Girls volleyball: Lake County all-area team
Ashley Anderson Wauconda
The energetic libero played varsity for four seasons and was named a captain her final year. "Ashley has been an important staple in our defense over the past four years," coach Alison Williams said. "She was a vocal leader during practices and in games and really helped in bettering the younger players on the team. This year she really took charge of the defense and stepped up her game when we needed her." Anderson amassed more than 1,000 digs in her career, racking up 307 this season. She also served 25 aces.
Katherine Barr Antioch
The sophomore led 20-win Sequoits with 77 block kills. She earned all-tournament honors in the Elaine Lonergan Invite. Barr put down 107 kills this season and played some defense as well with 21 digs. In the regional title match against Regina Dominican, she had 8 blocks, four of which came in a row.
Megan Behrendt Lakes
The all-area captain reached the 300 mark in both kills and digs, meaning she doesn't just pound the volleyball. The school record for career kills, she started four seasons on varsity. "She is a senior that every girl in the program looks up to," coach Kate Cheek said. The 5-foot-8 hitter was named team MVP the last three years. Those votes come from her teammates. "She has gotten better each year in leadership skills and ability," Cheek said.
Kendall Buchman Grayslake North
The Knights' top player is leaving the building. The University of Missouri-St. Louis has already signed Buchman for next season. The four-year starter led her team in virtually every category. "It's hard to just use her numbers for her value to the team," coach Jim Sarver said. Buchman was called on to do just about everything for the Knights. The starting setter hit outside, as well. She helped out on offense with 104 kills and 190 assists, while also collecting 316 digs. She is a two-time Fox Valley all-conference player.
Grace Butler Carmel Catholic
Central Michigan University didn't wait until her senior year to secure a verbal commitment from her. Her single-season Carmel record of 664 assists is eye-popping. "She's had to carry more responsibility this year, as we lost two college hitters from the previous year," coach Dave Pazely said. In her third season as a Carmel starter, she had 170 digs, 130 kills, 42 serving aces and 45 blocks. "She is a complete player," Pazely said. "Her competitiveness, athleticism and skills will undoubtedly make any team she is a part of instantly better."
Maddie Demo Lakes
It seems Demo has been setting at Lakes forever. She's clearly a big reason the Eagles reached the Libertyville sectional this season. "Maddie is very vocal and passionate about volleyball," coach Kate Cheek said. "She works very hard on and off the court, and always pushes herself to accomplish her goals. She always wants what is best for the players. I can always count on her to run the floor and make decisions that will better our offense." Running a 5-1 offense, Demo fired off 633 assists. In addition, the sparkplug contributed 147 digs, 36 kills and 29 aces. With Demo at the controls of this offense, the Eagles had the best record in school history.
Allie Daul Grayslake Central
The four-year varsity starter finished her career on a high note. You might not think a middle hitter would be known for her devastating serves but Daul indeed was. "What made Allie elite was her ability to strategically place her great serves," coach Jason Janczak said. "She would frustrate teams by putting a serve short, then pushing them long, which would really throw off their game. Allie has superior control over her serve, which really gave us the edge in tight matches." Daul tallied 49 aces, 165 kills and 61 blocks. She will find better weather when she plays next year at St. Leo University in Florida.
Erin Dunleavy Libertyville
The Wildcats were lucky to get this player back. As a senior, she played all-around for the best team in Lake County. "Erin is a fierce competitor," coach Greg Loika said. "As a six-rotation player, she's crucial in every aspect of our team offense defense and serve receive." Dunleavy left behind an injury-plagued season a year ago to help the Wildcats become the North Suburban Conference champions. "At 5-8, she's a remarkable hitter who attacks from everywhere," Loika said. Dunleavy banged out 155 kills and checked in with 213 digs.
Marie Gerbasi Grayslake Central
These Rams didn't have the best of starts this season. And then Gerbasi stepped up. "She is an incredibly smart and strong hitter who had the ability to hit around and through some very big blocks for us this season," coach Jason Janczak said. "On defense, she played at a consistently high level. She frustrated opponents with her ability to get well hit attacks up and to our setter." Gerbasi racked up 343 digs in addition to 138 kills and 29 aces. "Marie also had a very strong year for us at the serving line with a tough jump float," Janczak said. "One of our captains, she was the emotional leader of our team and her guidance and perseverance helped us overcome a slow start to finish playing some of our best volleyball."
