Mighty Macs have eyes on another prize
Winning a state championship is akin to munching on potato chips — after sampling one there’s a strong desire for more.
Further snacking is easy, but repeating as a titlist requires far greater effort. However, if any group of Illinois high school athletes understands what’s needed to reign supreme in volleyball it’s the ones enrolled at Mother McAuley.
The Mighty Macs became dynastic under the guidance of former coach Nancy Pedersen and, after a nine-year dry spell, returned to the mountaintop last fall. Forty victories — the last of which came against two-time defending Class 4A champion Benet Academy — made McAuley not only No. 1 in Illinois for the 14th time but highly ranked nationally as well.
But that achievement wasn’t enough to sate the Macs.
“Winning the state championship is the plan every year, no matter what our success was in the past year,” McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “We’re also shooting for a national championship this year as well, so we have our sights set pretty high. The girls are wanting to take it to the next level [and] they’re always working to hone [their skills].
“The mental game is what we’re really working on and looking to improve. We’re not taking things for granted, being complacent and resting on last season’s accomplishments. To take care of small details and execute the game plan, that comes with mental toughness.”
McAuley graduated four members of last season’s 40-2 squad, the most notable being setter Courtney Joyce. But six key players are back and they will be joined by fresh talent DeJarld hopes will jell quickly.
“For us to reach our goals it’s going to take a lot of hard work and [us] remaining healthy,” DeJarld said. “We had a few injuries here and there last year, but we were healthy for the most part.”
The Macs will certainly need all hands on deck right from the get-go as they open the season against two national powerhouses and then travel to Kentucky for the Assumption Tournament, where more formidable foes will await them.
“We’ll be hitting it hard the first two weeks and we’ll be playing a lot of high-level matches,” DeJarld said. “It will be hard to pinpoint weaknesses until we get in match play.
“We’re known for our ball handling and top serving, as well as passing and excellent defense. We’ll see what we can accomplish against those top teams.”
The challenging slate is exactly what DeJarld wants for her girls, who seek to carry on McAuley’s tradition of excellence by defeating the strongest competition.
“Every team that has played here knows that,” DeJarld said, referring to her program’s rich history. “What happened last year was great, but I do want them to remember it. They will be missing out if they don’t repeat what they did last year — that’s motivation enough to work hard to attain that goal.”
2013 Record: 40-2.
Head coach: Jen DeJarld.
• Who’s gone: Courtney Joyce (Western Illinois), Jenny Phelan (Lipscomb University), Gabby Ennis (Cornell University), Mallory Maxwell (Eastern Kentucky).
• Who’s back: Ryann DeJarld, OH, Sr.; Kelsey Clark, MB, Sr.; Kennedy Arundel, OH, Sr.; Kayla Caffey, MB, Jr.; Maggie Scanlon, RS, Sr.; Carla Cahill, DS, Sr.
• Who’s new: Amber Casey, S, Sr.; Jane DeJarld, S, Jr.
• Outlook: The defending Class 4A champions return a great deal of talent from last year’s history-making season. Notre Dame recruit Ryann DeJarld will again be an offensive catalyst along with Arundel (committed to Connecticut). Clark (George Washington) and Caffey (Missouri) provide strong support the net, while Casey (University of St. Francis) is expected to fill the big shoes of the departed Joyce as the Mighty Macs’ setter.
• Coach’s comment: “This team brings a wealth of experience. Most of them are three-year varsity starters who not only finished third in state in 2012 and first in state in 2013 but won a national championship in club [volleyball] in 2012. They have a strong work ethic and an even stronger desire to win. This team knows how to compete.” — Jen DeJarld
2013 Record: 31-8.
Head coach: David Vales.
• Who’s gone: Bridget Lebert, Meghan Hutchinson, Kelly Finlay.
• Who’s back: Alexa Dimperio, DS, Sr.; Nicole Lahey, DS, Sr.; Sami Knight, S, Sr.; Julia Borschel, OH, Sr.; Leah Lane, RS/S, Sr.; Kathleen Bollito, MH, Sr.; Kristina Stoncius, MH, Sr.
• Who’s new: Tara Gerst, DS, Jr.; Morgan Kmak, L, Jr.; Allison Nagel, OH/RS/S, Jr.; Gillian Thanasouras, OH, Jr.; Gillian Thanasouras, OH, Jr.; Emily Makina, S/RS, Jr.; Emily Makina, S/RS, Jr.; Caroline Stefanon, MH, Jr.; Gabrielle Christie, DS, Jr.
