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2013 Volleyball Preview

  • Written by Anthony Nasella

Mighty Macs want to take care of ‘unfinished business’

  A third-place finish at the 2012 Class 4A state tournament was obviously a great accomplishment for Mother McAuley.
  But coach Jen DeJarld doesn’t want her girls riding on the press clippings of last season, no matter how plentiful and complimentary they were. Instead, the No. 2 nationally ranked Mighty Macs seek to improve and build on their success from a year ago.


  “For this team, ‘unfinished business’ is one of our themes,” DeJarald said. “We feel that’s true in the way our season ended last year. While we were very excited about being back downstate and finishing third, we really thought we could have been a contender for the title.
  “We would like to take care of that business this year, and I think we have the team to do it. We just have to keep everybody healthy and on the right course.”
  An interesting part of that “course” will be a trip outside of the area on Sept. 6 and 7, when McAuley travels to Louisville, Ky., to compete in a 24-school tournament that features the nation’s No. 1 ranked team, Assumption (Ky.).
  “Since there isn’t a GCAC Tournament being contested, we’re traveling for the first time,” DeJarld said. “It should be a great tournament for us. It’s highly regarded as one of the strongest tournaments in the country, and we’re excited about the competition.”
  In addition to the Kentucky event, the Macs will be tested in their season-opener against Joliet Catholic Academy and on Friday against the nation’s No. 6-ranked team, Wheaton-St. Francis. McAuley will also face defending state champion Benet Academy, Lyons Township, St. Charles East and Naperville Central in tournament play later in the season.
  “This is probably one of our strongest teams that we’ve had in a very long time,” DeJarld said. “We’re 16 players deep, and we have a lot of options.
  “We have players who can step up in a couple of different positions. They’re multifaceted players, and we have a lot of senior leadership with eight returning seniors.”

MOTHER MCAULEY
  • Last year: 36-5.
  • Who’s gone: Patsy Boland, Kelly Clarke, Erica Harris, Michelle Koneck.
  • Who’s back: Courtney Joyce, Sr., S; Ryann DeJarld, Jr., OH; Kennedy Arundel, Jr., OH; Carla Cahill, Jr., L; Kelsey Clark, Jr., MB; Gabby Ennis, Sr. MB.; Maggie Scanlon, Jr., RS.
  • Who’s new: Kayla Caffey, So., MB/RS.
  • Outlook: The Mighty Macs return a deep core group from last season’s memorable run, which was capped off with a third-place finish at state in Class 4A. Joyce, a Western Illinois University recruit, is an offensive weapon as an all-area setter and also Mother McAuley’s ringleader. DeJarld, who has committed to Notre Dame, was another all-area selection after leading the team in kills and aces in 2012. Coach Jen DeJarald calls her daughter a “cerebral player whose skills the team relies on.” Arundel, who’ll head to the University of Connecticut next year, is an explosive player and a great jump server. Coach DeJarld said that Cahill, yet another all-area player who led the south suburbs in digs, is an intuitive athlete and the strongest defensive player around. Clark will be a huge presence for McAuley with her explosive arm, while the Cornell University-bound Ennis brings leadership, a solid work ethic and great blocking skills. Scanlon is an all-around skilled player who excels at defense and makes few mistakes, while Caffey is a newcomer who will be a force at the net and should surprise a lot of people.
  • Coach’s comment: “I think this will be one of the strongest [and] deepest teams I’ve had in a long time. I’m expecting big things from them this season.” — DeJarld.

