Boys volleyball: Lake County all-area team

Ben Arebalo MundeleinYes, the libero is an important player in volleyball. And Mundelein found one in Arebalo. Two years in row, this junior paced the Mustangs in passing and serve reception. He's also made the All-North Suburban Conference team two years in a row. This year as the primary defender on the team, Arebalo notched 293 digs. He also helped out at net with 26 blocks and added 18 aces.

Brett Bauer WarrenTalk about a versatile player. Bauer moved from the middle this year to take the right-side hitting role. And for his club team, he was actually the setter. "He was a very steady player," said Warren coach Yun Chen. "He could hit from any spot on the floor and put the ball exactly where he wanted to put it." In an emergency, his setting skills helped out. Chen also noted Bauer's blocking skills. In his final season at Warren, Bauer notched 154 kills, 50 blocks, 51 aces and 61 digs.

Ben Burkhalter CarmelCarmel coach Kevin Nylen noted Burkhalter had a successful season last year as a middle hitter and blocker. "Yet, this season we took a chance and asked him to move to the right side, and I think that it worked out very well," Nylen said. "Not only did it open up a spot for our younger guys, it allowed us take advantage of Ben's athleticism in all six rotations. In volleyball, it is not normal for middles to be able to pass, yet Ben had consistently shown that he could in practice last season, and when coupled with his blocking and attacking we thought we could use that to our advantage." Burkhalter led his team in kills (127) and added 139 digs. He also checked in with 22 blocks. His passing was key, as his 2.03 average was second on the Corsairs. He also served 15 aces.

Jeff Carmody Lake ZurichThat gasp you heard came from the Lake Zurich crowd. The Bears' setter was injured, and that was not good. Lake Zurich fell to Palatine in the playoffs, and the loss of Carmody was a principle reason. He wasn't the flashiest setters, but he spread the ball around so well. He's been a regular for the Bears for three seasons and was the setter who took the Bears to the state tournament a year ago.

Brendan Cook LibertyvilleFor an established football player, Cook turned in a solid and sometimes spectacular season for 33-game winner Libertyville. "Brendan got a lot of attention last year coming in as a hard-hitting sophomore and wowing teams with bounce balls and huge blocks," said Libertyville coach Jenny Smith. "This year, his volleyball IQ grew by leaps and bounds, making him nearly impossible to defend. Not only does this hard hitter hit harder, he has an arsenal of shots, all of which are difficult on opponents' defenses." Cook checked in with 243 kills for the North Suburban Conference champs.

Linden Ewing MundeleinDid anyone notice? After all, Mundelein had been struggling in boys volleyball. So the Mustangs moved Ewing from setter to outside hitter. And suddenly, Mundelein doubled its wins total. So, yes, people noticed, and that's because this new outside hitter and two-time All-North Suburban Conference selection became a deadly force for the Mustangs. Last year's setter delivered 314 kills for coach George Dressen's team. In addition, the senior provided 218 digs.

Shane Feiereisel LibertyvilleThis major blocking threat had a very strong campaign. And it didn't hurt that he stood 6 feet 7. "Thanks to our tremendous defense and serve receivers, Shane has had a ton of action this year," said Libertyville coach Jenny Smith. "He was a key contributor to our successful season last year and this historic season. While Shane is tough to defend and even harder to block around, he's always got a huge grin on his face and truly loves the game." Feiereisel paced the Wildcats with 108 blocks. He also checked in with 155 kills.

Jake Fiarito Vernon HillsIn a rebuilding year at Vernon Hills, coach Chris Curry found a player to count on. "Jake was the soul of our team this year, and our most accomplished, experienced player," Curry said. "We spent most of the year tinkering with the lineup, moving the hitters around, trying different rotations to find some offense. No matter what we did, who we threw where, Jake always gave his best effort, never showed his frustration if a hitter couldn't put away a beautiful set." At Vernon Hills, they pay attention to records. And Fiarito is now in the books with his 705 assists, seventh in this storied program. His 1,366 career assists are fourth most in school history. In addition, he hammered out 36 aces, 55 blocks, 85 digs and 46 kills.

Mihajlo Gomez WarrenThe Warren folks turned this middle hitter into an outside hitter this season, and it paid dividends. In addition to being a dangerous server (53 aces), Gomez at times could look like the top player on the court. "Mihajlo worked really hard on becoming a more well-rounded player that outside position requires," said Warren coach, Yun Chen. "He was the vocal leader on our team. He helped out by being the coach on the floor. He was a very smart hitter, who knew when to swing and when to tip." Gomez blasted out 215 kills and 106 digs. He also had 28 blocks.

