Girls volleyball: No shortage of good teams in DuPage County
Each fall high school coaches lament -- rightfully so in most cases -- how much they're going to miss the talented players who graduated and moved on, and in DuPage County, there's always a slew of girls volleyball standouts who depart.
The upcoming 2019 season is no different. Last year's Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area squad was littered with seniors, including Naperville North's Sarah Kushner, a four-year starting outside hitter who helped the Huskies win three regional titles and record back-to-back 30-win campaigns before taking her hard-swinging right arm to Illinois State.
But as has been the case each year, a new crop of star volleyball players slides into big varsity spots and keeps the DuPage County programs winning, year in and year out.
While the Huskies will surely miss Kushner and seven other graduates including All-Area setter Grace Selman, don't expect them to drop off the radar, not with junior returners Ellie Hall and Eva Hartung and Kushner's sister Ashley returning to help the defense.
"This is a hardworking and coachable team who will continue to improve as the season progresses," said veteran coach Jen Urban, who has gone 434-129 over 14 years at Naperville North.
Then there's Benet, which is looking to claim its fourth Class 4A title since 2011 and add to a trophy case that also includes runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2013, and a third-place showing last year. That 2018 squad has to replace Allison Van Eekeren, who had more than 700 assists last year before heading to Creighton to play at the next level.
The Redwings, who went 36-6 last year while winning a 12th straight regional, will replace Van Eekeren with a returning star from 2018. Junior Rachel Muisenga slides into the setter role to run a 5-1 offense after hitting the last two years. Committed to Penn State, Benet coach Brad Baker says Muisenga is "one of the best in the nation."
That said, Benet also boasts one of the top liberos in the nation, four-year starter and Notre Dame recruit Hattie Monson, who will get help from returning defensive specialist Annie Sobolewski and newcomers Caroline Doyle and Kierra Zamar.
"They are driven to be successful and motivated to have a good season," said Baker, whose team's defense and size will create problems for opponents. "This year will be the first year since 2015 that we will be able to play a lineup of players that got to play the same position in club as they will in high school."
The Redwings have too many talented players to list, but senior Sophie Gregus and junior Kyla Kenney are in line for great seasons. The 6-foot Gregus -- committed to Illinois -- was slowed by a back injury in 2018, while Kenney shined as a six-rotation sophomore.
Downers Grove North had a magical campaign last fall but will be hard-pressed to repeat as Class 4A finalist. Not only did the Trojans graduate St. Louis University recruit Margaret Mahlke, but the program suffered a tragic loss when junior setter Beth Dunlap was killed when hit by a car earlier this year.
"We will play this season in the memory and in honor of Beth who would have been our feisty, spirited leader," says coach Mark Wasik, who guided the team to a 32-12 mark and runner-up finish in state to Marist. "While our hearts will be heavy, we will pledge to play the way Beth would have wanted us to play, leaving everything we have on the court, while enjoying the privilege of playing for each other."
Junior libero Madison Cuchran is garnering Division I interest and she returns to lead Downers North along with sophomore Gwen Wolkow and senior Grace Malone, who returns to the setter role after playing in 2018.
Cassie Chin helped Waubonsie Valley go 24-14 last year and earned herself a spot on the Loyola Marymount University beach volleyball team, but the Warriors still return tons of talent and will be a force to reckoned with.
Five starters return led by senior setter Melissa Walden, an all-DVC performer who recorded 185 kills, 355 assists and has committed to Texas A&M. Also back for Waubonsie Valley are Gabi Croll (Elon University), Elenzie France and Trinity Evans, supported by a strong cast of new and experienced teammates.
"We have a team of 12, and are lucky to have seven of those players who are seniors. We want to win sectionals this year, and with so many returning starters we should have a good chance at reaching this goal," Warriors coach Kari Galen said. "We should be very competitive in the DVC this year and look forward to strong competition and the addition of DeKalb into the DVC."
