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.