• Outlook: After going undefeated in SouthWest Suburban Conference play and surpassing the 30-win mark a year ago the Eagles are poised to travel a similar path, thanks to a seven-player veteran nucleus. Borschel, Lane, and Bolito are all three-year starters. Among Sandburg’s early tests are three tournaments — the Plainfield North Invitational, Lyons Quadrangular and Wheaton-Warrenville South Classic — as well as its home opener against District 230 sister school Andrew. Coach Dave Vales, who surpassed the 200-victory plateau last season, considers Knight a perfect example of how dedication can lead to improvement and terms Lane one of the strongest blockers he’s ever seen in his 14 years with the program.
• Coach’s comment: “Last year we got out of the gate pretty quickly, and I’m hoping we can do the same this season. Lincoln-Way North will definitely be a challenge in conference. We lost to them in our summer-league semifinal, but we’re shooting for another conference title.
“Sami sets the tone for the team, and she’s always looking for a challenge and for the next thing to improve. Leah has to be one of the strongest blockers [around] and it really fires the girls up to see a huge block. She’s a multi-threat for us and a great motivator for the younger girls.” — Vales
2013 Record: 28-12.
Head coach: Chrissy Gust.
• Who's gone: Emily Workman, Jessica Krygsheld, Elise Haan, Maggie Kavanaugh, Maddie Wohl, Kim Hocker.
• Who's back: Leah Kamp, MH, Sr.; Samantha Kubik, S, Jr.; Anna Kamp, OH, Sr.; Melanie Belstra, OH, Sr.; Barbara Arrington, RS, Sr.; Victoria Skala, L/DS, Sr.
• Who's new: Abby Leo, DS, Jr.; Emily Vilender, S, Jr.; Aaryana Moore, OH/RH, Jr.
• Outlook: For the second year in a row the Knights return key figures from a team that reached the Class 3A supersectional round the previous season. However, this latest edition of Chicago Christian volleyball will feature a new leader as 2002 Shepard grad Chrissy Gust has taken over for James Garcia. Despite the coaching change Gust doesn't expect the Knights to low-ball their goals, and there's no reason they should. The Kamp sisters offer stability on the offensive side, while Moore and newcomer Arrington have been touted by Gust for their athleticism. Christian's own invitational and one at Rich East are among the hurdles the team must clear if it hopes to build momentum for another serious tournament run. The Knights would love nothing better than to bookend the Class 2A title they won in 2010 with a Class 3A crown this time around.
• Coach’s comment: “The foundation here has definitely been laid. I have some great girls who are so excited about the season. It’s been nice to give the kids a new perspective, variety and get them working at a different pace.
"It’s awesome to come back home. We play at Shepard this season and it’s going to be a surreal experience to be back on my home court as a coach. I’ve come full circle. If you had told me 14 years ago that I would be coaching a varsity team on that court I would have never believed you. We’re all looking forward to this season.” — Gust
2013 Record: 27-10.
Head coach: Julie Popp-Hopkins.
• Who's gone: Carolyn Yerkes, Leah Gbur, Bridget Krasowski, Lauren Marx, Molly Mayo, Shannon McKevit, Morgan Murphy, Megan Ryan.
• Who's back: Lizzie Zaleski, RS/S, Sr.; Emily Coghlan, S, Sr.; Cameron Enright, OH, Jr.; Maggie Hughes, MH, Sr.; Sarah Lowery, OH, Sr.; Colleen Reilly, MH, Sr.; Ann Marie Stifter, MH, Jr.
• Who's new: Haley Belcik, DS/L, Jr.; Madeline Dunterman, OH, So.; Emily Graff, OH, Jr.; Margaret Murphy, DS/L, Jr.; Allyssa Rizzo, DS/L, Jr.; Katelin Sokolowski, S, Jr.; Emily Sullivan, RS, Jr.
• Outlook: While not entirely a rebuilding season, the RedHawks graduated eight players from last season’s sectional qualifier. They do, however, return seven players from that team and add seven newcomers to the fold. As always Marist, now in its second year under coach Julie Popp-Hopkins, will face a rugged schedule loaded with upper-tier opponents. The RedHawks' stiffest challenges will come at the prestigious ASICS Challenge, Wheaton Classic and Rich East Invitational, but also presenting obstacles will be encounters with Hinsdale South, York, Providence Catholic, Marian Catholic, Joliet Catholic Academy, Benet Academy and defending Class 4A champion Mother McAuley.
