By Pat Brozynski

Red North has look of another city winner

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By Phil Brozynski

The Red North Division has dominated Chicago Public Schools boys volleyball, winning seven consecutive city titles and 10 of the last 11. The division figures to produce another city titlist in 2008.

Taft finished third in the Red North but won the CPS tournament last year. Five players return from that team including 6-foot-4 senior Lukasz Sienko and 6-1 senior George Vasels. Sienko will play both middle and outside for the Eagles while Vasels moves to setter.

“George has really dedicated himself to being a setter and set for his club team,” said first-year Taft coach Keith Scherdt. “Lukasz is our best blocker. Both George and Lukasz will be the leaders of this team.”

Lincoln Park does not return much height, but coach John Davis does return his top hitter from 2007 in 5-foot-11 Howard Hu, an all-city libero in 5-8 Daniel Lin, and 5-8 setter Felipe Bastos, who honed his skills in the off-season at the Powerhouse volleyball club.

“The division will be very competitive this year,” Davis said. “Taft, Lincoln Park, Northside Prep, Whitney Young, Lane and Payton all have quality teams with numerous club players.”

Northside Prep joins the Red North after going 10-0 in the Green (and 22-7 overall) last year. Northside should be well-equipped to make the jump, with 6-2 senior outside hitter Karl Nerger and 6-3 junior middle Craig Melhuse leading the way.

Other top players for coach Nicole Flores are 6-foot junior setter John Konow, 6-5 senior middle blocker Jack Moore and 5-10 freshman opposite Luke Sobieraj.

Payton finished 22-15 last year and was runner-up to Taft in the city tournament. Payton lost its top two players, Henry Gottlieb and Jeyser Perez, and seven seniors from that team and will sport a new look in 2008.

Coach Casey Feeney is counting on a pair of 6-2 senior middle hitters, Faris Cano and Kevin Hoag, and 6-0 sophomore outside hitter Kevin Kingsley.

Young finished 28-7 last year and reached the state quarterfinals with a regional championship victory over Fenwick and a sectional final win over St. Ignatius. But the Dolphins lost their top three hitters and their setter, and will rebuild around 6-2 outside Konrad Klimek.

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Boys volleyball season is here. Last year saw a couple surprises. Surprise #1: Taft won city last year. Taft's boys volleyball team was their only team to win a city championship in any sport in the 2006-07 season. Surprise #2 - Whitney Young became the first Public League volleyball team to advance to the state quarterfinals after the elimination of the automatic Public League state berth a few years ago.

What do these surprises mean? It could mean that city volleyball is on the rise. With the emergence of Taft and Northside Prep, the city now has several quality volleyball teams that are looking to compete with their suburban counterparts. Others teams to look out for in the city include Lane Tech, Payton, Lincoln Park, and Kelvyn Park. 2007-08 Pre-season boys volleyball rankings:

1. Taft
2. Whitney Young
3. Lane Tech
4. Payton
5. Lincoln Park
6. Kelvyn Park
7. Northside Prep
8. Gage Park
9. Von Steuben
10. Foreman

--- Neil Hernandez

1. Taft - This team is tall, combined with a good amount of skill. A Decent backrow with a strong block, combined with a very capable offense makes this the team to beat.

2. Northside Prep - Another tall team, revolving around Carl Nerger, John Konow and Craig Melheuse. Powerful offense but questionable defense with libero Stephen Morioka injured.

3. Lane Tech - Always an all-around team, another team to watch for.

3. Lincoln Park - Another all-around team.

5. Payton - With the loss of last year's 2 outside hitters, this team will have to rely on their 2 middles very heavily.

6. Whitney Young - With the loss of their all city trio of setter, outside hitter, and middle, this team is rebuilding around their younger Klimek brothers.(Albert and Konrad Klimek)

7. Amundsen - A Very underrated team, they contested with northside prep in the green division during the 06-07 season. With a solid core of players, this team should contend for the red division placement by the end of the year.

7 Kelvyn Park - This team somewhat died out last year due to conflicts within the team, but should be back on their feet this year.

9. Gage Park - Very solid team, has been the top team in the red south for the past couple of years. The team has been led by one of the city's top setters - Froylan Madrigal - for 3 years now.

10. Von Steuben - A very capable team that has lost their all city libero and star hitter, this team is definitely rebuilding the team's core.

Wild card - Schurz

These projections can instantly be turned to naught when a decent team - like Payton or Whitney - acquires another player in a much-needed position.

For example: Payton finds a great backrow player and another strong hitter. Their game will change dramatically - one player can do this for a team.

Okay, one thing we know for sure is that Taft has earned the right to be projected first in this conference due to their city title and all the returning players.
However, when it comes to the 2nd/3rd spot in the "preseason" conference ranking there is not doubt in my mind that it is between Northside and Whitney Young.
Both Whitney Young and Northside return undoubtedly the best trio of players in the city with John Konow from NSCP, and the Klimek (Albert and Konrad) brothers from WY.

I think that Taft has the overall balance but the above two teams could easily challenge for that spot and essentially pull off a city title.

The rest of the conference is about at a leveled playing field; with Lane/LP/Payton being decent teams with a few okay players here and there.

I believe that this year, Whitney Young, Lane Tech, and Lincoln Park would put up a good fight. I don't think Taft would take it again, it was quite unbelievable for them to win last year.

I heard all the players from Taft quit this season.

We didnt quit 4 of our starters are are getting back on the team. The middle blocker who is 6'4 is injured. Lukasz Sienko is coming back he is one of the top 50 players. Mario is coming back who can jump out of the gym. So watch out we are going back to back.

Now that the Taft's whole team is back the fun begins!

Yes taft, i hope you can jump out of the gym and tip your way to victory, its basically all you can do.

You can talk all you want but winning is winning.

Nice Taft. Going down to that Green Division.

Yea we are going down to green but Playoff are here. This is what counts!

Taft is suffering from a major loss of dedication. Not only that, but the loss of their coach. They're not a threat for this year.

This year watch out for Kenwood Academy's Jason Jeffries 5'11 senior..with a big ten spike

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This page contains a single entry by Back Row published on March 11, 2008 11:32 PM.

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