the regular season. "Lea has been a two-year starter as our libero," said Buffalo Grove coach Matt Priban. "She has a great ability to read the court and always finds a way to get that dig. She is extremely vocal and is a great leader on the court."
Ellie Meyer St. Viator
St. Viator coach Charlie Curtin has plenty to look forward to with Meyer returning to his back row for the next two seasons. The 5-foot-4 sophomore libero served 26 aces with a 94 percent serving percentage. She had 349 digs, 55 setting assists, and 433 serve receptions during the regular season. "Ellie plays like a seasoned veteran even though she is only a sophomore," Curtin said. "She directs our defensive alignments and is an active communicator with our hitters on a play by play basis. Ellie has overtaken many matches with crucial, game changing digs. She has frustrated the opponents best hitters on more than one occasion, even logging 30-plus digs in multiple contests."
Ashley Montanez Rolling Meadows
Montanez has been a varsity player for four years, her first with Leyden before transferring to Meadows. She played right side as a sophomore, left side as a junior and moved to middle this fall. The 6-foot senior led the team in the regular season with 35 blocks and was second in kills with 181. "Ashley has been moved around from one position to the next and has never complained," said RM coach Joe Di Silvio. "She understands how important the team is and has always been willing to do whatever is needed to help out. With this being her first year on varsity as a middle one would think an adjustment period would be in order, but not for Ashley. She continued to excel in her new role and was unstoppable at times vs. opponents."
Megan Mueller St. Viator
Mueller, who put down 178 kills with a .300 kill percentage during the regular season, does a little bit of everything for the Lions. "Megan is very well rounded and plays a great front and back row," said Lions coach Charlie Curtin of the two-year co-captain. "She comes up with huge shots while hitting, and is able to go anywhere on the court she wants." The 5-foot-9 senior outside hitter served for 35 aces and collected 226 digs. "She plays a very active back row accounting for a majority of our serve receive touches," Curtin added. "Megan is a player who can overtake a game with both her offensive and defensive play."
Alaina Murphy Buffalo Grove
The explosive Murphy has been a two-year captain and earned all-conference honors the last two years. Murphy had her share of double-digit kills matches. The 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter put down more 208 kills during the regular season. "Alaina is a very strong leader on the court," said Bison coach Matt Priban, who also saw the senior serve 36 aces. "She has also helped out defensively (with 130 digs)."
Kelly Murphy Leyden
Murphy, who led the Eagles with 281 kills in the regular season, has been the core of the varsity team for four years. "She is the most experienced volleyball player who has been through Leyden High School in countless years," said Leyden coach Danielle Kowalkowski of the 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter. "This experience helped shape the program into what it is today. Kelly has been our biggest threat, both offensively and defensively, over the past four years."
Gabriella Olhava Hersey
One of the top middle blockers in the Mid-Suburban League, the 6-foot junior collected 68 blocks during the regular season. Olhava is also second on the team with 128 kills while sporting a solid .318 hitting efficiency for the MSL East champs. "Gabri is capable of dominating a match at the net," said Hersey coach Nancy Lill. "With her solid blocking and strong hitting, it will be great to have Gabri back again next year."
Carly Roberts Fremd
Roberts' overall play was one of the reasons the Vikings have enjoyed another winning season. "Carly set as part of our 6-2 offense this season and played the right front position," said Fremd coach Curt Pinley. "She was rarely out of a match and has been our floor captain the entire year." Roberts collected 195 assists and 86 kills during the regular season and served for 18 aces (second on the team). Her .205 hitting efficiency is also second best on the team. "So it goes without saying that she has been a player who is critical to have on the floor at all times," Pinley added. "She is an athlete who is well respected on the team and her overall play this season is one of the main reasons for our success."
Christy Roney Barrington
One of the major reasons Barrington won its second Mid-Suburban League title in three years was the play of Roney. The 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter is always capable of getting the momentum-changing kill. s She led the Fillies in the regular season with 265 kills and was third on the team with 282 digs. "Christy has had a great year," said Barrington coach Rob Ridenour. "Every team knows she is getting the ball, and she still consistently produces. It has been a blast watching her evolve and become the confident, complete player she is today."
Clare Shaffer Hoffman Estates
A three-year starter, Shaffer has been a leader on and off the court for coach Dan Hutton's Hawks. The senior middle hitter paced the team in the regular season with 164 kills, 63 blocks, and 33 aces and was second in digs with 186. Shaffer's work ethic and performance did not go unnoticed by her coach. "Clare has been an inspiration for the younger players," Hutton said. "Her court presence will be missed next year."
Courtney Stedman Hersey
Stedman does it all for the Huskies. The 5-foot-10 junior started the season as a 5-1 setter until coach Nancy Lill decided the team needed her hitting and passing. "Courtney was a starting varsity outside hitter as a sophomore, so utilizing her swing as a junior helped our team offensively," Lill said. Stedman had 95 kills in the regular season while hitting .285. She also handed out 352 assists while setting at a .363 ratio. She served at 93 percent with 14 aces. Stedman also collected 114 digs and 21 blocks. "She is a smart hitter able to find holes in opposing defenses," Lill said. "Yet she can also put the ball away. She has done a great job setting, and is one of the top setters in the league. Courtney will be back to lead our team next year."
Sarah Stuehm Schaumburg
A positive attitude and work ethic are Stuehm's nature. The 5-foot-5 senior libero led the team during the regular season with 404 digs, and served 04.9 percent (242-255) with 20 aces. "Sarah practices purposefully focusing on detail after detail while executing her skills," said Schaumburg coach Jeanette Pancratz. "She leads through example, communication and relentless effort. As our libero, Sarah is the captain of our backcourt and the glue to our defense. She plays tenacious defense and always gives everything has on the court. As much heart as she plays with on the court translates even larger off the court."
