By Pat Brozynski

December 2008 Archives

It's Mason for Dabrowski, by George!

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By Phil Brozynski

Peter Dabrowski, a 6-foot-7 middle hitter for DuPage Valley Conference power Glenbard East and Sports Performance 18 Elite, has committed to George Mason University, SPVC boys director Bryan Johnwick recently announced.

Dabrowski had 163 kills and 122 blocks for No. 2-ranked Glenbard East (36-4) last year including 10 kills in the Rams' state quarterfinal upset loss to Neuqua Valley.

Dabrowski will join a growing number of former area standouts now playing at George Mason including 6-5 junior setter Ryan Kwiatkowski (Neuqua Valley) and 6-6 junior outside Ben Nichols (Glenbrook North).

Dabrowski will likely be among the candidates to replace 6-5 outside hitter Kyle Gramit (Naperville North), who was Mason's leading hitter last year and an all-EIVA (Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) selection.

George Mason finished 20-8 last season, losing to top-ranked Penn State in the EIVA championship. George Mason is located just outside Washington, D.C. in Fairfax, Virginia and enrolls nearly 18,000 undergraduate students.

Illinois players make impact at NCAA finals

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By Phil Brozynski

A number of former Illinois high school standouts are members of teams that participated in the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship semifinals and finals last weekend in Omaha, Nebraska.

Two former Illinois players - Cary-Grove's Kim Hohl and Proviso East's Arielle Wilson -
are members of Penn State (38-0), which won its second straight NCAA title Saturday by beating Stanford 25-20, 26-24, 25-23.

Wilson, a sophomore, was fourth on the team in kills (244) and second in blocks (155).

Former Naperville Central standout and Chicago Sun-Times 2005 Player of the Year Jessica Yanz is a member of semifinalist Nebraska, which snapped Penn State's streak of consecutive games won at 111 and extended the Nittany Lions to five games in their semifinal.

Yanz is redshirting this season at Nebraska after transferring from Penn State and will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2009.

Finally, one of the big reasons Texas reached the national semifinals was former St. Francis setter Michelle Kocher. One of the biggest reasons Texas failed to advance to the finals was the Texas coach's decision to pull Kocher for one point in the fifth set of its match with Stanford.

With Texas serving, the coach yanked the 5-foot-10 Kocher out of the front row to try to get a bigger block against the Stanford rally. The Cardinal returned a playable ball, but Texas was unable to make a decent set and Stanford won the point and eventually the match.

Kocher finished with 1,307 assists, 208 digs and 36 blocks for the 29-4 Longhorns.

Hannah Werth, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter and setter from Chatham Glenwood, was named the 2008 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year. The selections are made by the staff ESPNRise based upon recommendations from high school coaches and

Other players who were considered in lllinois were Mother McAuley setter and Chicago Sun-Times 2008 Player of the Year Desiree Aramburu, and Benet's Ariana Mankus and Jessica Jendryk.

Werth, who will head to Nebraska next fall, set the state's all-time careers kills standard and played for the U.S. Junior National Team.

Players to keep an eye on in 2009 are Joliet Catholic outside hitter Annemarie Hickey, Burlington Central's Stephanie Holthus, St. Francis' Kelsey Robinson and Belleville Althoff's setter/outside hitter Carly Thomas.

Did your school make the "big" list?

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By Phil Brozynski recently released its list of the top 1,000 high school teams in the nation, including 2008 national champion La Costa Canyon from Carlsbad, California.

The rankings from 101-1,000 are largely ceremonial, designed to recognize teams for their overall achievement. This part of the list makes no claim that team No. 201 is better than team No. 202.

Teams from Illinois included No. 13 Joliet Catholic (39-3), No. 14 St. Charles East (38-4); No. 16 Benet Academy (40-2), No. 17 Mother McAuley (39-3); No. 43 Naperville Central (33-6); No. 70 Naperville North (33-5); and No. 122 Downers Grove South (28-8).

Also, No. 123 Breese Mater Dei (36-6), No. 124 Belleville Althoff (33-4); No. 141 Lemont (30-5); No. 172 Wheaton St. Francis (32-8); No. 173 Burlington Central (35-7); No. 179 Edwardsville (32-8); and No. 231 Quincy (34-4).

Also, No. 232 Metamora (32-3); No. 271 Bloomington; No. 272 Normal (27-9); No. 312 (Chicago) Payton (37-3); No. 313 Oak Forest (32-5); No. 314 York; No. 315. Morton (Ill.); and No. 316 Freeburg (36-5).

Also, No. 346 Lyons (28-11); No. 470 Rosary; No. 471 Lockport; No. 472 Marian Central; No. 473 Hampshire; No. 485 Evanston; No. 486 Crystal Lake South (32-7); No. 507 Marist (27-11); No. 508 Geneva (30-8); and No. 532 Hinsdale Central (28-9).

Also, No. 582 Moline; No. 583 Joliet; No. 595 Breese Central; No. 597 Glenbard East; No. 679 Cary-Grove; No. 689 Stagg; No. 725 (Elgin) St. Edward; and No. 973 Illinois Class 1A champion (Lanark) Eastland.


The following freshmen are among those who have been nominated for the Frosh 59, a list of the top freshmen around the country:

Nominees from Illinois include; Meghan Niski, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter from St. Charles East; Alex Viliunas, a 6-1 setter from Lyons; Caroline Rose, a 5-7 outside hitter from York; and Maisey Mulvey, a 5-6 libero from St. Charles East.