STAGG
  • Last year: 32-7.
  • Who’s gone: Morgan Thomas, Jill Conrad, Ali Conrad, Liz Panella, Alexa Janus.
  • Who’s back: Megan Hearne, Sr., OH; Lexi Mantas, Jr. MH; Kellie Senese, Sr., OH; Hannah Yandel, Sr., S.; Kelly Runyon, Sr., DS; Hannah Henderson, Sr., OH; Ariana Mantas, Jr., MH/OH.
  • Who’s new: Gianna Petrelli, Jr., S; Kaitlyn Dwyer, Jr., MH.
  • Outlook: Though Lady Chargers coach Deanna Storino lost an accomplished batch of athletes from last year’s high-achieving squad, she’s not willing to call this season a rebuilding campaign due to the number of talented players who are returning to the Stagg roster. The Mantas twins will pace the offensive effort. Runyon played behind Morgan Thomas last fall, but Storino said she matured during summer competition and should step up to be a big part of the 2013 defense. Storino is also impressed with the example Henderson has set, not only as an athlete in terms of quickness, energy and versatility, but also as a student in the classroom. Henderson will start at middle hitter. The Lady Chargers, who move into the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue Division this fall, will be challenged by some potent new additions to the schedule: Joliet Catholic Academy, Lincoln-Way East and Lincoln-Way Central.
  • Coach’s comment: “I believe this team can win 20-to-25 [matches]. It’s hard to make a guess if a team is going to win — our team two years ago went just 19-18, and then we win over 30 [times] last season. But with this team, I absolutely expect them to have a winning record, play in a regional championship [match] and finish in the top three in the conference. Everyone is working and we’ve had good practices leading up to the season. It will be nice to finally get in some matches.” — Storino.

MARIST
  • Last year: 29-6.
  • Who’s gone: Rachel Dalton, Mallory Salis, Elyse Panick, Kelly Marcinek, Abbi Anderson, Taylor Holder.
  • Who’s back: Lizzie Zaleski, Jr., RS/S; Carolyn Yerkes, Sr. DS; Leah Gbur, Sr., MH; Bridget Krasowski, Sr., OH; Laruen Marx, Sr. DS; Molly Mayo, Sr., S; Shannon McKevitt, Sr., DS; Morgan Murphy, Sr., DS.
  • Who’s new: Emily Coghlan, Jr., S; Cameron Enright, So., OH; Maggie Hughes, Jr., MH; Sarah Lowery, Jr., OH; Colleen Reilly, Jr., MH; Ann Marie Stifter, So., MH; Megan Ryan, Sr., RS.
  • Outlook: Finding a replacement for coach Natalie Holder, whose Lady RedHawks teams posted a staggering 314-80 record with her at the helm, would be a tough task for any school. But Marist tagged local product Julie Popp Hopkins, who brings skill and positive enthusiasm, to try to continue the Lady RedHawks’ tradition of excellence. Popp Hopkins, who was team MVP during her senior years at Queen of Peace and the University of Illinois-Chicago, coached Chicago Latin to consecutive conference titles before taking the job at Marist and was also a member of McAuley coach Jen DeJarld’s staff at the Chicago Michio Volleyball Club. If Popp Hopkins is able to cultivate similar success within a Marist program that boasts several returnees from its solid 2012 team, a long ride through the state tournament is a very real possibility.

SANDBURG
  • Last year: 29-9.
  • Who’s gone: Paige Bendell, Dakota Hampton, Kristy Theisen, Kendall Riechman.
  • Who’s back: Sami Knight, Jr., S; Bridget Lebert, Sr., OH/RS; Meghan Hutchinson, Sr., OH; Kelly Finlay, Sr., MH; Kathleen Bollito, Jr., MH; Leah Lane, Jr., RS/S; Julia Borschel, Jr., OH.
  • Outlook: The Lady Eagles will look to build on last year’s success despite losing four quality players to graduation. Coach Dave Vales (174-56 lifetime) is expressing much excitement about the returning players and has high hopes they will meld into a solid nucleus that will contend for honors in the state tournament. Knight led Sandburg in assists and aces last year and, according to Vales, is one of the best and purest volleyball players he has ever coached. Lebert is an explosive attacker who has received increased playing time each year, while Hutchinson, a third-year starter at outside hitter, is a solid defender and has improved her hitting each season. Finlay, who gained a great deal of experience in the middle over the past two years, excels in blocking, but her hitting also continues to get better. Though not newcomers, juniors Bollito, Lane and Borschel didn’t play significant minutes until the second half of last season. This time, they will get plenty of opportunities to contribute right from the outset.
  • Coach’s comment: “We lost a ton of firepower in Dakota, Paige and Kristy, but we come back with a tighter defense. Our focus will be playing as a team and being tough in serving. We took second at summer league [after losing to Lincoln-Way East 25-21, 12-25, 15-12 in the final], so we know that we’re going to be very competitive.” — Vales.