2013 Record: 20-8.
Head coach: Ray VanSyckle.
• Who’s gone: Meagan Albon (University of Dubuque), Camille Losoya (Loras Collage), Shannon Gardner (Moraine Valley).
• Who’s back: Dana Wujcik, OH, Sr.; Katelyn Sullivan, S, Sr.; Halee Barker, MB, Sr.; Kaitlyn Fetchko, DH/OH, Sr.; Lexi Badon, L, Sr.; Taylor Yanke, RS, Sr.
• Who’s new: Kelly Lind, OH, Jr.; Sara Kiziak, MB, Jr.; Nicole Hansen, L/DS, Jr.
• Outlook: New coach Ray VanSyckle inherits a team that went 9-4 last season in the South Suburban Conference and pocketed 20 victories in all. Missing, however, was a regional title, which is one of the Bulldogs' primary objectives this fall. Leading the way will be outside hitter Wujcik, the daughter of Richards' longtime baseball coach Brian Wujcik and an all-conference selection in 2013, who is being looked at as a main source of offensive firepower.
• Coach’s comment: “Injuries are always key, but if we can stay healthy we should battle in the SSC this year. Our depth is solid, especially on defense, and where we lack in some height we’ll play big in other areas. They’re a tough group of girls who love coming to the gym every day and I’m excited about working with [them]. It should be a fun ride.” — VanSyckle
2013 Record: 20-10.
Head coach: Dennis McNamara.
• Who's gone: Becky Bradshaw (University of Wisconsin-Stout), Tracy Peck.
• Who's back: Simona Tomczak, OH, Sr.; Brianna Markusic, MH, Sr.; Alyssa Radiocic, Sr.; Ashley Labuda, Sr.; Daniele Vanderwarren, Jr.; Sam Lesiak, Jr.
• Who's new: Alli Yacko, OH, Fr.; Rebecca Suarez, S, Jr.
• Outlook: Despite losing talented outside hitter Becky Bradshaw to graduation the Spartans' cupboard isn't bare. They return a core of four seniors and a junior in addition to welcoming a promising freshman, all of whom seek to build on last season’s solid effort. Veteran coach Dennis McNamara (232-147 in 13 seasons) will look to the experience and senior leadership of Tomczak and Markusic to show the way. Oak Lawn's early schedule will be challenging as matches against DeLaSalle, Chicago Christian, Lemont, Richards and Shepard pop up within the first couple weeks.
• Coach's comment: “I think these girls are capable of winning a few more [matches] than last season even though we’ll have some growing pains early. We do have more volleyball knowledge from last year’s team, but the question is how fast [will] the underclassmen pick up the game?
"We’re learning how to practice like a full varsity team because we didn’t have everyone over the summer. In the meantime Simona and Brianna have to carry a big load, stay strong in the front row and be the big offensive threats that they can be for us. Things are coming together.” — McNamara
2013 Record: 20-12
Head coach: Dan Grunauer.
• Who’s gone: Chrystal McAlpin, Brianna Volpentesta, Jackie Evans, Meghan Williamson, Carolyn Notter.
• Who’s back: Briana Haugh, RS, Sr.; Caroline Graham, S, Jr.; Kendall Yerkes, OH, Jr.; Abbey Graham, L, Jr.; Amanda Carberry, MH/RS, Jr.
• Who’s new: Abby Newsome, OH, Jr.; Sarah Kiwan, MH/RS, Fr.; Jenny Kempczynski, S/DS, Jr.; Jessica Ferguson, MH, Sr.; Chasz Wells, MH/RS, Sr.; Heather Banis, L, Jr.
• Outlook: Coach Dan Grunauer is excited about a team that returns five solid players from last year’s 20-win club that went 10-3 in the South Suburban Conference. Haugh (229 kills, 32 solo blocks, 133 digs, 40 aces), Yerkes (171 kills, 198 digs, 23 aces, 28 solo blocks), Abbey Graham (159 kills, 235 digs, 30 aces), Carberry (104 kills, 30 solo blocks, 49 digs, 16 aces), and Caroline Graham (639 assists, 36 aces, 98 digs) are the Astros’ mainstays. Caroline Graham established a single-season team record for assists each of the past two years.
