By Pat Brozynski

January 2009 Archives

Local players, coaches reap national recognition

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By Phil Brozynski

Prepvolleyball.com has released its list of the top 50 recruits in the Class of 2010 and three Chicago area players are among those college coaches predict will make the biggest impact at the next level.

The list includes 6-foot-1 outside hitter Kelsey Robinson (Wheaton St. Francis), 6-0 outside hitter Carly Sahagian (Bartlett), and 5-11 outside hitter Stephanie Holthus (Burlington Central), who has already verbally committed to Northwestern.

Kara Wehrs, a 5-9 setter from Hampshire who has verbally committed to Kansas, is listed among the next 30 top recruits in the Class of 2010.

Three Chicago area players were among the nominees for Prepvolleyball.com's Andi Collins Award, which recognizes the best senior setter in the nation. The Award is named for Collins, who died on September 4, 2003, one month shy of her 17th birthday.

The three players from Chicago are Desiree Aramburu from Mother McAuley, the 2008 Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year, Laura Homann from St. Charles East, who led the Saints to the Class 4A state title, and Joliet Catholic's Gina Vera.

The 5-8 Aramburu finished with 792 assists, 260 digs, 90 kills, 48 blocks and 49 aces while leading Mother McAuley to a third-place finish in Class 4A. Homann, a 5-10 Syracuse recruit, piled up 1,100 assists, among the best single-season marks all-time in Illinois.

At 5-8, Vera was a good six inches shorter than Joliet Catholic's previous setter -- Sun-Times 2007 Player of the Year Kelly Murphy. But she launched 935 assists while guiding the Angels to the Class 3A state title.

Meanwhile, Vera's teammate at Joliet Catholic, 5-8 outside hitter Anne Marie Hickey, was among 25 players nationwide nominated for National High School Junior of the Year. A Sun-Times all-area selection, Hickey amassed 427 kills with her rocket arm.

Finally, two area coaches were among the finalists for Prepvolleyball.com's National High School Coach of the Year - St. Charles East's Jennie Kull and Joliet Catholic's Chris Scheibe.

Kull led St. Charles East to the Class 4A state title with two freshmen in the starting lineup and only one player over six feet. Scheibe took Joliet Catholic to the 3A title one year after graduating Gatorade National Player of the Year Kelly Murphy and four other starters.

Previous Coach of the Year winners include Peg Kopec from St. Francis (2006) and Nancy Pederson of Mother McAuley (2004).

Coaches OK with setting Wilson adrift

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By Phil Brozynski

For several years, we have had to listen to high school P.A. announcers across Illinois say, "When Illinois kids play games, they play with Wilson balls."

Well, no more.

The Illinois High School Association's contract with Wilson will end at the end of this school year. The IHSA has entered into a new five-year agreement with Washington-based Baden Sports, Inc., the official ball provider of the Chicago Bulls, to provide balls for the IHSA's various state series.

Reaction about the change is mixed among Illinois volleyball coaches. Many would prefer to see the IHSA endorse Molten as the official volleyball for the boys and girls state tournaments. Others are concerned about the price of Baden balls.

However, most were universal in their condemnation of the old Wilson balls.

"The Baden volleyball has been around for a while," said Walther Lutheran's Mara Schmidt. "I am not a fan as I feel it is hard to get them inflated properly so they tend to feel hard. The Wilson volleyballs were terrible, however, so switching is a good idea."

Marist's Bob St. Leger also likes the switch.

"The Wilson balls were not very durable at all," he said. "After using them everyday in practice, I always had to buy new balls the next year which obviously was expensive. Hopefully the Baden balls will be more durable.

"What the state should use are Molten volleyballs," he added. "These are the balls used in USA Volleyball and at the collegiate level."

Evanston's Mike McDermott also endorses the Molten.

"In my experience, the top of the line Baden volleyball is of a higher quality and consistency than any of the Wilson balls that we have used," he said. "If given the choice, our players would prefer the Molten Pro Touch, which is what they use in club all season."

Here is a sampling of what some other coaches are saying:

"It took us many years to get all the Tachikara balls out of our gym and replace them with Wilson. Now task begins again of slowly replacing all the balls in our gym again. I am interested in seeing how the ball reacts and what the feel of the ball is to the players." - Cary-Grove's Patty Langanis.

"Baden makes a better volleyball than Wilson. The feel between the volleyballs are different. Volleyball players who play club or in college will more than likely be using a Molten or a Baden ball. I personally prefer the Molten to the Baden, but the Baden is a step up from Wilson." - Lake Forest's Ray Werner.

"We have used Baden and it has been acceptable. However, I understand that the price of the ball that they are using for the state tournament is $100. There is no way that high school teams are going to be able to afford to use the ball to practice with." - St. Charles' Jennie Kull.

"They are good quality balls. Just like every other ball supplier... you have good quality, more expensive models as well as cheap, not so good products. The switch will not effect volleyball as far as I'm concerned." - Naperville North's Roger Strausberger.

"Baden has a high quality volleyball. I can't comment on the other sports, but Baden has been associated with volleyball for years." - Waubonsie Valley's Al Lagger.

"I can say, at least for volleyball, it is a step in the right direction. Nobody plays volleyball with a Wilson except at state tournament time. They were terrible volleyballs that did not hold up at all. At Glenbrook South, we would go through about 10 a girls season and 15 during boys." - Glenbrook South's Tim Monahan.

"I have heard of Baden, but I've mostly seen them as P.E. class volleyballs rather than competitive volleyballs. I have never used their quality volleyballs. The fact of the matter is most of the top players have to adjust to the Wilson volleyballs because clubs use the Molten balls. They will just have to adjust to something different. In volleyball I don't think too many people were in love with the Wilson volleyballs anyway, so the adjustment may end up being for the better." - former St. Charles North and Naperville North coach Brad Mitchell.

