By Pat Brozynski

September 2008 Archives

Little Lemont ready for the big show

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By Phil Brozynski

Lemont silenced the doubters last weekend.

The Indians did not win the 34th Annual Rich East Volleyball invitational, but by reaching the finals and pushing Mother McAuley in the second game of the championship match, Lemont established itself as a threat to win the Class 3A state title.

Especially after the Mighty Macs buried nationally-ranked and pre-season 3A favorite Belleville Althoff 25-8, 25-11 in the semifinals.

"We have the potential," Lemont coach Chris Zogata said. "We were right there. If we had passed from the beginning of the match, it might have been completely different. We're hitting well. If we can pass the ball, we can really take care of business."

Lemont led 22-21 in the second game on a kill by sophomore Courtney Keefe (eight kills). But a service error, an ace by Sue Hayes, a kill by Jessica Galotta and another Lemont error gave the Mighty Macs the title, 25-15, 25-23.

The loss, however, did not dampen Zogata's enthusiasm.

"This weekend was our test," she said. "To have to play Marist, Belleville West and Lincoln-Way East, then to beat Lyons which has improved so much since earlier in the season, is very exciting."

Lemont would have to get past Joliet Catholic and St. Francis to reach Bloomington. But the Indians have plenty of firepower with Keefe, Jenna Litoborski, Aubrey Sniegowski, Danielle Susz, Danielle Keefe and setters Vicki Wrobel and Becca Bograd.

And after going toe-to-toe with McAuley and beating a vastly improved Lyons team, the Indians will be ready.

Meanwhile, the tournament raised some questions about Althoff's credentials. Even coach Kathy Wuller was stunned.

"We stunk," she said. "It was a total team breakdown. We've never been that bad of a passing team. I don't know where that came from. We're not that bad.

"But it seems that every time we play McAuley, we play scared," Wuller added. "I don't know if it's their tradition. It seems just the word 'McAuley' puts a scare in the team. Also, McAuley is a little better than people give them credit for."

Althoff will have a chance to make amends when it participates in the St. Charles East Mizuno Cup tournament October 10-11 at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center in Aurora.

Here's one tournament at McAuley the Macs can't win

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By Phil Brozynski

The plan is to play some of the matches at Mother McAuley, but the Mighty Macs won't get any closer to the floor than the bleachers.

Brother Rice volleyball coach Brother Paul Ickes, C.F.C. is attempting to bring some of the top boys teams from Illinois and across the country together April 24-25 for the 1st Annual Brother Rice Crusader Smack Down.

The tournament would be played at Brother Rice, Mother McAuley and St. Xavier University, which has hosted a number of Illinois High School Association events including boys and girls basketball supersectionals at its Shannon Center.

Among the Illinois teams invited to participate are defending champion Wheaton Warrenville South, perennial power Sandburg, Belleville Althoff, Buffalo Grove, Lincoln-Way East, Lyons, Neuqua Valley, Providence, Marist, Glenbrook North and St. Francis.

The out-of-state invitees include Catalina Foothills (Tucson, Ariz.), Loyola (Los Angeles (Calif.), Mira Costa (Calif.), Valencia (Calif.), Bishop Moore (Orlando, Fla.), St. John's Prep (Danvers, Mass.), St. Louis University (Mo.), and Elder (Cincinnati, Ohio).

"Mother McAuley has paved the way and set the standard for hosting national volleyball tournaments such as the Nike Challenge and the Chicago Challenge featuring 2007 NCAA champion Penn State," Ickes said.

"I think we can host a tremendous tournament experience on our three campuses," he added.

The two-day, five-match format would employ six-to-eight courts each day. Fans will be able to walk from one campus to another within minutes.

Invitations were mailed September 22. If Bro. Ickes can pull it off, the Smack Down could become one of the premier high school sporting events anywhere in the United States.

State pairings a little lopsided...again

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By Phil Brozynski

The Illinois High School Association conducted its fall sports "rolling of the peas" Friday at IHSA headquarters in Bloomington. The result?

In Class 4A, if the projected top-seeded teams in each supersectional advance to the state semifinals, the matchups at Redbird Arena could look something like this: Evanston/Hersey vs. St. Charles East, and Downers Grove South/Benet/Naperville Central vs. Mother McAuley.

In Class 3A, the survivor of the Oswego supersectional featuring Joliet Catholic, Lemont and St. Francis would take on Belleville Althoff in one semifinal, while the other could feature Freeport vs. Marian Central.

Draw your own conclusions.

***

Six Illinois teams remain among the top 50 in John Tawa's PrepVolleyball.com national poll released earlier last week.

Benet, the top team in the Chicago area, remained No. 4 and Downers Grove South, seventh in the preseason poll, remained at No. 7, Naperville Central, despite remaining unbeaten, dropped one spot to 15.

Belleville Althoff, ranked 46th in the preseason poll, moved up to No. 29, Mother McAuley dropped seven spots to No. 44, and St. Charles East, a bubble team in the preseason, came in at No. 45.

Bloomington, Edwardsville, Joliet Catholic, Lemont, Naperville North and St. Francis were among the teams "On the verge."

***

The most impressive players at Prairie Ridge Saturday?

Naperville Central's Emily McGee and Megan Bray; St. Charles East's Jacqui Seidel and Caroline Niski; Cary-Grove's Allison Strauman and Kelly Lamberti (has anyone clocked her serve?); and Prairie Ridge's Sondra Parys and Taylor Brauneis.

Other observations from Prairie Ridge?

Naperville Central's Jill Fields drew comparisons to Sun-Times 2006 Player of the Year Lindsay Mango. The Redhawks' Mary Carroll is a better-than-adequate third option. And Barrington's athletic 6-foot junior Emily Harris has an unlimited ceiling.

