Girls volleyball: Lake County all-area team
Mickenzie Andrews Lake ZurichThe senior could play any position for the Bears. She leaves the team clearly making a positive impression. "She is in the discussion of most talented all-around players in Lake Zurich volleyball history,'' said Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello. "As a captain she sacrificed endlessly for the needs of her team. She started at middle, right side, outside, and libero for us this year. She can legitimately be considered in the top five or so for each of those positions in school history. It is pretty remarkable. Her competitiveness kept us in the great majority of our matches and she taught her younger teammates how to play with a purpose and passion. She was always the most competitive player on the court and always played to win. She has left an incredible legacy at LZ for future players to try to emulate."
Liz Apgar LibertyvilleA gifted and athletic setter, Apgar ran a 5-1 offense this fall. She's a big reason the Cats found themselves deep in the state playoffs. "She's been a tremendous leader this season for us,'' said Libertyville coach Greg Loika. "She's a real asset and someone who's come up through the ranks the right way and is now leading this team to its peak potential." Apgar dished out 611 assists during Libertyville's excellent season. She also found time to make 200 digs and 71 kills.
Alex Basler LibertyvilleThis stellar middle blocker lived up to her preseason billing. "Alex is the core weapon on this 2014 team that has exceeded all expectations out there,'' coach Greg Loika said. "Her smart shots and sheer power have helped her amass over 500 kills in the past two years, and arguably be the best middle blocker in the area through that time. She has the ability to dominate a match both offensively and defensively." Bound for Cornell University in the fall, Basler was an accurate hitter with her .474 hitting percentage. She led the Wildcats with 276 kills, 74 blocks and 33 serving aces.
Megan Behrendt LakesSimply put, the Eagles slugger was tough this fall. She made an impression a year ago as a sophomore and stepped up this season as a confident player. Not the biggest hitter around, she makes up for it with pure power on those hits. For the winning Eagles, Behrendt hammered 268 kills. She still had plenty of time for defense with those 270 digs. An injury slowed her down at the end of the season and Lakes sure missed her. Behrendt was also effective from the serving line with 40 aces. She also had 44 blocks.
Kendall Buchman Grayslake NorthJim Sarver was in his first season as head coach of the Knights, and he's sure glad he had this player. Buchman hit outside for North and still had time to set for the team. "She was the best all-around player for the Knights,'' Sarver said. "Kendall did it all -- set, hit and play great defense." This busy player managed 176 assists and 193 digs. She also managed 94 kills. And she added 17 serving aces. "She is one of the best weak-side hitters in the area, with a great array of hits both down the line and cross court,'' Sarver said. "She was the kind of player that you never took off the court."
Grace Butler CarmelThis 15-year-old player stepped up big for the Corsairs. "The fact that she is this good and only a sophomore is amazing,'' said Carmel coach Dave Pazely. "She is a returning starter, but last year she only hit. This year she is the second half of our 6-2 and leads the team in assists (442). Her athleticism and power make her a handful for any opponent but her decision-making ability sets her apart and makes her yet another standout player on a strong Carmel team. I can't stress this enough, Carmel wouldn't be as successful as we are this year without Grace Butler." She helped the defense with 167 digs to go with 148 kills, 34 blocks and 25 aces.
Allie Daul Grayslake CentralIt was a coming-out party for Daul, who made a transition into a big-time offensive player. "She had a great year for us at the net both hitting and blocking,'' said Grayslake Central coach Jason Janczak. "She was very versatile and kept opposing teams guessing whether she would pound the ball at them or strategically tip at them. She was able to see the court effectively, which gave us a huge advantage throughout the season." Her 185 kills and 70 blocks were a big help for the Rams. She also excelled at the serving line with 41 aces. "At the serving line she was second on the team in aces,'' Janczak said. "She had the ability to control the placement of her serve which gave us a huge advantage."
Maddie Demo LakesMost every team in Lake County could use a setter like Demo. She puts the ball where hitters want it. And part of that is she is so physically strong. During the Eagles' strong run this fall, she rang up a stunning 668 assists. She also played a big part for the Eagles' defense. Demo rang up 232 digs and still made time for 58 kills and 37 assists.
Lauren Frericks WarrenThis all-around player gives the Blue Devils help running an effective 6-2 offense. "Lauren is a true leader on the team,'' said Warren coach Julie Filippo. "She motivates her teammates to be the best they can be on the court. Lauren's hustle is contagious and makes the team push even harder."This season, Frericks helped out with 340 assists. She also reached double figures in both kills (107) and digs (136). She also checked in with 23 blocks.