Carly Thompson Prospect
Thompson has made her presence felt in three years on the varsity. This year the 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker led the Knights with her .354 hitting efficiency and 111 kills during the regular season. The senior middle hitter also had 45 blocks. "Carly has been an integral part of the Prospect program," said Knights coach Mike Riedy. "She is the player that other teams were trying to stop."
Kari Thomsen Conant
Thomsen had some big shoes to fill for Conant this season following a graduated libero who had been a four-year starter. But the 5-foot-5 senior came through with flying colors, collecting 265 digs during the regular season. "Kari's calm and methodical approach to the game helped to make her quite successful," said Cougars coach Peggy Scholten. "She led us in digs and did an excellent job as a primary passer on serve receive, Kari is as coachable as any player ever to play for Conant. She learned to react and compete at the varsity level pace and many times opposing coaches commented on what an incredible impact she had in matches."
Jenny Vliet Rolling Meadows
The Mid-Suburban East 'Player of the Year" is a two-year captain and all-conference player. No one from Meadows had earned those honors since 1997. "Jenny has played on varsity all four years and contributes in every facet of the game by serving, passing, setting, hitting and blocking," said RM coach Joe Di Silvio of the Division I basketball recruit (St. Louis). The 6-foot-2 senior led the Mustangs in the regular season with 192 kills and a .230 hitting efficiency. She was second in assists with 267 and third in blocks with 27. "Jenny has been a leader to her teammates both on and off the court and maintains high academic standards," Di Silvio said. "She is a big reason we finished in second place (MSL East). She always gives her best effort the moment she steps on the court. We will miss Jenny next year, but Rolling Meadows is happy to have gotten as much as we did for the past four years from such an amazing athlete."
Claire Waliczek Barrington
When Barrington coach Rob Ridenour says Waliczek had an amazing season, it's hardly a stretch. The 5-foot-8 senior setter led the Mid-Suburban League champs with aces (37), blocks (26), assists (604) and was second in digs (287) and fourth in kills (81). "Claire can impact a match in so many ways beyond her talents as a setter ranging from an incredible dig to a timely kill," Ridenour added. "She is truly a complete volleyball player and we are really going to miss her next year."
Molly Ziegler St. Viator
You always know you are going to get 100 percent from Ziegler, the Lions' 5-foot-8 senior setter who had 71 kills, a .326 hitting percentage, 23 aces, 11 blocks, 219 digs and 515 assists during the regular season. "Molly is one of those players a coach loves to have," said Lions coach Charlie Curtin about the Lions' captain the past two seasons. "She is the hardest worker at all times and would run through a wall to save a ball. Molly is our floor captain who runs all aspects of our offense." Curtin said all the players looked up to Ziegler. "Molly is an instrumental part of all facets of our game," the coach added. "She uses her smarts while distributing the ball in a successful manner."
Player School Pos. Yr.
Oyinkan Akinola Schaumburg OH Jr.
Kim Butler Palatine MB Sr.
Emily Casaletto Barrington L Sr.
Mary Cleary St. Viator OH Sr.
Jenn Donnell Conant OH Sr.
Liz Fuerst Hersey OH So.
Allison Grezbien Maine West OH So.
Lane Hindenburg Fremd OH Jr.
Sami Kay Rolling Meadows S Sr.
Katie Krebs Hersey L Sr.
Deanna Kuzmanic Wheeling S Jr.
Kiana Lewis Schaumburg OH Sr.
Amber Lindfors Elk Grove MB Jr.
Lea Masciopinto Buffalo Grove L Sr.
Ellie Meyer St. Viator L So.
Ashley Montanez Rolling Meadows OH Sr.
Megan Mueller St. Viator OH Sr.
Alaina Murphy Buffalo Grove OH Sr.
Kelly Murphy Leyden OH Sr.
Gabriella Olhava Hersey MB Jr.
Carly Roberts Fremd S Jr.
Christy Roney Barrington OH Sr.
Clare Shaffer Hoffman Estates MB Sr.
Courtney Stedman Hersey S Jr.
Sarah Stuehm Schaumburg L Sr.
Carly Thompson Prospect MB Sr.
Kari Thomsen Conant L Sr.
Jenny Vliet Rolling Meadows S Sr.
* Claire Waliczek Barrington S Sr.
Molly Ziegler St. Viator S Sr.
Kristen Abrahamson (St. Viator), Vivian Barclay (Christian Liberty), Sarah Berggren (Barrington), Jada Blackwell (Schaumburg), Hannah Bridier (Palatine), Brittany Collins (Maine West), Grace Fedus (St. Viator), Marie Georgoulis (Buffalo Grove), Mia Harper (Rolling Meadows), Kelly Hill (Hersey), Masie Koo (Fremd), Carly O'Kray (Leyden), Alexa Laureano (Wheeling), Carly Pisano (Hersey), Kassidy Riportella (Maine West), Allie Skowron (Prospect), Lauren Sokolowski (Rolling Meadows), Meg Solans (Hersey), Melissa Solorio (Elk Grove), Sarah Rivera (Buffalo Grove), Grace Skorin (Rolling Meadows) Kerry Souder (Elk Grove), Aubrey Stegich (Fremd), Caity Strozewski (Hersey), Emily Watkins (Barrington), Sarah Wille (Hoffman Estates)
Selections and profiles by John Leusch