CHICAGO CHRISTIAN
  • Last year: 23-16.
  • Who’s gone: Megan Kamp, Emily Lindemulder, Sami Bruinius.
  • Who’s back: Emily Workman, Sr., S; Jessica Krygsheld, Sr., OH; Elise Haan Sr., DS; Maggie Kavanaugh, Sr., DS; Maddie Wohl, Sr., DS; Leah Kamp, Jr., MH; Samantha Kubik, Jr., S; Anna Kamp, Jr., OH.
  • Who’s new: Melanie Belstra, Jr., OH; Barbara Arrington, Jr., RH; Victoria Skala, Jr., L/DS.
  • Outlook: The Lady Knights return a solid group from their Class 3A supersectional team that lost to eventual 2012 state champion Wheaton-St. Francis. Though it’s been two years since Chicago Christian captured its own state crown, coach James Garcia is excited about his returning players and believes they can help the Lady Knights make another extended postseason run. Workman is a four-year varsity player who racked up 940 assists, 205 digs, 103 kills, 60 blocks and 50 aces last season. Krygsheld (292 kills, 264 digs, 23 aces, 38 blocks), Leah Kamp (119 kills, 85 blocks) and Kavanaugh (170 digs) were other statistical notables in 2012. Kubik and Anna Kamp, both of whom were pulled up to varsity last season for the playoffs, will now contribute to a larger degree. Kubik was named an All-American at this summer’s AAU Girls Volleyball National Championships while playing for Hard Cross Volleyball Club, and as setter for her 16 Navy team helped secure a third-place finish in the Gold Division. Kamp also had a breakout summer season with Hard Cross.
  • Coach’s comment: “We have some nice young talent joining the core group, and we should have another successful season in 2013. We are all definitely looking forward to this season.” — Garcia.

OAK LAWN
  • Last year: 25-8.
  • Who’s gone: Amber Maiberger, Olivia Lindner, Rachel Kestian.
  • Who’s back: Becky Bradshaw Sr., OH; Simona Tomczak, Jr., OH; Tracy Peck Sr., OH, Brianna Markusic, Jr., MH.
  • Who’s new: Alyssa Radiocic, Jr.; Ashley Labuda, Jr.; Daniele Vanderwarren, Jr.; Sam Lesiak, So.
  • Outlook: Along with a few reliable returnees, the Lady Spartans will also count on some promising newcomers as they seek to keep things rolling in 2013. Oak Lawn won 25 times last season, a ledger that was highlighted by an 11-2 mark in the South Suburban Conference Red. Coach Dennis McNamara (212-137 in 12 seasons) will look to senior leadership from Bradshaw (273 digs, 212 kills, 38 aces, 18 solo blocks, 11 assists) and Peck (160 digs, 96 kills, 31 assists, 29 aces, 17 solo blocks). Tomczak (240 kills, 232 digs, 39 aces, 19 assists, 16 solo blocks) adds to the team’s depth at outside hitter. Among the Lady Spartans’ key matches this season will be ones against Chicago Christian (Sept. 4), Lemont (Sept. 12), Richards (Sept. 24) and Shepard (Oct. 15). Oak Lawn also hosts its own Spartan Classic Sept. 20 and 21.
  • Coach’s comment: “We have four of our six starters returning from a team that won 25 matches last year. We will be led by two of the area’s premier outside hitters in Becky Bradshaw and Simona Tomczak. That is why I believe we should contend for a conference championship in the South Suburban Conference. Overall, it is shaping up to be a very good team and I am looking forward to an exciting 2013 season.” — McNamara.

