By Pat Brozynski

November 2008 Archives

By Phil Brozynski

Illinois high school volleyball said goodbye to a great coach and an ever better person when Belleville Althoff coach Kathy Wuller recently announced she was stepping down.

Wuller coach the Crusaders to nearly 400 victories in her 13 years at the school including a second-place state finish in 1999, third-place finishes in 2001 and 2004 and fourth-place finishes in 2003 and 2007.

Althoff was an annual fixture in the Chicago area, competing in the Rich East tournament and the St. Charles East Mizuno Scholastic Cup. The Crusaders finished third at St. Charles East under Wuller in 2007.

The Crusaders were touted as a national-title contender prior to this season thanks to the presence of U.S. Youth National Team setter Carly Thomas and middle hitter Carly Marcum. But Althoff had trouble living up to the hype.

Althoff won 30 games this year, but suffered a 25-8, 25-11 loss to Mother McAuley at the Rich East tournament and was eliminated from the 2008 Class 3A state tournament in the sectional semifinals by Breese Mater Dei, a team it had beaten twice earlier in the season.


Benet's Jessica Jendryk and Chatham Glenwood's Hannah Werth were among 24 players from throughout the nation named to the 2008-2009 Under Armour All-American High School Volleyball Team.

Each of the 24 players on the first team will be invited to play in the inaugural Under Armour All-American Volleyball Match and Skills Competition scheduled for December 21 at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Jendryk, who led the Redwings to second place at the recently-concluded Illinois High School Association Class 4A state tournament, is headed to Illinois next fall. Werth, a 6-1 outside hitter, is committed to Nebraska.


Werth's high school coach, Larry Sample, also announced his resignation recently. Sample exited with a career record of 672-150 including an 84-29 record in three years at Chatham Glenwood. He coached at Jacksonville previously.

Sample, Werth and the Titans went 28-9 this season, losing to Champaign Centennial in the semifinals of the Class 3A Mt. Zion sectional.


Finally, girls volleyball will miss Lincoln-Way Central coach Joann Holverson, who announced recently she was giving up coaching the Knights' girls volleyball team. Holverson will remain as Lincoln-Way Central's boys' coach.

Holverson is the only coach in Illinois history to lead the same school (Sandburg) to state titles in both girls (1998) and boys volleyball (1999) in the same school year.

Holverson leaves girls volleyball after a 20-year career as a head coach at Thornwood, Sandburg and Lincoln-Way Central. Her career record in girls volleyball is 424-293.

She could easily equal if not eclipse that mark as a boys coach if she continues until she is eligible to retire in four years. Holverson is 339-109 coaching the guys.

Why did Joliet Catholic fall down?

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By Phil Brozynski

First of all, congratulations to Joliet Catholic on winning the Illinois High School Association Class 3A title.

But some people are wondering how the Angels could win a state championship and slip from No. 2 in the Sun-Times last regular-season poll to No. 4 in the final Sun-Times volleyball poll.

Blame the IHSA, St. Charles East and the math.

First of all, the Class 4A tournament field - top to bottom - was superior to the Class 3A field. The final four of Mother McAuley, Benet, St. Charles East and Evanston was significantly better than Burlington Central, Breese Mater Dei, Payton and Joliet Catholic.

It is hard to imagine, after watching the state finals, any of the three Class 3A semifinalists other than Joliet Catholic capable of beating Benet, Mother McAuley or St. Charles East.

So by winning the Class 4A title, regardless of the path they took to the championship game (and the IHSA contributed by steering the Saints clear of teams like Naperville Central, Naperville North and Downers Grove South), the Saints earned the final No. 1 ranking. What they did during the regular season does not affect their final ranking.

That left three teams for consideration for the next three poll positions. And that's where head-to-head meetings came into play.

Joliet Catholic lost to Mother McAuley in their only meeting (at Glenbard East). Benet beat McAuley in their only meeting (in the 4A semifinals). Benet and Joliet Catholic split. So in meetings among the three teams, Benet was 2-1, McAuley was 1-1 and Joliet Catholic was 1-2.

That's how Benet finished second, McAuley third and Joliet Catholic fourth in the final poll.

If Benet had won the 4A title, the final rankings would have been No. 1 Benet, No. 2 McAuley, No. 3 Joliet Catholic (still dropping one spot) and No. 4 St. Charles. If McAuley had won (and beaten Benet in the semifinals), Joliet Catholic would have remained No. 2.


You have to admire Sue Hayes' matter where they are.

During Friday's intense semifinal between Mother McAuley and Benet, the Mighty Macs' 5-foot-1 libero ran off the court prompting a brief pause in the match. Hayes looked at first if she was going to head up the tunnel exiting the arena.

Only the McAuley bench and a few close spectators knew what was ailing Hayes. But when she knelt in front of a bucket surrounded by teammates, it became apparent that intestinal distress has gotten the best of the 5-foot-1 senior.

After a few minutes, Hayes returned to the floor, waiving to the McAuley fans with a wide smile across her face.

"She was giving everything she had on the floor, and she left some in the bucket, too," McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said.


Apparently, the listed starting times for the state volleyball tournament are more like guidelines than actual rules.

Neither 9:30 a.m. match on Friday or Saturday started on time, and when Saturday's Class 1A third-place match went three games, the 1A title game was pushed back to 11:00 a.m. Then that match went three games.

By the time St. Edward took the court for a 11:30 a.m. scheduled start to the 2A third-place match, it was 1:25 p.m.

Saturday's headliner 4A title game between Benet and St. Charles East, scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., did not begin until nearly 8:30 p.m. and did not finish until 9:50 p.m.

