Boys volleyball: Scouting the Northwest suburbs
BarringtonCoach: Rob Ridenour (14th season)
2018 record: 34-6, MSL, regional, sectional champions, state quarterfinalist
Top returning players: Seniors Gabe Hartke (6-4, OH), Kyle Vasquez (5-10, Libero), Ricky Gibson (6-1, OH-MB), Chris Babicz (6-0, OH), Luke Kolder (6-3, MB), Matt Sarnowski (5-10, S), juniors Ben Ridgway (6-2, S-RS), Cole Bower (6-1, MB)
Key newcomers: Senior Ben Hoffman (6-0, libero), juniors Ved Anand (6-3, OH), Luke Blascyck (6-0, S), Clark Parker (6-1, libero)
Outlook: Barrington has five players back who saw significant playing time last year during the squad's state quarterfinals run. Hartke and Vasquez are returning all-area and all-MSL selections. Hartke (USAV A-1) and Ridgway (USAV Continental) are in the USA Volleyball offseason pipeline. "We still have some big holes to fill," Ridenour cautioned. "We have a lot of guys with positional flexibility so we will spend some time looking at different combinations and are excited about the competition we will have within the team." Ridenour feels the Broncos have first-contact depth and skill with Vasquez and Babicz, while adding Hoffman and Parker will be a key differentiator. Ridgway, Sarnowski and Blascyck make Barrington deep at setter. "We have a few options at setter and could run a variety of offenses," the coach said. Hartke and Gibson will be looked to on the offensive side. "We will be looking to them to carry the load," said Ridenour. Bower and Kolder gained experience at the varsity level last year in the middle. "Both have worked hard to put themselves in a position to contribute," Ridenour added. "It will be a lot of fun putting the pieces together because we have so many guys who love the sport and work hard each day. With this group's positive attitude, it will be energizing to be in the gym for everybody."
Buffalo GroveCoach: Tim Kosiek
2018 record: 15-22, 7-3 MSL East (2nd)
Top returning players: Ethan Soifer (OH), Marty Gross (OH), Tommy Gross (S), Teddy Patlak (MB), Kyle Orton (S)
Key newcomers: Sophomores Jack Franz (MB-OH), Aaron Pattis (MB), John Weon (defensive specialist-setter)
Outlook: Buffalo Grove did graduate a pair of all-MSL performers, but Soifer also was on that all-conference list and headlines a list of returning players for Kosiek's Bison squad. "We are excited for a competitive season," said Kosiek. "Ethan is returning to the outside-hitting position and was a consistent offensive leader last season. He will be joined by Teddy in the middle, in addition to the Gross brothers on the outside and setting positions, respectively. Orton will assist the offense as well as a returning junior. "These athletes have been playing through the off-season and are ready to battle in conference and tournament play," said Kosiek. Sophomores Pattis, Weon and Franz are looking to make an impact at the varsity level as well. Franz is the third in his family to be a varsity BG volleyball athlete. "As a coach, I am excited for the growth we will see in these younger athletes this season," said Kosiek. "The mix of senior junior and sophomore athletes shares a common thread -- a commitment to one another, a high level of character on and off the court, and a work ethic that leads to a competitive edge and success on the court."
ConantCoach: John Brown
2018 record: 8-25, 2-8 MSL West (5th)
Top returning players: Seniors Nick O'Connell (OH), Nathan Jones (OH), Nick Laskero (S)
Key newcomers: Sophomores Joe McLaughlin (libero), Sean Beckman (MB)
Outlook: Brown noted Conant comes into 2018 with a good balance of seniors with experience and young, talented juniors and sophomores. "We have a strong offense, which is led by two great senior setters with years of varsity experience," he said. Seniors Laskero, Jones and O'Connell lead the way, while Brown is high on sophomores McLaughlin and Beckman not only this year, but in the years to come. Brown said the team has its sights set on winning its own tournament, getting into the Top 3 in the MSL and bringing home a regional title. "Those would be great accomplishments for our team," he said. "We want to continue to improve on our accomplishments from last year and become more competitive in the conference and region."
