By Pat Brozynski

February 2009 Archives

By Phil Brozynski

Katie Schumacher is returning to her roots to help volleyball blossom in the inner city.

Schumacher, a native of the Beverly area on the south side of Chicago, was one of the most dominant athletes in Illinois high school history. She led Mother McAuley to Class AA state volleyball titles in 1994 and 1995 and a second-place finish in 1996, and took the Mighty Macs to the Class AA state basketball finals in 1995.

Today, the former Penn State volleyball standout is coaching Powerhouse 16 Elite (located on the near south side of Chicago) and preparing for her new role as the head women's volleyball coach at the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC).

Schumacher, whose club team competed at the Presidents Day tournament at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center in Aurora February 14-15, is enjoying the surge of interest in volleyball among inner city girls.

"It's awesome," she said. "There's so many clubs now in the city. Powerhouse is the first club in the downtown Chicago area. A lot of these kids haven't played club volleyball before. They're learning, and they're excited to play at these tournaments."

Schumacher's players hail from several city schools including Whitney Young, Jones College Prep, St. Ignatius and Payton Academy. Last fall, Payton became the first Chicago Public League school to qualify for the state finals since the end of the automatic qualifier era.

Three girls from that Payton team - 5-9 outside hitter Michelle Schultz, 6-2 middle Mari Faines and 5-5 setter Roxanne Rivera - form the nucleus of the Powerhouse team. Powerhouse also boasts 6-0 Loyola middle Shannon Sullivan and St. Ignatius libero Mary Grassano.

Seven of the 11 members of the Powerhouse 16 Elite team are high school freshmen.

"These girls are getting better and better," Schumacher said. "This is a great experience for them. I am trying to help them any way I can."

Although her new role as a head coach of the Division I volleyball program at UIC will be time-consuming, Schumacher hopes to be able to continue working with Powerhouse.

"It's going to be a challenge, but I think I can handle it," she said.

By Phil Brozynski

Who are they kidding?

The Illinois High School Association released the list of sectional assignments for boys volleyball last week, and if there ever was a miscarriage of justice, this was it.

The Willowbrook sectional reads like a who's who of boys state powers including defending state champion Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard East, Hinsdale Central, Lyons, Benet, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Downers Grove South and St. Francis.

That's nine teams that in any given year that are capable of winning a state title fighting for one quarterfinal berth.

Meanwhile, the Elgin sectional has Addison Trail and Bartlett, Maine South has New Trier and Maine South, Highland Park has Buffalo Grove and Vernon Hills, T.F. North has Marist and Sandburg, and St. Rita has Brother Rice and St. Rita.

St. Ignatius has Oak Park and St. Patrick, and Oswego East has Neuqua Valley and nine downstate schools.

No sectional other than Willowbrook has more than two teams likely to be ranked in the top 10, and most only have one. A couple have none.

Early prediction? The winner of the Willowbrook sectional, which figures to be either Wheaton South or Glenbard East, should win state. Realistically, Marist (coached by former Sandburg great Bob St. Ledger) and Sandburg are all that could stand in the way.

But it's early.


Ten Illinois players were named All-American by

"To be a high school All-American, you must have made a massive impact on your high school team," said John Tawa of "You must be one of the top three-to-five players in your state regardless of class unless you are from hotbeds like California, Texas, Indiana and Illinois, where you must be among the 10 best players."

Representing Illinois on the All-American team are Des Aramburu of Mother McAuley, Kayla Fitterer of Edwardsville, Annemarie Hickey of Joliet Catholic, and Laura Homann of St. Charles East.

Also, Jessica Jendryk and Ariana Mankus of Benet, Emily McGee of Naperville Central, Angela Rego of Metamora, Carly Thomas of Belleville Althoff, and Hannah Werth of Chatham Glenwood.

Named to the Highest Honorable Mention team were Andrea Bolt of Freeburg, Courtney Cunningham of (Chicago) Payton, Stephanie Holthus of Burlington Central, Amanda Peterson of Glenbard East, Kelsey Robinson of St. Francis, Laura Thole of Breese Mater Dei and Gina Vera of Joliet Catholic.

Niski, Viliunas listed among country's best freshmen

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By Phil Brozynski

Meghan Niski of Class 4A state champion St. Charles East and Lyons setter Alexis Viliunas are among the Best High School Playing Freshmen of 2008 according to a list recently released by

Niski, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter, had 229 kills and 284 digs for the Saints and earned honorable mention all-Upstate Eight Conference honors.

"Meg worked hard every day in practice to make sure she was the best that she could be," St. Charles East coach Jennie Kull said. "She is a perfectionist, always wanting to do things the best. I am blessed to have her for three more years. She is a diamond."