Kim Hengesh Warren
Talk about a tough athlete. Hengesh was coming off a summer in which she was named All-American for the Sky High club. And then in a game against Stevenson, the senior middle hitter suffered a thumb injury. "Instead of sitting out, Kim braced her hand and continued to play through the pain," coach Julie Filippo said. "Kim worked extremely hard in the off-season to become one of the best middles in the conference. Watching her playing hurt every game proved that she cared about her team and would do everything in her power to give her best each and every day and not let her team down." Hengesh hit 100 blocks right on the nose. Despite the pain, she also had 145 kills and 32 aces.
Kate Kiser Grant
The Bulldogs wouldn't have the great success they had without the junior setter. She dished out 603 assists. "Kate really had a breakout season for us," coach Sue Thompson said. "We went with a 5-1 offense and she was a really good zone server and really meshed with the passers all season. She set the ball away from the block and made many good sets over and over off poor passes. I think she is one of the top setters in the area." Kiser helped out in other ways. She had 100 digs, and her 59 kills and 38 aces were other positives.
Corissa Kurth Stevenson
The Patriots are beginning to earn a reputation for great setters. The senior rang up 673 assists in helping Stevenson reach to the Libertyville sectional. "Her ability to set a quick tempo ball gives our hitters many opportunities for one-on-one matchups," coach Tim Crow said. "She is also one of our better athletes and great at communicating with her teammates." Kurth was also a force at the serving line. "She has been able to dominate games from the service line multiple times this season," Crow said. "Her all-around game is a joy to watch."
McKenna Lahr Lakes
This rising star is another reason the Eagles reached the sectional. The 5-11 outside hitter excels both on offense and defense. "I have seen her the last three years, just on the brink of what she could bring to the team," coach Kate Cheek said. "I am so glad that this was the year that she stepped up as a team leader. She was so flexible and athletic. Her drive and desire to compete is amazing and has a positive effect on everyone around her." The junior had 216 kills and 260 digs, as well as 55 aces and 30 blocks.
Anna Lillydahl Libertyville
The junior was a starting hitter for the state runner-up last season before discovering the setting position. "Anna is a fantastic leader on the floor -- intense and driven," coach Greg Loika said. "She wants to perfect her craft and has run a very balanced offense this season after being a right side all last year with the team that finished second in state." The new setter registered 612 assists and led the Wildcats with 72 serving aces.
Isabella Milejczyk Stevenson
Can we name her the surprise player of the year? Where did she come from and how come she's this good? "She has been one of our major X factors this season," coach Tim Crow said. "She has improved so much in her consistency from last season. There were a number of matches this season when she looked like the best player on the court. She has a quick arm and has an effective back-row attack. She is a major reason why we have had a successful season." Milejczyk notched 241 kills. She also was effective at the serving line with 59 aces.
Kylie Mueller Grant
The versatile senior outside hitter could do just about everything on the court. She registered 212 kills. "Kylie was our go-to player," coach Sue Thompson said. "When we needed a point, we gave her the ball. She played all around for us. She is a great back-row and front-row attacker. She is a very smart hitter. And she is really good at hitting around the block." In addition to her power on offense, Mueller also added 28 aces.
Candace Nelson Antioch
Only 5 feet 6, she was a devastating hitter who could take over a match in a heartbeat. Her 256 kills led the Sequoits, and she didn't earn cheers just for her offense. She also led the Sequoits in digs (250). An all-tournament selection at both the Rockford East and Elaine Lonergan tournaments, she also had 28 blocks and 23 aces.
Morgan O'Brien Libertyville
Libertyville likes it liberos. The junior followed in the footsteps of Kristen Webb, who notched a crazy 776 digs in 2012, and has shined since Day 1. "She's been the anchor to our defense for three years now," coach Greg Loika said. "And I think most coaches would agree it's our defense and blocking that have made us so difficult to match up against in that time." O'Brien's 514 digs easily paced the Wildcats and now she has both second and third place for most digs in a season at the high school. And the NSC champions played only six three-set matches this season so that cut into O'Brien's totals. Her season high of 36 digs came in the NSC title match against Wauconda. Her 52 serving aces also stand out.
Jori Radtke Stevenson
Clearly one of the top hitters around, the junior can take over a match against any team. Her hits are positively scary. "Jori is one of the greatest competitors we have had here," coach Tim Crow said. "Her ability to hit from multiple positions and cover the floor defensively makes her one of the top players in the state. She is a fun kid to coach and has taken over matches at critical times. Other teams game plan for her and she still is able to produce night in and night out." Radtke led the Pats in kills with 341 and her 283 digs were mighty impressive as well.