Elk GroveCoach: Dan Windholz
2018 record: 9-24, 1-9 MSL East
Top returning players: Senior Alex Pillath (6-3, RS), junior Mark Wickstrom (6-8, OH)
Key newcomers: Junior Zach Eugene (5-10, RS), sophomores Ethan Grabowski (6-0, S-RS), Gerrick Valera (5-8, OH)
Outlook: The 6-8 Wickstrom is a returning all-MSL player after registering 222 kills, 22 blocks and 16 aces as a 10th grader last year. Windholz is confident this group will take another step forward this spring. "This team has really bonded and they play hard for each other," he said. "The combination of athleticism and coachable young men should result in a big improvement over last season. We are working on getting used to each other both offensively and defensively. The thing I like the most about his team is the way it has bonded together and their hunger to get better." The Grenadiers have depth in the middle. "We have four athletic middles who are very close in ability," said Windholz. "We are looking forward to seeing who comes out on top as well as watching that depth." Windholz noted goals this year include improving on a match-by-match basis, getting to .500 or higher in the MSL East and "to reach our potential at the end of season for playoffs," he added.
FremdCoach: Curt Pinley
2018 record: 19-13, 6-4 MSL West, regional champions
Top returning players: Seniors Martin Michalski (OH), Jason Hajdukovic (OH), Justin Spierkermann (MB), Tim Wink (OH)
Key newcomers: Senior Cole Cheripka (S), juniors Mitchell Sheehan (MB), Jacob Yoo (defensive specialist)
Outlook: Pinley is excited for this season for multiple reasons. "We have a great group of players who have come into the season with the right attitude and are very motivated," he said. "Many of our athletes have spent the offseason working on their game and it has shown in the first practices we've had as a team. Even though we have many athletes with limited varsity experience, they come in with quite a bit of volleyball experience." Fremd has 10 seniors on the team. "Senior leadership along with the tight bonds of the players will make our season successful," said Pinley. This is Michalski's third year as a Fremd varsity starter. "We will look to him for leadership, but many seniors on the team will be major contributors," Pinley pointed out. Pinley said Barrington is the team to beat in the MSL West. "We will be chasing Barrington, as will the rest of the conference, but most of the conference will be returning players who will create a formidable opponent every conference match," he said. "We will look to continue to improve throughout the season and try to return to a regional-championship match, at that point, we will once again have an opportunity for success."
HerseyCoach: Laura Gerber (1st season)
2018 record: 30-8, MSL East champions
Top returning players: Seniors Jakub Migus (S), Brent Gurvis (MB), Carter Zagorski (OH), Luke Larson (S-defensive specialist), Jacob Tolwinski (defensive specialist), juniors Alec Naumowicz (MB), Tim Nugent (OH), sophomore Lucas Irwin (libero)
Key newcomers: Seniors Nick Clarizio (defensive specialist), Nathan Snopko (RS), sophomore Drew Zagorski (OH)
Outlook: The defending East Division champions are under the direction of new head coach Laura Gerber, who took over for longtime coach Nancy Lill. Hersey did lose three all-conference players, including East Division player of the year Jake Mailloux, who is now playing at Division I Purdue-Fort Wayne. However, all-area pick Migus leads a long list of returning players. Migus (third year setting on the varsity), Gurvis, Irwin and Naumowicz all started last year for a team that won two regular-season tournaments, an MSL division title and a regional championship. "We are looking forward to a successful season with four returning starters," Gerber noted. "I am looking forward to watching Jakub run the offense as a senior. With the hitters we have, he should be able to run a very fast offense this year." Gerber expects a fast middle attack with Naumowicz and Gurvis (second year as a varsity starter). Brothers Carter and Drew Zagorski, along with Nugent man the pins. "All three are aggressive and strong hitters," said Gerber. "It will be run to see the brothers out on the court at the same time." Irwin, also a second-year varsity starting libero, leads the defense out of the back row. "Our goals are to be MSL East champions and win our regional again," said Gerber. "We are looking to move past our success from last year."