SHEPARD
  • Last year: 21-11.
  • Who’s gone: Franchesca Graffeo, Jessica Chaput, Stephanie Korbakes, Natalie Carberry, Sam Newhall.
  • Who’s back: Caroline Graham, So., S; Chrystal McAlpin, Sr., MH; Brianna Volpentesta, Sr., DS; Amanda Carberry, So., MH.
  • Who’s new: Kendall Yerkes, So, OH; Abbey Graham, So., OH; Chasz Wells, Jr., MH; Briana Haugh, Jr., RS; Jackie Evans, Sr., OH; Meghan Williamson, Sr., L; Carolyn Notter, Sr., S.
  • Outlook: Fourth-year head coach Dan Grunauer said this year’s Lady Astros team is talented, but also inexperienced and untested — glimpses of greatness, followed by some uncertainty. The type of campaign Shepard ultimately has, he said, depends heavily on his athletes’ mindset during the first week of the season, known to the Lady Astros as “the gauntlet.” McAlpin registered 79 kills and 42 blocks last season, and Grunauer said Graham (school-record 542 assists, 115 digs, 34 aces) puts all the hitters in good position because of her volleyball IQ and ability, crucial elements for this young club. Carberry (53 kills, 34 blocks), an aggressive player who isn’t afraid to go for it on game point if the set is there, returns with the confidence of a seasoned veteran. Volpentesta (80 digs) is a gritty defender who wears her heart on her sleeve. Her passion and passing, according to Grunauer, will be crucial if Shepard is to make any noise this year.
  • Coach’s comment: “Our conference has gotten a lot stronger from top to bottom this year. It definitely won’t be a one- or two-horse race for conference [supremacy]. I think both divisions have three to four teams capable of beating one another on any given night. If we can maintain a growth mindset and learn from each point, we’ll be successful and have a great year; if we have a fixed mindset and let the first week define us instead of drive us, it’s going to be a challenging year.” — Grunauer.

RICHARDS
  • Last year: 17-12
  • Who’s gone: Kara Rockey, Kelly McGreal
  • Who’s back: Shannon Gardner, Sr., OH, Megan Olbon, Sr., OH, Haley Gertz, Sr., S; Brianna LaPapa, Sr., MH; Bridget Ferrin, Sr., S; Sara Tobin, Sr., OH; Dana Wujcik, Jr., OH; Katelyn Sullivan, Sr. S.
  • Who’s new: Camille Losoya, Sr., L.
  • Outlook: With only one key player gone from last year’s solid 2012 squad and the entire offensive core returning, Lady Bulldogs coach Troy Grevengoed said expectations are high. A group of six battle-tested seniors will look to challenge Shepard and Oak Lawn in the South Suburban Conference Red. Three-year starter Olbon will provide solid leadership while complementing Wujcik. Grevengoed said LaPapa was raw last year, but her hard work is paying dividends as she has polished her skills and shown increased maturity.
  • Coach’s comment: “We don’t have just one or two players who are strong — all six are very solid. We have the right, left and middle covered. No one player is amazing, but all have worked hard in the summer. They have improved, and we’ve added some depth to our squad. One of our weaknesses last season was net plays and defense because we were smaller and we had middles that weren’t used to playing middle. Now, we have last year’s experience to our credit, and I’m excited about what this year is going to bring. We know, however, that we still have to prove ourselves.” — Grevengoed.