"As far as volleyball is concerned, Baden is a far superior product than the Wilson. Both Baden and Molten have been the preferred ball for collegiate and international competititon for the last 10 years or so. All boys and girls club organizations use one of those two balls. The Wilson ball is OK, but it does not hold up well over time. I have to replace Wilson balls about every two or three seasons. I am happy about the decision to switch." - Maine South coach Gary Granell.

"They make a better ball than Wilson, but not close to Molten or Tachikara. Molten is the official ball of the NCAAs, USAVB and internationally. It would make sense to go with them, but that never seems to be the case." - former Addison Trail coach Tom Hubner.

"Baden is a well made volleyball and has been around a long time. Wilson is really not the 'popular' volleyball choice, especially at the collegiate level where they use Molten. Tachikara is another popular brand and has been around a long time like Baden. I can't speak for the other sports, but it is a great volleyball." - Mother McAuley's Jen DeJarld.

"The IHSA has us answer a bunch of questions every year about the sport, but never have they asked us what is the best ball. I have never played with a Baden ball, so it is hard to determine if it is any good. But I guess what I am confused about is why they don't want our thoughts about what is the best. The Wilson ball was just OK, so I am sure everyone will forgot once the season gets going..assuming the Baden ball is decent. Hopefully they have our best interest in mind and this is just not a deal for money." - Addison Trail coach Brad Baker.

"I have heard of Baden but have never used the balls in volleyball. I do know that some of the vendors are quoting the prices of the balls and they are around $10 higher for volleyball, football, basketball and baseballs. The only ball that was cheaper were the softballs. I do not know the quality of the balls for any sport. I do know that it will be expensive to change the balls out as most coaches would like to practice and play with the ones that are used for the state series." - Edwards County's Linda Brown.

And finally...

"Now if they would just make the rule change for the colored ball. Of course, that's probably two or three years away." - Glenbrook South's Tim Monahan.


By Phil Brozynski

Illinois High School Association member schools recently voted 336-78 to move the date of the first contest in girls volleyball back one week. It was one of four proposals voted upon by the principals of IHSA member schools.

The 2008 season officially started on Monday, September 1 (Labor Day). Although as of Monday the IHSA Web site did not reflect the change, the 2009 girls volleyball season will now start on Monday, August 24.

The vote will not affect the state finals, which will be played November 12-13.

While the vote itself is likely to be viewed as a positive change (it will open up an additional weekend for tournaments), what was disappointing was how few principals (the schools' designated voting representative) took the time to vote on the proposals.

Only 415 principals voted electronically on the four proposals. There are 777 member schools. That means that only 53 percent of principals took the time to respond to issues that affect a significant number of their students.

What is worse is that fewer than two-thirds of all principals have bothered voting the last three times the IHSA held balloting on issues that affect student-athletes. During the 2006-2007 school year, only 57 percent of principals voted on six proposed measures.

Only once during the last 13 times schools have been asked to cast a ballot have at least three-quarters of them (78 percent on five proposals put forth during the 2005-06 school year) bothered to vote.

Apparently, many principals cannot be bothered to vote on major issues that affect their students.

So what is it exactly that principals do?

Oh, that's right. When their school finishes fourth or better at a state athletic tournament, they show up to accept their medal.

I've never seen a principal fail to appear for THAT event.

Former area stars earn Big Ten honors

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By Phil Brozynski

More than 50 boys and girls are participating in youth volleyball programs sponsored by Sports Performance Volleyball Club at the new Lake Barrington Field House.

The Lake Barrington Field House is a massive 175,000-square foot facility for football, baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball that opened this fall. Sports Performance is just one of several tenants occupying the facility.

"We have girls teams for 16s and down and one boys 18 team right now," said Sports Performance's Joe Jablonski. "Sure, you'd always like to have more kids. But we're happy with the initial turnout."

The Lake Barrington Field House includes a single artificial field turf playing surface that accommodates a full-size soccer field, two baseball/softball diamonds, a full-size football field or a full-size lacrosse field.

The facility also features 40,000-square feet of maple hardwood court surface that accommodates eight volleyball courts and four basketball courts. The courts have a 30-foot clear height roof.

Occupants include Sky High Volleyball, Lacrosse America and the Barrington Area Soccer Association.

Other occupants are Kessel's Training, a leading provider of camps, clinics and private instruction in basketball and volleyball, and ProSport, a unique sports training and rehab facility that is the leading provider of sports enhancement and rehabilitation in Chicagoland.

Sports Performance has already held one tournament at the facility, but does not expect to sponsor large high school events like the St. Charles East/Mizuno Cup tournament held at its Aurora location.

"The facility is really nice, but it does not accommodate as many spectators as the Aurora facility," Jablonski said. "It may be good for a smaller high school event."

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Congratulations to former Sun-Times All-Area standouts Laura DeBruler (Downers Grove North) of Illinois and Lexi Zimmerman (Barrington) of Michigan after being named unanimous All-Big Ten first team selections.

Arielle Wilson (Proviso East) of Penn State was also named to the Big Ten first team, while Beth Karpiak (Lyons Township) of Michigan earned All-Big Ten honorable mention honors.

llinois' Lizzie Bazzetta (Naperville North) and Iowa's Kiley Fister (St. Francis) were among the 11 recipients (one from each team) of the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior.

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On the recruiting front, Wheaton Warrenville South's 6-foot-9 middle Rob Samp has committed to Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne while Marist's 6-7 Joe Smalzer has committed to Loyola University (Chicago).

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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