• Coach’s comment: “Briana Haugh missed summer league with mono, so getting her back and healthy will definitely help the team out. Key matches this year will be at Plainfield North, [the] Rich East Rocket Invite and Lyons Township, [which will allow us to] gauge our team’s progress throughout the season to see how we’ll match up with some of the stronger teams in the state. We start conference play with Oak Forest and Tinley Park, two teams I feel should be conference contenders this season, so we definitely will be working hard to prepare for them and start off on the right foot.” — Grunauer
2013 Record: 16-21.
Head coach: Deanna Storino.
• Who's gone: Megan Hearne, Kellie Senese, Hannah Yandel, Kelly Runyon, Hannah Henderson.
• Who's back: Lexi Mantas, MH/OH, Sr.; Ariana Mantas, MH/OH, Sr.; Kaitlyn Dwyer, MH, Sr.; Allison Stefan, Sr.; Amanda Collins, Sr.
• Who's new: Madeline Duffner, S, Fr.; Allyson Mussallem, Fr.
• Outlook: While the Chargers graduate five members of last season’s squad, they return five talented players. Most notable are the Mantas twins, who want to finish their prep careers on the same high note as the Conrad sisters did as seniors a few years back. Coach Deanna Storino is also inserting a pair of freshmen into the mix, which will make for an interesting dynamic as Stagg prepares for its second season in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue and opponents such as Sandburg, Lockport, Bolingbrook and Lincoln-Way East.
• Coach's comment: “Having Ari and Lexi back will help us be a stronger force on the court. Katie Dwyer has been looking really good in the summer leagues as a force in the middle [by] working hard while coming back off an injury.
"We think we can be a really good team. We’re still young with the two freshmen, but I think we have a strong group, especially Ari and Lexi from the outside. Amanda Collins has also stepped up at the libero position. We’ll definitely face some stiff competition, [but] we’d like to increase the wins. The goal is always to be above .500 — “I think they’re more than capable of that.” — Storino
2013 Record: 13-18.
Head coach: Carrie Barry.
• Who’s gone: Sarah Klawitter.
• Who’s back: Nicole Larkin. MB, Sr.; Emma Przeslicke, OH, Jr.; Maddie Vojacek, MB, Jr.
• Who’s new: Gabby Lasinek, MB/OH, Jr.; Sydney Cerrantano, S, Jr.; Vivica Price, MB, So.
• Outlook: The regional-champion Mustangs return several pivotal players from their 2013 squad, including Larkin, a three-sport athlete who has played varsity volleyball all four years at Evergreen Park, and Przeslicke. The latter was stationed at outside hitter last fall but transitioned to setter during club season.
• Coach’s comment: “This team has great potential of getting Evergreen Park back on track to being a dominant program. Our goals are to have a winning record, be a top-three team in the [South Suburban] conference on our side and to win [a] regional. Our offense and aggressive serves will be keys to our success.” — Carrie Barry
QUEEN OF PEACE
2013 Record: 10-28.
Head coach: Ryan Denson.
• Who’s gone: Michelle Frederick, Rebecca Huerta, Jelyn Chua.
• Who’s back: Colleen Corbett, S, Jr.; Bridget Hannon, RS, Jr.; Sam Stirn, MH, Jr.; Sydney Schergen, L, Sr.; Kaitlyn Myles, MH, Sr.; Abby Bennett, OH, Sr.; Mary Keenan, MH, Sr.; Bethany Kingsley, S, Sr.
• Who’s new: Katie O'Leary, OH, Jr.; Jordan Jakubowski, MH, Jr.; Kylie McGivney, DS, Sr.
• Outlook: Ryan Denson, a former volleyball standout at St. Laurence, St. Xavier University and for the Chicago Volleyball Club, takes over as Pride coach. He inherits a team that claimed a regional title and played for a sectional championship following a rather forgettable regular season. In addition to some important returnees of its own Queen of Peace’s roster is bolstered by the arrival of a few newcomers from Mt. Assisi. Denson is confident that last year’s taste of postseason success will fuel Pride players from the get-go in 2014.
• Coach’s comment: “With the experience and group of new girls we have, each player brings something unique and different to the table. We can learn from each other as well as the new coaching staff, who brings new views and ideas. This year should be a fun and exciting year as we begin the season with high hopes and expectations. The coaches are pushing the girls as much as the girls are pushing each other.” — Denson