Lexi Gora Lake ZurichThe word got out quickly in Lake County. Don't let this sophomore beat you. Defenses double and triple-blocked Gora. "She learned to carry the burden of being the focal point of most teams defenses,'' said Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello. "Her confidence continuously increased as the matches went on. She was a main passer in our serve-receive and was relied on to be a defensive stalwart for us in left back. She has an incredible vertical and is very athletic. She has a chance to go down as an all-time great at Lake Zurich and in the area. She has just begun to tap into her abilities and potential." Aiello calls her one the top sophomores in the state. For this fall, she had 217 kills. She also was strong at the serving line with 41 aces. She also notched 21 blocks.
Sierra Kepski CarmelYes, she would have made a great third baseman in softball. Her defense is that good. This libero is in the Carmel record books. The three-year starter, heading to IUPUI for more volleyball next year, rang up a school-record 513 digs this season. "Sierra might be the shortest girl on the court but she's the fastest, smartest and most competitive,'' said Carmel coach Dave Pazely. "She makes digging Division I hitters look routine and has kept us alive in tight matches all season long. She is a model of hard work and dedication and that has paid off for her and her teammates." Kepski is also in the Corsairs' record book for assists. That's 43 (by a non-setter).
Corissa Kurth StevensonThis is one player who saved her best work for the end of the season. Like those 7 serving aces against both Buffalo Grove and Hersey. "Those were unbelievable,'' said Stevenson coach Tim Crow. "Corrissa is one of our best athletes." The team's setter had 671 assists. Those 48 aces stood out. "Her ability to sustain service runs was huge to our success as a team.,'' Crow said. She also rang up 77 kills.
McKenna Lahr LakesHere is another talented Eagles player who had an untimely injury late in the season. However, Lahr stood out during the regular season. Her 264 kills were a key in Lakes' attack. She clearly had time for defense with those 239 digs. Lahr was clearly effective on the defensive side with that 1.92 serve-receive average. This all-around player managed 53 blocks and 51 serving aces.
Morgan Meade CarmelSince the Corsairs have a star at libero (Kepski), Meade has tried and succeeded at every other position on the court. "Morgan's first year on varsity she played middle hitter because we needed one and she has the volleyball IQ and athleticism to do it,'' said Carmel coach Dave Pazely. "This year she returned to her natural position as a setter and also hit right side for our 6-2 offense. She is second in Carmel history for kills in a season with 248 and counting." She's also fourth in school history with her 46 serving aces. In addition there are 151 digs and 16 blocks. And Meade has rung up 432 assists in Carmel's 6-2 offense.
Kylie Mueller GrantHere's another player who was double-blocked during the season. Mueller was the Bulldogs go-to option and met the challenge tenacity. "She can swing cross-line successfully,'' said Grant coach Susan Thompson. Mueller had 195 digs to lead her team. Her 57 aces stood out. "She had a wicked topspin serve,'' Thompson said. Mueller also had 106 digs.
Morgan O'Brien LibertyvilleGranted she's just a sophomore, but this libero is quick to stand out. She already has rung up 508 digs this fall. O'Brien is also very comfortable on the serving line. She led the Wildcats with 237 points and 31 aces before Thursday's sectional final matchup. The team does well when O'Brien is on the line. She helps her team by scoring a point on 63% of her serves. "We're very happy she'll be bringing her skills and personality back to the Cats for another season,'' said Libertyville coach Greg Loika.
Hayley Peterson Grayslake CentralHere's one senior who made a move to help her team. The former setter was now an outside hitter for the Rams. "We moved her to outside where she swung strong and smart,'' said Central coach Jason Janczak. "Hayley was instrumental in our success this year. She was effective at the net and in the back row. Hayley played strong at the net but also gave us the versatility to use her strong swing as a back-row attacking option. Hayley could always be counted on to give her best, and pick up her team when the situation got tight." Her 239 digs stood out. She also had 113 kills and 32 aces. "One of this year's captains, she was one of the hardest working players we had in both practice and during matches,'' Janczak said.
Jori Radtke StevensonIn that shocking win over Hersey in the regional title game, Radtke stepped up with 17 kills. Stevenson coach Tim Crow was impressed with this sophomore's work ethic. "Jori is a complete player and was always willing to put the team on her shoulders,'' Crow said. "She is one of the best competitors we have had and really wanted our team to be great." In her 10th-grade season, she paced the Patriots with kills (346) and aces (49). She also was second on the team in digs (260).
