Scouting the girls volleyball season in the Northwest suburbs

  • Hoffman Estates' Niyah McAllister is one of the top returning players in the Mid-Suburban League this season.

    Hoffman Estates' Niyah McAllister is one of the top returning players in the Mid-Suburban League this season. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Updated 3/13/2021 4:34 PM

Here's a look at the girls volleyball season in the Northwest suburbs

Top Teams: Fremd, Hersey, Barrington, Buffalo Grove


Mid Suburban WestFremd top returners are Rylen Reid (MSL West Player of the Year), Rian Baker (Jr. S), Izzy Segoviano (Jr. DS/L) Allie Belmonte (Sr., MH) and Deme Yianis (Sr., DS) and team MVP Claudia Wala (Jr. MH). "We want our seniors to know that we love them as teammates and understand that our success could not be possible without them," said coach Curt Pinley.

Top Barrington players include Amanda Cleary (Jr. L), Jessica Horwath (So., OH), Amanda Cleary (Jr., L), Campbell Paris (So., OH), Amelia Sigaev (Sr., S), Felicia Guagliardo (Sr., S)."We will have a good mixture of underclassmen and upperclassmen," coach Michelle Jakubowski said. "We look to build off our experience from last season to compete for an MSL championship."

Allison Drake (Sr., S), Julie Garcia (Sr., L/DS), Jill Smith (Sr., OH), Maddie Sobel (Sr., S), Brianna Squeo (So., L/DS) are key players for Palatine coach Dan Gavin. ""I am not sure anyone really knows what to expect out of this unprecedented season," he said. "What I can say is that, in talking to my colleagues in the area, we all agree on one thing: we're unequivocally ecstatic that our athletes are going to have the opportunity to have a season. Everything else is really just secondary."

Hoffman Estates coach Pat Moran has Niyah McAllister (Sr., MH), Nora Rakoci (Sr., MH), Emma Essex (Sr., L/DS) and Isabelle Cochran (Sr., MH) as key returnees, "We are excited to work with our returning seniors and our newcomers," he said. "We will be a strong defensive team with some explosiveness on offense led by Niyah."

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Top players for Schaumburg coach Tim Murphy are Jessie Sariev (Sr., OH), Grace Zinchuk (Jr., MH), Gabby Tuiaana (So., OPP). "With so many unknowns, this season will certainly have a very different feel,:" he said. "It is a completely different time of year and weather."

Conant coach Drewann Pancratz features key players Payton Litney (Sr. S), Danielle Smith (Sr. RS), Brianna Spetka (Jr, OH/RS) and Gianna Spetka (So., S) and three-year varsity player MacKenzie Lunkes (Sr. L). "Our girls have maintained a positive mindset while working extremely hard on the court and in the weight room. I am proud of them for facing adversity head on," she said. Mid-Suburban EastHersey coach Nancy Lill welcomes back six players from last year's MSL East championship squad that graduated Daily Herald all-area captain Katie Kaburov (Boston College). The group is talented liberos Maddie Mullen (Sr., L) and Olivia Mellen (Jr., DS/L), two of the top defensive players in the area. Allie Korba (Jr., S) is one of the top setters around. "We lost such a talented class," Lill said. "But we return quite a few players who are ready to make their mark in our program. Lill also expects the service of three players from the Huskies' top-ranked girls basketball team -- Mary Kate Fahey (setter), Mary McGrath (MH) and Natalia Kubsik (OH).

Among the returning players for Prospect coach Laura Gerber is Jenna Acosta, a senior outside hitter coming off a solid season on the Knights' girls basketball team. Other key players are Claire Beattie (Sr., L) and Ashlyn Gadson (Sr., MH), "We are excited to get back on the court and see everyone," Gerber said. We hope to have a competitive, fun and healthy season."

After serving as an assistant at Buffalo Grove, Tara Braceros begins her first year as the Elk Grove coach. "I am excited to lead this program and work with a group of dedicated and hard working student-athletes." she said. "We have a lot of seniors returning that have varsity experience, and they are going to provide a lot of leadership for our program. Katie Hofmann (Sr., OH), Shannon Mahon (Jr., RSH), Gianna Lindell (Sr., S) will help lead the way.


Wheeling coach Jason Kopkowski welcomes back veteran libero Joanna Veleso, one of six seniors on the roster. "We are definitely looking forward to being back with the girls," Kopkowski said. "It's a short season but we have a normal 10 matches in the East." Johana Veloso (Sr., L), Danni Moser (Jr., OH), Emma Sternquist (Sr., S), Natalia Kozlowski (Sr., MH), Julia Lundstrom (Sr., OH), Jillian Bouchard (Jr. OH) and Maya Huelsman (Fr. OH) are top players,

Buffalo Grove coach Matt Priban has a very experienced team this year, including nine returning players. All-conference selections Shannon Coglianese and Megan Mitsunaga enter their third varsity seasons. "They've helped lead our team's tremendous growth," Priban said. "Our goal is to build on that success and continue to improve throughout the season." Ella McBride (Sr., L) and Claire Schneider (Sr., S) are also key returners.

Rolling Meadows coach Katie Nickle welcomes back four seniors: Ashlyn Ryan (OH), Patrycja Winnicki (RS/S), Bianca Madey (MH) and Jessica Lukasik (RS). "This group is extremely hardworking and has such great energy about them," Nickle said. "It has been so fun working with them during contact days and they have really kept a positive attitude through it all."

Central Suburban NorthMaine West coach Nora Feyerer has all six of her returning starters back from a year ago, including all-conference selections Krysta Block (Sr., OH), Jacyln Riedl (So., OH) and Clare Olson (Jr., S). Senior middle hitters (Jenna Beaver/Bailey Cassidy), junior right side hitter (Viviana Ramirez), and two defensive specialists/liberos (Adriana Lopez- senior/Daria Szcepura-sophomore) and senior setter/defensive specialist (Nicole Wlodarczyk) also return. "I know we will be adding some other great girls to our team," Feyerer said. "We have an awesome group of girls who are eager to compete this season."

Emillja Matic (setter), Maida Mulali (back row specialist) and Daphne Kritikakis (Libero) are returning seniors for Maine East coach Rintu Philip, who has also seen significant improvements in Daniela Vertucio (Sr., MH) and (Jr., OH). "This year, I think you'll see a group of athletes, and coaches, who are just happy to be back on the court," Philip said. "We are framing this season as an opportunity to get back to playing the game with the passion we had when we first fell in love with it. Using this past year as a constant reminder that we have the amazing fortune to go out there and play this beautiful sport every day. That's the energy you're going to get from Maine East this year."

East Suburban CatholicFive starters return -- Lilly LaFleur (Jr, OH), Marie Torosian (Jr., OH), Lauren Allaire (Jr., RSH), Cailyn Harrington (Jr., S) and Reanne Valera (So., L) -- for St. Viator coach Charlie Curtin. "The team has stayed very tight during the COVID pandemic and the girls continued their offseason strength program," Curtin said. "They have a buzz about them that is contagious. Everyone is very excited about the opportunity to be back on the court."

West Suburban GoldHannan Stocks (Sr., OH), Damaris DelValle (Sr., S), Aleksandra Makowiec (Jr., OH), Caricia Ruiz (Sr., RSH) are key contributes for Leyden coach Danielle Kowalkowski. "After being off the court for a longer period of time, I am looking for the girls to find their team chemistry again and quickly," Kowalkowski said. "I am looking for Damaris to step up as a leader this year and for Hannah Stocks to take the lead offensively."

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