Also, Brooke Schulte, a 5-9 outside hitter from Breese Mater Dei; Michelle Schultz, a 5-8 outside hitter from (Chicago) Payton; and Amelia Wegman, a 6-0 middle hitter from (Aurora) Rosary.


Finally, Friday the 12th may as well have been Friday the 13th for local players whose college teams were playing in the NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Regional semifinals. Western Michigan, Illinois, Michigan, UCLA, Purdue and Florida were all ousted.

"Sweet" field has decidedly Illinois aroma

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By Phil Brozynski

The NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Sweet Sixteen - which resumes play Friday, December 12 with eight regional semifinals - features a number of teams led by Illinois-bred players.

Chief among the teams with a Land of Lincoln flavor is No. 8 Illinois (26-7), which plays California (25-6) Friday at 3:30 p.m. E.T. in State College, Pa. The Illini, one of four Big Ten teams in the regional semifinals, are led by Downers Grove North product Laura DeBruler.

Setters Hillary Haen (Prairie Ridge) and Lizzie Bazetta (Naperville North) and middle Abby Nelson (Marist) are also among the Illini stalwarts who will try to earn a berth opposite unbeaten Penn State in Saturday's 4:00 p.m. E.T. regional final.

Other Illinois products on the roster are Michelle Bartsch (Collinsville), Catherine Culligan (St. Francis), Nicole Kump (Joliet Catholic), Rachel Feldman (Normal) and Clinton products Kristine Anderson and Kylie McCulley.

Western Michigan (29-5) faces the unenviable task of taking on the Nittany Lions in Friday's regional semifinals. Penn State is the overall No. 1 seed in the field and boasts a 34-0 record. But Western Michigan won't be intimidated.

That's because the Broncos feature five Illinois products in junior libero Caitlin Strimel (Mother McAuley), junior setter Jillian Mitchell (Downers Grove South), sophomore middle Jaime Gotham (Glenbard East), sophomore outside Kate Corbett (McAuley) and junior outside Katie Eberling (Stagg).

In the lower half of the bracket, No. 19 Michigan (26-8) will face powerhouse Nebraska (29-2) Friday in Seattle, Wash. The Wolverines upset No. 13-seed St. Louis behind senior Beth Karpiak (Lyons) and sophomore setter Lexi Zimmerman (Barrington).

On the other side of the bracket, UCLA (22-10) takes on Texas behind All-American setter Nellie Spicer (Barrington), and Florida (27-3) will battle Stanford (28-3) behind super freshmen Katie Murphy (Joliet Catholic) and Colleen Ward (Naperville North).


Speaking of Murphy, the Wilmington native was named the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Freshman of the Year. Murphy leads the Gators in kills (351) and is second in assists (595). Murphy was the Sun-Times Player of the Year in 2007.

Also on the awards front, Evansville setter Ellen Sawin (Lincoln-Way Central) was named to the Missouri Valley Conference's all-freshman team. Sawin was a third team Sun-Times all-area selection in 2007.


Illinois' women's volleyball program is reaping the benefits of its Sweet Sixteen run and national ranking, receiving a verbal commitment from 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter Jaz Orozco from Lakewood (Calif.).

"Play up" anybody? Anybody? Hello?

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By Phil Brozynski

Play up, anyone?

Last spring, the Illinois High School Association approved a recommendation from Executive Director Marty Hickman to adopt a new "Playing Up in Classification Policy" for the 2008-2009 school year.

Essentially, the new policy allows schools to petition to play up in selected sports and or activities. Previously, schools could only petition with the understanding that the school's entire athletic programs would be required to play up.

So how many schools have taken advantage of this new policy?

Exactly one. Highland High School. The sport in which Highland wanted to "play up?" Competitive cheerleading. The lack of schools petitioning to "play up" has caught even the IHSA off-guard.

Two years ago under the old policy, (Peoria) Manual, a public school with 588 students, asked to be classified as a Class AA school in the final year of the two-class basketball format back in 2007.

Of course, that meant at the time that all of Manual's athletic teams had to "play up" - not that they were going to achieve any kind of greatness in any sport other than basketball regardless where they were classified.

But after one year of "playing up," Manual took a pass on the policy. Returning to small school (Class 2A) status for the 2007-2008 basketball season, the Rams reached the finals of the state tournament before losing to North Lawndale. Manual will play basketball in 2A again this winter.

Why bring this up?

If schools are really interested in crowning a true state champion in volleyball - or any sport for that matter - the new policy allows them to chose to "play up" without forcing their other sports teams to follow suit.

Not that bigger schools are always going to be better, but they do not have the option of "playing down."

Or the smaller schools can choose not to "play up" and let everybody argue about who really is the best team in Illinois. Just like they do every year in football.


Speaking of football, private, non-boundaried schools, which represent less than 20 percent of the membership in the Illinois High School Association, won four of eight (50 percent) state football championships last weekend.

The only private school to lose a state title game (Aurora Christian) lost to another private school (Bloomington Central Catholic). Since 2001, private schools have won 42 percent (27 of 64) of state football titles.

Once again, whispers for change are being heard from around the state.

Meanwhile, there have been no such calls for change in volleyball despite the fact that since the beginning of the IHSA state volleyball tournament in 1975, virtually half (35 of 71) of the state champions have been private schools.

Of course, four schools account for all but seven of the 35 private school volleyball titles -Mother McAuley (13), St. Francis (seven), Breese Mater Dei (five) and Quincy Notre Dame (three).

The winningest public schools? Downers Grove South, with state titles in 1996, 1999 and 2002, Breese Central (1996, 2005, 2007) and Freeburg (1979, 1982, 2008).

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