Hoffman EstatesCoach: Dan Hutton
2018 record: 2-28, 0-10 MSL West
Top returning players: Seniors Chris Fermaintt (5-7, libero), Max Schmidt (6-0, OH), junior Jason Wuerffel (5-10, S)
Key newcomers: Juniors Simeon Georgiev (6-2, MB), Will Lawson-Antwi (5-11, MB), sophomore David Bulter (6-2, RS)
Outlook: Fermaintt is a Campbellsville University (Kentucky) commit and leads a list of returning Hawks players. "This year's team has been working very well together in the offseason, attending open gyms and summer camps," Hutton noted. "We have a nice blend of returning starters and some athletic newcomers from successful underlevel seasons. The team's energy in tryouts was some of the best we've had in a long time. We have multiple athletes at each position this year, which has increased competition and intensity in practice. This year's team has a great balance and chemistry for this early in the season. If you were walking into our gym, you would not know that this group has not all played together. Their constant communication and cheering is only going to get better as the season progresses." Fermaintt leads the way on defense, while Wuerffel is now in his second season as the team's starting setter. "Jason will have many offensive choices this season," said Hutton. Georgiev, Lawson-Antwi and Bulter are newcomers who will be looked to for key contributions. "Will and Simeon are going to bring power, energy and excitement to our offense," the coach said. "They worked very well together last year at the JV level and are ready to accept the challenge at the varsity level. David is a sophomore who has worked extremely hard in the offseason to skip the JV level and is ready for the launch up to the varsity team." Hoffman has nine matches scheduled in the first six days of the season. "We are looking to start the season off on the right foot," said Hutton. "We will see where our strengths and weaknesses are and will be able to fix any issues during spring break practices. This team has goals of being much more competitive in the MSL. Our conference always has some of the best competition we see all year and we do not expect anything different this year." Hoffman's April 4 match against Palatine will be its inaugural Playing for Preemies night where all proceeds will go to the NICU unit at St. Alexius in Hoffman Estates.
LeydenCoach: Shelly Mueller
2018 record: 22-15, 4-2 (3rd West Suburban Gold)
Top returning players: Seniors Jason Kemp (6-1, OH), Chuy Mancha (6-3, MB), Jesse Federico (5-6, defensive specialist), JP Aguirre (5-7, defensive specialist), Alex Martinez (6-0, S), Frank Petrucci (5-10, RS), junior Tyler Morgan (6-2, MB)
Key newcomers: Juniors Brendan Fuller (6-3, MB), Gio De La Torre (6-2, OH), Jason Rodriguez (6-0, OH), Adam Chojnowski (6-1, RS), Jacob Fredrickson (5-9, DS), Mauricio Hernandez (5-10, DS), Johnny Delgado (6-1, OH)
Outlook: Kemp was an all-area honorable-mention selection who posted 162 kills and 25 blocks last year. Morgan (74 kills, 22 blocks), Federico (267 digs, 19 aces), Mancha (25 blocks) and Aguirre (87 digs) made varsity contributions as well. "We have a lot of offense returning from last year," said Mueller. "We are going to have lots of offensive options and will be a strong blocking team. We have an extremely athletic and aggressive group that is highly competitive. We also have several great leaders in our senior group. I am excited to see how they continue to lead and develop expectations for our team." Leyden has four returning hitters, "and we add some great skills into our lineup offensively," Mueller said. "Defensively, we are returning two defensive specialists, one with experience at libero. Both returning seniors are showing great leadership and setting high expectations for what our back row should look like." Kemp has started on the varsity since sophomore year, while Morgan has been with the varsity group since he was a freshman. "Jason is going to be a key piece to our offense," said Mueller. "Tyler played right side last year, but is moving to middle. He is very athletic. With his experience, I am excited to see what he can do in the middle." Mancha started in the middle last year as a junior. Mueller said Leyden would like to improve on its back-to-back third-place WSC Gold finishes. "We would like to move up in that ranking," she said. "Downers Grove South, Willowbrook and Addison Trail are always a challenge to us in conference. We always play competitively with them. This is a group that is excited about volleyball. They have shown they are committed to our program and it's their time to step up. They are willing to work hard and want to be successful."
Maine WestCoach: Mike OBrill
2018 record: 21-16, 4-6 Central Suburban North (4th)
Top returning players: Seniors Dylan Macariola (6-0, OH), Nick Stasch (S), Danny Rice (6-7, MB), Mason Robbins (5-10, OH), Dorin Drimboi (6-5, MB), Simon Grimm (5-9, S)
Key newcomers: Senior Luke Meier (6-5, OH), juniors Jacob Riedl (6-4, OH), Nico Rekounas (6-5, RS), Jan Przybylowicz (5-8 libero)
Outlook: The Warriors aren't light on experience. Macariola was an all-area honorable-mention selection last season (115 kills, 44 blocks), as was Rice (75 kills, 70 blocks). Stasch (380 assists, 27 aces), Robbins (80 kills, 12 aces) and Grimm (250 assists, 20 aces) also logged significant varsity statistics. "Experience definitely will be a strength this season," said OBrill. "We have 10 seniors, with seven getting a great varsity experience last year. Many of our players played volleyball year-round this year as well and many had a really successful off-season developing physically. Offensively, Maine West has a 6-7 player, three 6-5s and a 6-4, "all seeing significant playing time," the coach pointed out. "We return guys at almost all position groups who are smart when hitting the ball." The coach said blocking will be strong, but improvements in the back row and serve-receive are key goals. Macariola, Rice and Stasch were cited for strong off-season improvements. "They have developed physically and have an immense amount of knowledge about the sport," OBrill said. OBrill noted expectations are again high for this veteran group. "We look to improve on last year and win some of those close matches we lost the previous season," he said. "Last season we wanted to compete with teams, especially in our conference. I believe we achieved that and we were able to experience what a regional-championship match is like. This year our goal is to not just compete, but to challenge for a conference and regional championship. We are in a really tough and competitive volleyball conference and teams such as Glenbrook North and Deerfield usually are among the top dogs to try and beat," said OBrill.