The 6-foot-1 Viliunas started every match for the 28-12 Lions and earned all-tournament honors at Rich East. She finished the season with nearly 700 assists and added 126 digs, 22 aces and 82 kills.

Jenna Jacobson of Whitney Young, Michelle Schultz of Class 3A semifinalist (Chicago) Payton and 6-foot-2 middle hitter Abby Heise of downstate Jacksonville received highest honorable mention honors.

Jacobson, a 5-foot-8 setter, helped lead the Dolphins to the city championship game by amassing 682 assists, 211 digs, 58 aces and 64 kills. A 5-foot-8 outside hitter, Schultz had 138 kills, 207 digs and 67 aces for the 37-3 Grizzlies.

Named special mention were Amelia Anderson of Crystal Lake Central, Samantha Bedard of Breese Mater Dei, Emily Burger of Bloomington, Sam Espensa of Edwardsville and Maisey Mulvey of St. Charles East.

Also earning special mention honors were Brooke Schulte of Breese Mater Dei, Morgan Semmelhack of York and Jessie Tulacka of Downers Grove North.

Named honorable mention were Huntley's Amy Dixon, Batavia's Mary Nilles, Lake Zurich's Amanda Orchard, York's Caroline Rose and Lake Forest's Heidi Sierks,


Annemarie Hickey of Joliet Catholic and Jessica Jendryk of Benet were named honorable mention All-American by Volleyball Magazine.

Nebraska recruit Hannah Werth of Chatham Glenwood was the only Illinois player named to the 14-member All-American team.

More coaches react to IHSA deal with Baden

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By Phil Brozynski

Reaction is still coming in concerning the Illinois High School Association's decision to end its long association with Wilson and begin employing balls manufactured by Baden Sports, Inc., during its various state series, including girls and boys volleyball.

Here are some comments from a few more area volleyball coaches:

"What I like are the Molten balls for several reasons. Molten is used at the college level and in many club programs. My players choose that ball first in the cart. I always order Molten balls for practice balls. They hold up twice as long as the Wilson ball. The boys especially are tough on a volleyball because they hit the ball so hard. The Molten ball also hold its air better, maintaining consistent air pressure. The Wilsons only last about a year-and-a-half for me. I order some Wilson balls which we use for game balls, but the majority of my order is Molten. I have complained to my rep about the Wilson ball, but it did not do much good. I do not have much experience with the Baden." - Lincoln-Way Central girls coach Joann Holverson.

"We like the Baden volleyball better than the Wilson volleyball, but the one my players really like are the Molten volleyballs. The Wilsons did not keep their shape and often did not hold the air like it should, which affects the flight of the ball." - Providence boys coach Cindy Olczyk.

"Baden is great brand name for volleyball. I used it early on at Loyola University before we switched to Molten. Baden was a stronger ball than Tachikara at that time, lasted longer, and could take the wear and tear of the men at Loyola playing with the same balls as the women. I use Molten here at Latin with a spattering of Wilson. I guess I will look into Baden to see if they have any better deals than Molten. I guess I would have to say I like Molten the best, but Baden is fine." - Latin's Liz Nelson.

"It should be a more welcome ball than the Wilson I-Cor. I hope that it will last longer than the Wilsons did." - Wheaton Warrenville South boys and girls coach Bill Schreier.

"Baden is a good volleyball. The company has been around for quite some time and they make a quality product. If I am not mistaken, I believe it is the official ball of the NCAA. Other than it is no longer a local company that is the official supplier, the change should be negligible. It is a quality product." - Oak Park-River Forest boys coach Don August.

"Baden has been around for a while. I think they make a pretty good volleyball, probably better than the Wilson ball." - Immaculate Conception's Jean Field.

"I recently talked with my equipment salesman and he said they are anticipating that the required Baden volleyball is going to cost $55. The Wilson from last year is approximately $40. My past experience with Baden is that they were not very good balls. That was some years ago, and they may be better now. The Wilson ball is a great ball. We will have to see how the Baden measures up when we get one and actually use it." --
Hinsdale Central boys coach and assistant athletic director Len Serwat.

"Baden makes a quality ball and we have no qualms about the switch." - Lincoln-Way East boys coach Dawn Murphy.

"I don't have a lot of familiarity with the Baden ball. I do know that the list price of the volleyball is twice the price of the Wilson. Most of the club world uses the Molten ball, so it's another difference." - Barrington boys coach Rob Ridenour.

And finally, there was this from a coach who did not want to be named.

"It's the next step in crappy deals brokered by the IHSA without input from coaches and players."

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

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