***

Monday's rankings did not reflect St. Francis' performance at the Crossroads Classic hosted by Effingham, which, depending upon one's viewpoint, could have been a good thing or a bad thing.

The Spartans (12-2) squandered a 24-20 lead in the second game of their championship match against nationally-ranked and unbeaten Belleville Althoff (9-0), eventually losing 14-25, 26-24, 25-20.

However, for a team that was throught too young and too inexperienced -- particularly following last year's mass exodus due to gradation -- to contend for the state's 3A title, St. Francis proved a lot of folks wrong.

If the two teams do meet again, it would be in the state semifinals.

Top seniors, Joliet make an impression

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By Phil Brozynski

Nine seniors from Illinois were named to the list of 100 Top Senior "Aces" released recently by PrepVolleyball.com and based primarily on the input of college coaches.

The top senior in Illinois is Hannah Werth, a 6-foot outside hitter from Chatham Glenwood ranked No. 4 in the nation and who has committed to Nebraska. After Werth, Glenbard East's Amanda Peterson, a 6-foot setter headed to Ohio State, checks in at No. 40.

Benet's Jessica Jendryk, a 6-1 middle hitter who has committed to Illinois, checks in at No. 45, while Sycamore's 6-2 middle blocker Samantha Thrower, an Indiana recruit who led her team to third-place in Class 3A last year, is 58th.

Also cracking the top 100 were No. 57 Erin Johnson, a 6-3 Illinois-bound middle from Crystal Lake South; No. 71. Kasey Heckleman, a 6-1 outside from Bloomington who has committed to Louisville; and No. 81 Kayla Fitterer, an Alabama-bound 6-1 outside from Edwardsville.

Rounding out the Illinois products in the top 100 were Courtney Cunningham, a 6-0 outside hitter/middle blocker from (Chicago) Payton who is committed to Mississippi; and No. 99 Emily McGee, the 6-foot outside from Naperville Central who is headed to North Carlina.

Illinois seniors who were listed among the next 150 (in no particular order) were: Andrea Bolt, a 5-3 libero from Freeburg; Courtney Gosewisch, a 5-9 libero from Downers Grove South; and Meghan Bray, the 6-foot outside from Naperville Central.

Also, Kelly Griffin, a 6-1 outside hitter from Mother McAuley; Sondra Parys, the 6-foot outside hitter from Prairie Ridge; Natalie Patzin, a 5-11 outside from Benet Academy; and Taylor Bruns, a 6-foot setter from Normal U-High.

Also named to the next 150 were Laura Homann, a 5-10 setter from St. Charles East; Amy Kendall, a 6-1 setter from Glenbard West; and Marielle Oestermeyer, a 6-1 setter/middle from Downers Grove South.

Finally, Burlington Central's 5-10 setter Molly Turk; Waubonsie Valley's 6-2 middle Kari Galen; Belleville Althoff's 6-1 middle blocker Carly Marcum; and Carly Schumacher, a 6-2 middle blocker from Normal U-High.

***

Among the more impressive teams at last weekend's Plainfield North tournament was Joliet, which improved to 5-2 with a 25-15, 25-14 victory over St. Charles North in the third-place game Saturday.

"We played well," said Joliet coach Alan Mart. "We had one lapse against Rosary, but Rosary played well so it wasn't all our fault. This was a good, positive tournament for us. We're growing. I'm happy, but not satisfied."

Leaders for Joliet over the weekend were 5-foot-8 junior outside hitter Breanne Shaw, 5-8 senior outside Antoneya Veasy-Smith, 5-11 junior middle hitter Kim Vertin and all-tournament selection Vivan Pritz, a 5-9 senior setter/rightside hitter.

In addition to its victories over St. Charles North and the hosts at Plainfield North, Joliet took a bus south on Labor Day and defeated Normal. Joliet's losses were to Sandburg in its conference opener and to Rosary in Saturday's semifinals.

Four local teams get national nod

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By Phil Brozynski

Four area teams cracked the Prepvolleyball.com top 100 to open the 2008 season.

Benet, the No. 1 team in the Sun-Times' preseason volleyball poll, check in at No. 4. The Redwings, who finished 35-4 in 2007 and ranked 36th in the final Prepvolleyball.com poll last season, welcome back Illinois recruit Jessica Jendryk and a talented supporting cast.

Hard-hitting outsides Ariana Mankus and Natalie Patzin, libero Paige Vargas and middle Val Mattaliano give Benet some formidable depth, and the addition of transfer Brianne Hucek will help the Redwings overcome the loss of setter Beth Kinsella to a torn ACL.

Downers Grove South, which in any other year might have been the top team in Chicago and may still find its way to the summit, is ranked No. 7 in the country by Prepvolleyball.com. The Mustangs, ranked No. 68 in the final 2007 poll, are seeking their first state title since 2002.

Defending state champion Naperville Central is No. 14 in the country, according to Prepvolleyball.com. The Redhawks, who finished 38-4 a year ago, are led by outsides Emily McGee and Megan Bray and middles Nicole Sarby and Nicole Ramey.

The final Chicago team in the top 100 is Mother McAuley, which is ranked No. 37 by Prepvolleyball.com guru John Tawa. The Mighty Macs will turn to Desiree Aramburu to replace graduated setter Melissa Joyce, and all-area pick in 2007.

Downstate powers Belleville Althoff and Normal Comunity are also ranked in the top 100 by Prepvolleyball.com. The Class 3A favorite Crusaders boast US Youth National Team setter Carly Thomas, while Normal is led by Illinois State recruit Jenny Menendez.

Among the teams just missing the top 100 are Lemont, St. Charles East and St. Francis. Honorable mention selections include Crystal Lake South, Hampshire, Joliet Catholic, Marist, Naperville North, Plainfield North and Prairie Ridge.

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