EVERGREEN PARK
  • Last year: 13-15.
  • Who’s gone: Megan Beckow, Leigh Bennett, Colleen Burns, Claritza Garcia, Chelsea Christopher.
  • Who’s back: Zoe Monks, Jr., S; Sarah Klawitter, Sr., OH/L; Emma Przeslicke, So., OH/MB, Nicole Larkin, Jr., MB; Sam Flores, Jr., S, Sarah Klawitter, Sr., OH/L; Maddie Voijeck, So., OH.
  • Who’s new: Vivica Price, Fr., MB.
  • Outlook: Lady Mustangs coach Carrie Berry is confident her team can improve upon last season’s seventh-place finish within the South Suburban Conference Red and an early tournament exit. She refers to Przeslicke and Voijeck as her “dynamic duo” on the outside. Even though the pair are just sophomores, Berry believes they have the potential to become top players in the conference. Monks led Evergreen Park last year in assists. Berry said she’s excited to see Klawitter transition from outside hitter to libero this season.
  • Coach’s comment: “One of the keys to a successful season is to encourage our underclassmen to step up and become leaders. Our strengths are [that] we have more depth this season and some players with club experience; our weakness is the commitment level is questionable [right now] for some players. But our goal is to have winning season, and I’m confident that this group has the potential to do that.” — Berry.

MT. ASSISI
  • Last year: 13-21.
  • Who’s gone: MaryKate Deeley, Amber Koenig.
  • Who’s back: Anna Broadhurst, Sr. MH, MaryKate Wetzel, Sr., S, Kelly Magliano, Sr., MB; Jessica Jakubowski, Sr., DS; Bailey Andjulis, Sr. OH.
  • Who’s new: Hayley Hetzel, Jr., OH, Clare Wasilewska Jr., OH, Maddie Cahue, Jr., MH/RS, Shyann Koenig, Jr., DS.
  • Outlook: Screeching Eagles coach Karen Van Assen returns a solid group of seniors who have all played on varsity since their sophomore season and are poised to not only compete hard in 2013, but succeed. Broadhurst (163 kills), Wetzel (375 assists), Magliano (187 kills, 58 blocks) and Jakubowski (309 digs) are Mt. Assisi’s mainstays. Due to the GCAC Tournament not being contested this year, Van Assen said an additional tournament will be played to give the Eagles experience that could produce more victories. Broadhurst and Magliano will continue to lead Mt. Assisi both by example and performance.
  • Coach’s comment: “Our starters are obviously much mature compared to two years ago. They bring a sense of confidence to the court [and] our experience should help us to pull through in close games, [while] solid defense will keep us in the [match] against big teams. Those will be the keys to our success. Our goals are to be in top three in the GCAC Red and to win a Class 2A regional.” — Van Assen.

QUEEN OF PEACE
  • Last year: 6-32.
  • Who’s gone: Katie Hannon, Missy Quero, Kathleen Miller, Lindsey Walls, Natalie Doogan, Vanessa Ramirez.
  • Who’s back: Michelle Fredericks, Sr., OH; Sidney Schergen, Jr., L; Sam Stirn, So., MH; Collen Corbett, So., S; Rebecca Huerta, Sr., L; Jelyn Chua, Sr., DS; Stephanie Kingsley, Jr., S.
  • Who’s new: Kaitlyn Myles, Jr. MH; Amy Bosniak, Jr., OH; Abby Bennett, Jr., OH.
  • Outlook: Coach Megan Jones has been emphasizing team unity for the Pride this season, and so far the second-year leader likes what she has seen from a group of determined players who believe they’re much better than last season’s record indicated. Corbett and Kingsley will share setting duties, and Jones is especially pleased with Kingsley’s persistence to become more effective in that role. A plus-.500 ledger, in Jones’ opinion, would definitely be a big step toward once again making Queen of Peace a respected volleyball program and an attractive draw for future players.
  • Coach’s comment: “The seniors want a better record than what we had last year. I [also] expect much more this year, so I think we’re all on the same page. We certainly have more talent and ability from what that [2012] record shows. The Queen of Peace I grew up knowing could hang in tournaments [and] I expect to get the program back to that place. We want to have fun, but we want to win. The girls have great attitudes and have done everything I’ve asked of them, so now we just need to keep doing more. We’re going to have to work harder and put in more time than our opponents, but these girls are willing to do that.” — Jones.