Girls volleyball: Scouting the 2021 fall season in Lake County
Graduation for the Class of 2021 wiped 10 seniors off the roster of last spring's Libertyville girls volleyball team.
But no one is going to shed any tears for the Wildcats.
For starters, they have been perched among the top teams in Lake County for quite some time now. They won their seventh North Suburban Conference title last spring, including their fifth in the last eight years.
On top of that, they still seem to be in a good position to contend again.
Even with all the gradation losses, Libertyville still boasts returning players at several key positions, including junior outside hitter Keira Kasten, senior middle blocker Kelly Hutchins and senior setter Grace Bonjour.
"While we are going to be a young team dominated by juniors, we have much to build from in terms of ability at all positions and there will be a great battle for time on the floor across the board," Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. "We are excited to get out there and compete right away. What will happen in the conference this year is anyone's guess, with the unusual nature of the spring '21 season. The team that comes out of the gate the most ready will surely have the advantage."
Stevenson will certainly be ready to challenge the Wildcats, who also will rely heavily on junior middle blocker Ashley Branford, senior libero Grace Comilla and sophomore setter Jaimie Marquardt.
Two years ago, Libertyville shared the NSC title with Stevenson. And last spring, Libertyville had to squeeze out a three-set victory over Stevenson in the NSC title game.
The Patriots, who went 11-4 last year, welcome back one of the best players in the conference in senior outside hitter Amanda Holsen, a Columbia commit and a second-team all-state selection. She had 226 kills in just 15 matches last spring.
Also back are hitters Ania Waszynska and Michelle Gonchar.
"We have a number of 6-footers (Holsen is 6-feet, Waszynska is 6-2, Allison Katnibikov is 6-2, Brynn Smith is 6-foot, Sasha Evenko is 6-feet) who can play multiple positions and will be able to provide length in the front row," Stevenson coach Tim Crow said. "If we can be consistent with our first and second contact, we could do some nice things."
Warren should be well-stocked with three hitters that rolled up more than 100 kills apiece last spring: Lauren Shaw (145), Ruth Ziegler (115), and Kendal Crawford (102).
Lake Zurich will lean on a pair of juniors who were impact players last spring as sophomores. Chelsea Williams, a middle hitter, had 147 kills while setter Heidi Mason had 336 assists.
Defense will be a focus at Mundelein, which looks to improve on last spring's 5-12 campaign with six returners, including senior outside hitter Micah Holly and senior setter Bridget Ouimet.
Carmel's strength is also defense.
The Corsairs boast one of the top liberos in the area in senior Milana Moisio, a four-year varsity player who has either set defensive records, or is in position to set defensive records, at Carmel.
Moisio will play alongside setter Julia Shrofe, who also has experience as a libero.
Meanwhile, Vernon Hills has enough depth and experience against the bigger schools in the Central Suburban League North to be competitive in the postseason.
"There are kids who can play defense at every position on the floor," Vernon Hills coach Chris Curry said. "And there's a lot of competition at outside hitter, setter and with multiple defenders. That kind of depth leads to great practices, great competition to get on the floor and that can only make us better."
Outside hitter Alexa Cieslinski had 98 kills last spring for the Cougars while Ellen Amjadi had 189 digs.
In the Northern Lake County Conference, sister schools Grayslake North and Grayslake Central will set the tone.
Grayslake North returns as the undefeated conference champions from the spring.
"Our team has good size and runs a fast-paced offense," Grayslake North coach Jim Sarver said. "We have great team chemistry and all the players know how to win."
Outside hitter Emily Porter is a four-year starter and ranks fifth all-time in kills at Grayslake North.
Middle hitter Arianna Knowles is 6-feet and had a 50 percent kills rate last spring.
Junior setter Anneke Holm and senior libero Bria Verber are also back.
Grayslake Central is coming off a strong spring season and returns two of its top players in senior hitters Megan Grampo, who averaged 9 kills per match, and Piper Gallaher.
"We are expecting this team to compete and to find quite a bit of success," Grayslake Central coach Arian Colton said. "We have returning seniors who have already established a tone of high energy and hard work."
Experience will be a strength at Antioch where seven seniors have all been playing high school and club volleyball for years.
Hannah Benes, a senior libero and a four-year varsity player, has committed to the University of South Dakota School of Mining.
At Grant, three senior hitters, Taylor Fruehling, CeCe Palladino and Cadence Wodrich, could give the Bulldogs some offensive fire power.