PalatineCoach: Peter Gavin (1st season)
2018 record: 29-9, 8-2 MSL West (2nd), regional champions
Top returning players: Seniors Curtis McLennan (OH), Ben Rinella (S), junior Nate Jones (MB)
Key newcomers: Seniors Aaron Spaletto (OH, RS), Thomas Lambke (libero), junior Timothy Matijevic (OH, RS)
Outlook: Palatine, which won the Hoffman Estates tournament, took second in the West and won a regional title, did lose a good chunk to graduation (9 seniors), but is ready to reload. "We will be looking to establish our own identity after graduating 9 seniors," said Gavin. McLennan and Rinella are returning starters. "We are anchored by Curtis and Ben and we are excited to pair some talented younger players with our experienced seniors," said Gavin. "Our focus will be on ball control, to serve tough and to compete defensively. After losing some size from last season, we are excited to have an up-tempo offense this season. We have some new additions who are working hard each day and should be making large contributions in games by the end of the season. This is a dedicated group of young men who enjoy being around each other. They are passionate about competing and about the sport. I am blessed to have such a great group of senior leaders for my first season as head coach." Gavin continued a program tradition recently where alumni came back to play in a match. The teams were drafted by former head coaches Joyce Richardson and Frank Stark. "After having a team motto of 'tradition never dies' last season, we look to build on that with 'tradition lives on'," Gavin explained. "This will be a great way to show our program that tradition lives on."
ProspectCoach: Mike Riedy
2018 record: 12-24, 4-6 MSL East (4th)
Top returning players: Seniors Ben Miller (OH), Danny Weiler (S), Zach Cacini (MB), Cory Fugiel (RS), Nathan Yuan (defensive specialist), Owen Koury (RS), sophomore Kevin Slawacki (MB)
Key newcomers: Sophomores Noah Kim (MB), Nathaniel Chung (libero)
Outlook: Varsity experience is back in abundance for the Knights. "I'm really excited about this season," said Riedy. "With all the returning varsity players and the infusion of young talent, I believe we can seriously compete. My concern is the small amount of time we have before we start the grueling competitive season. We have our sights set on winning more conference matches, finishing in the Top 3 of our four tournaments and winning at least a regional championship."
Rolling MeadowsCoach: Kevin Bourn
2018 record: 19-18, 3-7 MSL East (5th)
Top returning players: Seniors Jackson Brossett (S), Erik Vinopal (defensive specialist), Charlie Behrens (defensive specialist), Isarael Barraza (defensive specialist)
Key newcomers: Senior David Gligor (RS), junior Ken Granell (OH), sophomores Jorge Sanchez (RS), Quinn Errico (MB)
Outlook: Bourn is high on Brossett's abilities as a senior veteran. "Jackson has been quietly contributing for us since his sophomore year, recording plenty of kills and assists behind the scenes as both a setter and opposite hitter," the coach noted. "We are going to rely on his experience, skill and power as we welcome almost an entirely new set of starting front-row players." That new group across the net includes junior outside Granell and sophomore middle Errico. "They certainly are talented and have the support of a crew of four experienced senior defensive players," said Bourn. "Ken's point of contact is high and can hit above some blocks. Once he adjusts to the pace of the varsity game, which he is doing quickly, he'll be a force on the outside." Junior middle Braden Muhr stepped in last year as a sophomore when another player was felled by injury. "Braden has improved over the off-season and is ready to make a name for himself as one of the top hitters in the conference," Bourn said. The Mustangs also will rely on four senior skilled and disciplined defensive players returning. "We will rely on them to put our offense in a good position at all times, as well as keeping plays alive when our opponents are attacking. We also have a senior setter who has played at the varsity level since his sophomore year," said Bourn. Bourn added Meadows will be a team that progresses as the season goes on. "We may need some time to hit our stride, but when we do we will be a team to watch," he said. "This team is full of players who are humble and eager to improve. So far, these sophomores juniors and seniors all have worked together toward the common goal of being game-ready within a few weeks. We want to improve upon our conference record from last year as well as win our regional. Our conference always is tough and it's hard to pick and choose when nobody is going to give our young team an easy win."