LeAnne Sakowicz Wauconda
Suffice it to say, without Sakowicz, the Bulldogs wouldn't have won the NSC Prairie Division title. Wauconda's most versatile player is off to New York next year for more volleyball. The captain of this team will play at Stoney Brook. "She has a tremendous work ethic and determination that helped lead the team in practice and on the court," coach Alison Williams said. "She is the type of kid that is always working to improve herself on her weaknesses in order to get better for herself and her teammates. It will be hard to replace her on the court next year." Sakowicz went over the 1,000 mark in assists for her career, dishing out 309 this season. She also had 215 digs and an astounding 251 kills.
Sara Sexton Wauconda
Yes, that very tall girl in the middle is a senior. Sexton clearly left her mark on the Wauconda program this fall. "Sara was hard to stop when we were able to get her the ball at the net," coach Alison Williams said. "Sara is a tough competitor and stepped up when we needed her in big matches. It will be hard to replace her height and athleticism in the middle next year." Her 249 kills and 49 blocks certainly stood out. She also had 46 digs and 30 aces.
Elizabeth Tworek Carmel Catholic
She has played a number of positions at Carmel and maybe she's best at libero. She's a three-year starter for the Corsairs. "We have been fortunate to have incredible defensive-specialist talent over the years," coach Dave Pazely said. "All of which have played in college and she has waited her turn to wear the libero jersey." Pazely noted Tworek's serve receive average is 2.41. "That is amazing and potentially a Carmel record," he said. Those 431 digs also stand out. Tworek hit about half the year and came up with 107 kills. Also she had 38 serving aces. She just committed to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Jenna Walczak Warren
She led the Blue Devils in kills, digs and was their best serve receiver. This 6-foot outside hitter will be play next year at Southwest Minnesota State. This season she had 269 kills, 189 digs and 37 blocks. "Jenna played every position," coach Julie Filippo said. Her versatility helped the Blue Devils put together another solid season.
Player School Yr. Pos.
Ashley Anderson Wauconda Sr. L
Katherine Barr Antioch So. MB
*Megan Behrendt Lakes Sr. OH
Kendall Buchman Grayslake North Sr. OH/S
Grace Butler Carmel Catholic Jr. S/RS
Maddie Demo Lakes Sr. S
Allie Dahl Grayslake Central Sr. MB
Erin Dunleavy Libertyville Sr. OH
Marie Gerbasi Grayslake Central Sr. OH
Kim Hengesh Warren Sr. MB
Kate Kiser Grant Jr. S
Corrissa Kurth Stevenson Sr. S
McKenna Lahr Lakes Jr. OH
Anna Lillydahl Libertyville Jr. S
Isabella Milejczyk Stevenson Sr. OH
Kylie Mueller Grant Sr. OH
Candace Nelson Antioch Sr. OH
Morgan O'Brien Libertyville Jr. L
Jori Radtke Stevenson Jr. OH
LeAnne Sakowicz Wauconda Sr. S
Sara Sexton Wauconda Sr. MB
Elizabeth Tworek Carmel Catholic Sr. L
Jenna Walczak Warren Sr. OH
* All-area team captain
Honorable mentionMorgan Anderberg (Grayslake Central), Morgan Berland (Stevenson), Nicole Berzin (Warren), Katie Billetdeaux (Lakes), Monika Bowser (Mundelein), Sidney Brunkow (Mundelein), Erika Gallimore (Antioch), Lexi Gora (Lake Zurich), Cate Halverson (Carmel Catholic), Jackie Hamrick (Grayslake Central), Annika Hawkinson (Libertyville), Izzy Huntington (Lakes), Hannah Johnson (Grant), Taylor Johnston (Grayslake North), Kaylee Lebron (Lakes), Taylor Luhr (Carmel Catholic), Claire Lundtveit (Warren), Shermaine Maristela (Grayslake Central), Natalie McNally (Warren), Haley Meyer (Wauconda), Elizabeth Ramer (Mundelein), Haley Stevenson (Libertyville), Hannah Sweetwood (Lake Zurich), Kelli Varney (Grant), Kayla Vazquez (Antioch), Allison Watson (Libertyville), Allie Wayland (Carmel Catholic), Kayla Wedl (Wauconda), Jacqui Widmark (Libertyville), Hannah Zerwas (Libertyville)
Selection and profiles by Bill Pemstein