Jake Gorey Lake ZurichIt was a shocking tale from last year's season - who was the kid with the long hair who jumped into the Lake Zurich lineup in the postseason and starred in playoff games? The long hair was gone in 2017, but the skills remained as Gorey took over the role as one of the sluggers in the Bears' lineup and helped lead Lake Zurich to a solid season. He put a ball away with the best of them.

Jack Herron CarmelEverywhere Carmel put this player, he succeeded. During a three-year stay, Herron played libero, outside hitter and setter. "There was very little that Jack could not do on the court and that is why he has been so important to our program for the last three years," said Carmel coach Kevin Nylen. "Jack is a fierce competitor and also had a very high volleyball IQ, which is why he was such a good setter for the last two seasons (in a 6-2 last year and 5-1 this year). The Carmel setter notched 457 assists this season. In addition he had 39 aces, 49 kills 115 digs and 17 blocks.

Matthew Haufe LakesEvery program needs a player like this. In the initial coaching performance of Kevin Glabowicz, it was especially helpful. "He made my transition so easy," Glabowicz said. "And Matt competed so hard." Lakes won 23 matches and the first Northern Lake County Conference title behind the strong play of Haufe. Sure, there were 242 kills that helped the cause, but how about those team record 50 serving aces? "Matt served as a captain in practice and floor captain for every point the Eagles played in 2017," Glabowicz said.

Ryan Hirschel LibertyvilleThis was Hirschel's third year setting the Libertyville offense. "Ryan is best known for his calm leadership and sound setting technique," said Libertyville coach Jenny Smith. "Ryan is a danger both in the front and back row, making it nearly impossible for defenses to predict what he's about to do." And now Hirschel has jumped into the Wildcats' record books for his 894 assists this season. He also holds the school record for most assists in a career (1,875). "Ryan is a dangerous player," Smith said. "He's hard to predict, is able to see defensive movement, and the greatest trait is that he is a tremendous leader and is able to encourage all of his hitters to perform at their best." Hirschel also delivered 84 kills.

Alex Jiang WarrenIt might have been the most clutch performance of the season. Jiang was playing the middle in the postseason but limped off the court with an injury. The match with Carmel tightened up and Jiang's absence was hurting the Devils. But that's not the end of the story - Jiang returned and delivered a key kill in a Warren win. "Alex gave us enough offense in the middle that opened up our offense when he is in the game," said Warren coach Yun Chen. "His emotion carried our team at times. When he got a big kill or block, it energized the team. He is a very smart hitter who knew where to go with the ball." Jiang managed 49 blocks and 133 kills. He also provided 20 aces and had 22 digs.

Derrick Jones Vernon HillsThis is a player who proved that you can play at a high level without playing club volleyball. "He started every match for us as a sophomore in the middle," Vernon Hills coach Chris Curry said. "He then moved outside this year, playing both right and left side. He finally settled in on the right, and led the team in kills (232) and efficiency." Curry noted that Jones came up big against some of the top teams he battled against this year. The coach looks forward to another season with Jones hammering the volleyball. "Against the best teams (Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbrook North, etc.) he was still getting 7-10 kills, not making errors," Curry said. "He'll be a focal point of our team next year, and he's really up to the challenge of improving his all-around game."

Sam Kharasch LibertyvilleYes, it was remarkable campaign for Libertyville's best defensive player. "Sam has impacted the culture of the Libertyville volleyball program," said Libertyville coach Jenny Smith. "He is the hardest worker in our gym, day in and day out, in-season and out of season. Sam is a vocal leader whom every person in our program respects and looks up to." Kharasch heads to North Central College as the all-time digger at Libertyville (1,559 digs). The all-area team captain had 538 digs this season and was a two-time team captain for the Wildcats. "Sam's drive to constantly be improving his game is contagious to our other athletes in the gym, all of which are now better volleyball players since playing with him," Smith said. "He is the voice on our team that everyone listens to during matches and at practice. He is a dynamic leader and has developed into a experienced defensive weapon."

Alex Krasowski Lake ZurichYes, it didn't hurt that he was a southpaw. When Krasowski was at the top of his leap and delivered a fearsome kill, he wasn't about to be stopped. Krasowski is not playing volleyball in college. He's headed to Northwestern to further his education. However, there is club volleyball at the Evanston school so he may give that a try.

Grant Maleski StevensonUCLA - repeat, UCLA. Volleyball players from these parts don't frequently sign to play at this historic school. Yet Stevenson's power slugger managed to do just that during his junior campaign. Now, during his senior season was the time to show what he could do on the volleyball court - that is, pound the volleyball. "What sets Grant apart from other talented high school volleyball players is that he is a 6-9 attacking force who has a complete game," said Stevenson coach Eric Goolish. "Virtually all kids this size are restricted to the front row only because they lack the ability to serve, dig, serve receive and attack from the back row. Evidence of Grant's complete floor game can be seen by being second on the team in aces, second in serve receive passing effectiveness, and third in digs." In addition to his 346 kills, there were also an astounding 61 service aces. The senior also had 89 digs. "He has learned so much through his volleyball journey that he has incredible knowledge to share with his teammates," Goolish said. "Particularly this year with Grant being a senior, his teammates constantly looked at him for technical and tactical lessons in practice."