St. ViatorCoach: Katie Post
2018 record: 14-24, 7th East Suburban Catholic
Top returning players: Seniors Marcus Lannie (OH), Tim Allaire (MB), George Bowman (MB), Nick DiMarco (libero-defensive specialist)
Key newcomers: Juniors Ben Schultz (OH-RS), Mark Duffy (MB), Chris Perrotta (S), sophomore John Zajakala (OH)
Outlook: Post is optimistic about what the 2018 season will bring the Lions. "This season is looking to be a bright one," she said. "We have an array of experienced returning seniors who will assist in solid leadership to younger players. We certainly have a powerful force in the front row with Marcus on the outside and the tandem of Tim and George in the middle. The newcomers will provide the team a more competitive and vocal edge." Post cautioned the Lions' schedule will keep them on their toes. "We will have a difficult road during conference matchups, but that competition will only improve overall play. If we can control errors and remain competitive, it will be a successful season."
SchaumburgCoach: Eric Melton
2018 record: 23-13, 6-4 MSL West (3rd)
Top returning players: Seniors Ryan Regier (OH), Isaiah Mitchell (S), Ashkan Madani (MB)
Key newcomers: Junior Michael Knipp (OH), sophomore Ryan Luecht (S)
Outlook: Melton has been encouraged with what he's seen since spring practices have started. "We've had a great first week of practice and look forward to another competitive season in the conference and in the region," he said. "We're returning only two starters from last year's team, but have a strong influx of young players who are pushing for opportunities. Our returning starters played a big role as juniors and look to have an even greater role this year. If we continue to work hard at practice and come together as a team, we'll find a lot of success this year."
WheelingCoach: Jason Kopkowski
2018 record: 22-14, 5-5 MSL East (3rd)
Top returning players: Seniors Jared Moser (6-2, OH), Jan Baranowski (6-8, MB), Ryan Thomas (5-11, OH), Kuba Ciepiela (6-3, MB), Joseph Hernandez (5-6, libero), Jared Urueta (5-10, S), Aidan McCoy (6-0, MB-OH), Alex Ocampo (5-11, OH-DS)
Key newcomers: Juniors Joel John (5-11, OH), Victor Gomez (5-8, defensive specialist-libero), Javier Romano (6-1, MB), sophomore George Tsogtbaatat (5-9, S-OH)
Outlook: Moser and Hernandez both earned all-MSL and all-area honors in 2018. Moser will continue his playing career at North Central in Naperville. "I believe the strengths of this year's team will be our offense and serving," said Kopkowski. "We have very strong and consistent jump-servers in a number of rotations, and overall, all six rotations will have aggressive and consistent servers. Offensively, we have a number of very strong options being directed by smart setters. Hopefully, we will be able to develop a nice rhythm with great timing and spacing. Offensively, this is the most dynamic we have been in a while. We have experienced attackers that hit for a ton of power with accuracy. Defensively, we continue to make strides in the right directions. Our greatest strengths will be the leadership on this team, as well as the chemistry. There are 8 seniors who have been playing a lot of volleyball and have great experiences they can rely on in challenging situations. The chemistry between the guys is outstanding, which allows us to challenge each other on a daily basis, pushing each other to get better as quickly as possible." Wheeling also has the 6-8 Baranowski manning the middle. "Size matters and at 6-8 he will be trouble in the middle on both sides of the ball. He will play at the next level," said Kopkowski. The coach sees another competitive MSL East. "We look forward to our challenging schedule and competing against the great teams in the East," he said. "The division has great parody and every match against a division opponent is highly competitive and fun to be part of," said Kopkowski. "We are looking forward to a great season. We have a ton of players returning who have continued to improve their skills and a handful of new players ready to contribute in any way possible. The leadership on the team is outstanding and the players are the driving force behind the positive work ethic and attitude that has set the standards high for the season."