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.