Jackson Ptasienski CarmelHere is another Carmel player who contributed much to his team's success. "He was primarily an outside hitter, and when needed had the ability to play all the way around. Jackson was incredibly consistent both offensively and defensively," said Carmel coach Kevin Nylen. For the season, Jackson hit nearly at .250. He finished with 120 kills, 70 digs, 13 blocks and passed just shy of 2.0. "As a hitter, Jackson was incredibly resourceful, utilizing an entire arsenal of shots to score points," Nylen said. "He was someone we could definitely count on to score a big point to get us out of a jam or get the momentum back on our side. He had an outstanding all-around season, and we are excited to see what he comes back with next year."

Jack Stevens LibertyvilleAt times, Stevens was the best player on the court. He certainly could slam a volleyball with the best of them. "Jack was outstanding and nearly unstoppable from not only the front row, but the back row and service line as well," said Libertyville coach, Jenny Smith. "His off-speed shots are just as difficult to dig as most other players' full-speed shots." Stevens delivered 286 kills in Libertyville's potent offense. "His maturity allows him to perform under high stress efficiently and effectively," Smith said. "Jack gets the job done and has stood out in every single match that he played in this year."

Kyle Wells WarrenThis hitting from the ex-setter was most impressive. His performance led to being named the MVP for the Warren squad. Wells finished with 252 kills, 25 blocks, 68 aces and 97 digs. He set for the Blue Devils as a sophomore but played outside hitter this spring. "He kept teams off-balance with his ability to vary speeds on his jump serve," Warren coach Yun Chen said. "His hitting was unstoppable at times and paced our offense throughout the year. He was our go-to-hitter when we needed a kill, whether he was in the front or back row."

Keegan Zack Grayslake CentralZack's play was a major highlight for the second-year program. This season the senior blasted 236 kills and played defense to the tune of 112 digs. He also added 40 aces and 40 blocks. "I am going to miss his volleyball ability and his leadership," Rame coach Dan Erlenbaugh said. "He was the coach on the court for us. He is the player who never came off the court for us this season. He led by example and helped improve his team with each play." Zack will play next year at Carthage College.

All-area roster

Player School Pos. Yr.

Ben Arebalo Mundelein L Jr.

Brett Bauer Warren RS Sr.

Ben Burkhalter Carmel M Sr.

Jeff Carmody Lake Zurich S Sr.

Brendan Cook Libertyville OH Jr.

Linden Ewing Mundelein OH Sr.

Shane Feiereisel Libertyville M Sr.

Jake Fiarito Vernon Hills S Sr.

Mihajlo Gomez Warren OH Sr.

Jake Gorey Lake Zurich OH Sr.

Jack Herron Carmel S Sr.

Matthew Haufe Lakes OH Sr.

Ryan Hirschel Libertyville S Sr.

Alex Jiang Warren M Jr.

Derrick Jones Vernon Hills RS Jr.

*Sam Kharasch Libertyville L Sr.

Alex Krasowski Lake Zurich RS Sr.

Grant Maleski Stevenson OH Sr.

Jackson Ptasienski Carmel OH Jr.

Jack Stevens Libertyville OH Jr.

Kyle Wells Warren OH Jr.

Keegan Zack Grayslake Central OH Sr.

* - all-area team captain

Special mention

Antioch: Bryan Oritz, Nathan Cielek, Sean Bering

Grayslake Central: Matt Kozak

Grayslake North: Al Hartigan, Bryan Melgoza, Austin Martineau

Lakes: Jacob Deener, Jake Keenan, Mark Grandos

Grant: Timothy O'Toole, Scott Warren

Stevenson: Matt Cliffer, Will Sorenson, Hudson Havenhill, Leo Chen

Libertyville: Ryan Winiger, Colin Hawkinson, Mark Demaree, Drew Fortini

Mundelein: Abram Nazario, Steven Maritello, Mark Rey

Selections and profiles by Bill Pemstein

Brett Bauer
Ben Burkhalter
Jeff Carmody
Brendan Cook
Linden Ewing
Shane Feiereisel
Jake Fiarito
Mihajlo Gomez
Jake Gorey
Jack Herron
Matt Haufe
Ryan Hirschel
Alex Jiang
Derrick Jones
Sam Kharasch
Alex Krasowski
Grant Maleski
Jackson Ptasienski
Jack Stevens
Kyle Wells
Keegan Zack
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