Of course, if you're a fan and you have to wait two, three hours before your team's game begins, you can always pass the time by visiting nearby scenic Towanda.


Quick. Can you find Ashland, Chandlerville or Prentice on a map? Or even know where to look? How about Blandinsville? Good Hope? Tennessee (the town not the state)? Greenup? Jewett? Dover? Leepertown? Pesotum? Sadorus? Fayetteville?

All those towns were represented by teams in the Illinois state volleyball tournament.


2009 favorites?

In Class 1A, Lanark Eastland returns sophomore setter Hope Linker, 6-1 sophomore middle Courtney Blair, 5-8 sophomore Katelyn Hasken and 5-9 junior outside Megan Bunyer.

In 2A, Freeburg loses setter Krystin Wahlig and libero Andrea Bolt, but welcomes back most of its offense including 6-2 middle Kayleigh Cox, outside Colleen Yarber, sophomore middle Chelsi Hummert and outside Sam Kassing.

Joliet Catholic and Annemarie Hickey and St. Francis with Kelsey Robinson figure to emerge as early favorites in 3A, but don't discount a return visit by Burlington Central with junior star Stephanie Holthus.

Also in 3A, Payton could return to Normal with 6-2 sophomore Mari Faines, sophomore libero Lauren Lee, freshman outside Michelle Schultz and sophomore setter Roxanne Rivera.

In Class 4A, McAuley welcomes back Jessica Falk, Jessica Galotta, tradition and fiercely stubborn determination, St. Charles returns Meghan and Caroline Niski, Jacqui Seidel, Maisey Mulvey and 6-2 sophomore Olivia Desormey, and Evanston returns outsides Ali Gossen and Megan McCareins.

But another team to watch is Naperville North, which returns a powerful front line of Sidney Sauter, Kaia Schwartz and Audrey Wilson.

By Phil Brozynski

Every year you hear the same malarkey from the Illinois High School Association - it's all about the kids.

If it's all about the kids, then why does the Class 1A girls volleyball championship tip off at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning for the second consecutive year. Wasn't there talk of flip-flopping the schedule on alternate years so the small schools get their chance to play in primetime?

Instead, for the second consecutive year, the Class 4A title match will tip off Saturday at 7:45 p.m. (more likely, 8:30 p.m. or later since the combination of warm-ups and trophy presentations usually push the starting time back into the day after tomorrow).

And if it's "all about the kids," can we please not hear "Celebration" for the umpteenth millionth time during the trophy presentations? The song was recorded back in 1981, when even these kids' parents weren't old enough to vote.

Here's an idea. Why not ask the kids what they would like to hear during the trophy presentations? They do a pretty darn good job of picking out music for warmups before home games. I don't think they'll choose "Celebration."

And if it's all about the kids, maybe someday the IHSA will send the winner from a sectional other than Naperville North or Downers Grove South down to Pekin or Normal or goodness knows where for a Class 4A supersectional.

Not only would it give fans from the western suburbs a chance to actually "attend" a supersectional, it might actually give the team representing the large downstate schools a chance to "win" one.

I don't think the extra 20 or 30 miles involved will make that much difference.

And I understand November 11 is Veteran's Day (thanks, dad) and a school holiday, but if we really have the kids' best interests at heart, how hard is it to open the school doors so Payton can practice?

And if it's all about the kids, can't we stop punishing kids for living in the wrong community?

Geographic representation is fine and dandy in the U.S. Senate, but that's like saying Tampa Bay and Philadelphia should not be in the World Series together because they're in the same time zone.

Someday, the best players and the best teams will actually compete for a state title in Illinois.

Maybe in bass fishing.

Thanks for pointing it out...Volleyball is No. 1

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By Phil Brozynski

A friend and fellow writer insisted the other day that cross country was more popular in the Chicago area than volleyball. So I decided to do some digging.

While I could not find figures broken down by geographic regions of Illinois, the National Federation of High School Associations did have figures for individual sports broken down by state for the 2007-2008 school year.

According to figures supplied by the Illinois High School Association to the national federation, Illinois ranks fifth nationally in the number of athletes participating in interscholastic sports.

Illinois has 202,792 boys and 133,854 girls competing in high school sports, trailing only Texas, California, New York and Ohio. Football is the No. 1 sport in Illinois, with 51,334 boys, followed by baseball (24,663), track and field (24,517) and basketball (23,846).

And what is the No. 1 girls sport in Illinois?


Nearly 700 schools in Illinois field girls volleyball teams. Slightly more than 21,600 girls compete in volleyball. Basketball, with 17,804 participants, was second, followed closely by track and field (17,262) and softball (17,130).

Where was cross country? Girls cross country (8,753 participants) trailed soccer (15,919) and just barely nudged tennis (7,958) among Illinois female athletic participation. Boys and girls cross-country combined still fell short of volleyball.

If you add the 192 high schools which sponsor boys teams, volleyball whips cross country 28,666-18,519.

Now those are state-wide numbers, and not all small downstate schools sponsor cross country teams. But based on regional and sectional results on the IHSA web site, many do, particularly as co-ops.

And how many Chicago-area cross country programs sponsor four levels of competition like volleyball does?

Nationally, girls volleyball has 397,969 participants and ranks third in popularity behind basketball (449,450) and track (447,520). Cross country is sixth, with fewer than half as many participants (190,349) as volleyball.

Boys volleyball, on the other hand, did not break the top 10 nationally. But girls and boys volleyball combined still outdistanced cross country.

But the bottom line is this...volleyball is the most popular sport among girls in Illinois. Let's just hope the powers that be don't mess it up by expanding the state tournament to near-football proportions.

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