Playing its usual loaded schedule, St. Francis finished 25-10 after falling to Latin in a Class 3A supersectional. Four-year starter Anna Calcagno, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter, will make sure the Spartans carry on their winning ways for one of the state's most prolific programs. Olivia Hojnicki, at 6-foot-2, is a force in the middle, and returners Sierra Zygmunt and Katelyn Sipes will pace the team on defense.
"We will have a very solid defensive team," St. Francis coach Lisa Ston said. "Anna is a four-year varsity starter who will bring us experience at the pin. She has elevated her game and will lead the way offensively. I am excited to see this group compete."
TOP PLAYERS: Addison Trail: Jessica D'Ambrose (OH, sr.), Amy Reyes (S, sr.); Benet: Sophie Gregus (OH, sr.), Kyla Kenney (OH, jr.), Hattie Monson (libero, sr.), Rachel Muisenga (S, jr.); Downers Grove South: Addy Karmik (S, sr.), Jess Juerke (MH, sr.), Rose Dumford (MH, sr.); Downers Grove North: Madison Cuchran (libero, jr.), Grace Malone (S, sr.), Gwen Wolkow (OH, so.); Fenton: Julianna Krebasch (MH, sr.), Britania Aguilar (OH); Glenbard East: Becca Honig (S, jr.), Cassie Schweikle (OH, jr.), Gabbie Spontak (DS, sr.); Glenbard South: Sadie Camfield (S, sr.), Kathleen Millett (OH, sr.), Lauren Sweeton (OH, sr.); Glenbard North: Anastasia Brown (MH, sr.), Maddie Meyers (OH, sr.); Glenbard West: Maeve Campanella (DS, jr.),Virginia Curtis (OH, sr.); Hinsdale Central: Brooke Cooper (OH, jr.), Lauren Ridgeway (MH, sr.); Hinsdale South: Kaitlyn Hurka (OH, sr.), Aurora Korfist (S, sr.); IC Catholic Prep: Sophie Hurt (S, jr.), Bella Leslie (L, sr.), Jess Sobon (OH, jr.); Lisle: Kaitlyn Angileri (S, sr.), Carmen Johnson (RS/MH, sr.); Metea Valley: Regan Holmer (S, so.), Keira Jannisch (MH, jr.), Gabby Zawadzki (OH, sr.); Montini: Kylie Boyer (DS, sr.), Julia Marciniak, (OPP, sr.), Tess Noonan (S, sr.), Paige Pickering (OH, so.); Naperville Central: Kayla Closset (OH, sr.), Hannah Rubino (MB, sr.), Grace Butler (S, sr.); Naperville North: Ellie Hall (MB, jr.), Eva Hartung (OH, jr.), Ashley Kushner (libero/DS, so.); Neuqua Valley: Bailey Houlihan (libero, sr.), Faith Johnson (MH/OH, sr.), Taylor O'Malley (OH, sr.); St. Francis: Anna Calcagno (OH, sr.), Olivia Hojnicki (MH, jr.), Katelyn Sipes (DS, jr.), Sierra Zygmunt (DS, sr.); Timothy Christian: Greta Hoogstra (M, jr.), Campbell Marshall (S, jr.), Hannah Schuringa (OH, jr.); Waubonsie Valley: Gabi Croll (OH, sr.), Trinity Evans (OH, sr.), Elenzie France (RS, sr.), Melissa Walden (S, sr.); West Chicago: Lilly Smith (libero, sr.), Grace Quiroz (S, sr.); Westmont: Maggie Durr (OH/DS, sr.); Wheaton North: Amee Beedle (OH, sr.), Maggie Biegalski (MH, sr.), Jackie O'Callaghan (S, sr.); Wheaton Warrenville South: Kaileigh Ammons (MH, sr.), Annika Barron (MH, sr.), Sarah Burau (S, sr.), Zayna Meyer (S, jr.); Willowbrook: Payton Ceh (libero, sr.), Grace Reckamp (S/RS, jr.); York: Gigi Barr (OH, jr.), Sydney Kruger (MB, sr.), Katie Norgle (OH, jr.).