LeAnne Sakowicz (WaucondaIs there more of a versatile player than Ms. Sakowicz? She can hit with the best of them. She blocks well at the net. She's very dangerous on the serving line with her line drive serve. And of course, she helps this talented team with her setting skills, as evidenced by its appearance in the Class 3A sectional final Vernon Hills.
Grace Schofield CarmelThe all-area captain keeps on breaking the school record for kills. She's done it for for three years in a row. The Corsairs knew they had a star in the making when they brought her to the varsity as a freshman. Her volleyball resume is quite impressive. Maybe the most impressive was being named most valuable player in the East Suburban Catholic Conference this season. The Drake-bound player had 323 kills, 193 digs, 62 aces and 38 blocks as Carmel marched deep into the Class 4A playoffs. Those aces are also a school record. "Grace is able to impact the game both offensively and defensively,'' said Carmel coach Dave Pazely. "She makes clutch plays and is a consistent performer. Grace would instantly make any team she is a part of better, and Drake University seems to agree which is why she will be playing there next year on scholarship."
Sara Sexton WaucondaOne local coach called her that stud in the middle. Sexton is so comfortable there and always looks like she is having fun putting the ball away. She is equally at home slamming a ball down for a kill and stopped an opponent's move with a block and was a key player in the Bulldogs' deep Class 3A playoff surge.
Jenna Walczak WarrenThere has been talk about this player for a few years now, most of if centering on how she is one dangerous hitter. Walczak didn't disappoint in her junior season. She led the Blue Devils with those 209 kills. And she didn't skip defense either, pacing Warren in digs (227). Warren coach Julie Filippo notes Walczak is on the AVCA Phantom watch list.
2014 All-area roster
Player School Pos. Yr.
Mickenzie Andrews Lake Zurich Sr. MH/OH
Lizzie Apgar Libertyville Sr. S
Alex Basler Libertyville Sr. MB
Megan Behrendt Lakes Jr. OH
Kendall Buchman Grayslake North Jr. S/OH
Grace Butler Carmel So. S/RS
Allie Daul Grayslake Central Jr. RS/MH
Maddie Demo Lakes Jr. S
Lauren Frericks Warren Sr. S
Lexi Gora Lake Zurich So. OH
Sierra Kepski Carmel Sr. L
Corissa Kurth Stevenson Jr. S
McKenna Lahr Lakes So. MB
Morgan Meade Carmel Sr. S/RS
Kylie Mueller Grant Jr. OH
Morgan O'Brien Libertyville So. L
Hayley Peterson Grayslake Central Sr. OH
Jori Radtke Stevenson So. OH
LeAnne Sakowicz Wauconda Jr. OH/S
Sara Sexton Wauconda Jr. MB
* Grace Schofield Carmel Sr. OH
Jenna Walczak Warren Jr. OH
*all-area team captain
Special mention Morgan Anderberg (Grayslake Central So. L), Ashley Anderson (Wauconda Jr. L), Morgan Berland (Stevenson Jr. MH), Nicole Berzin (Warren Jr. S), Lindsey Biedron (Warren Sr. OH), Lisa Buehler (Lakes Sr. L), Erin Dunleavy (Libertyville Jr. OH), Kasey Firnbach (Vernon Hills Sr. OH), Maggie Fish (Grayslake North Sr. MH), Juliana Frusolone (Grayslake Central Sr. S), Marie Gerbasi (Grayslake Central Jr. OH), Cate Halvorson (Carmel Jr. MH), Jackie Hamrick (Grayslake Central Jr. RS), Kim Hengesh (Warren Jr. MH), Yasmeen Johnson (Mundelein Sr. OH), Katie Kiser (Grant So. S), Anna Lillydahl (Libertyville So. RS), Haley Meyer (Wauconda Jr. MH), Isabella Milejczyk (Stevenson Jr. OH), Taylor O'Neill (Grayslake Central Sr. OH), Bianca Ori (Antioch Sr. OH), Sinead Prentiss (Libertyville So. DS), Dani Sentz (Grayslake Central Sr. DS), Becky Sidlowski (Wauconda Sr. MH), Hannah Skoog (Antioch Jr. L), Tori Smith (Vernon Hills Sr. S), Amanda Spear (Antioch Sr. MH), Hannah Sweetwood (Lake Zurich So. OH), Elizabeth Tworek (Carmel Jr. DS), Kayla Wedl (Wauconda Jr. OH), Hannah Zerwas (Libertyville Jr. OH)
Selections and profiles by Bill Pemstein