By Phil Brozynski
Girls in brightly-colored prom dresses were among the fans cheering for Buffalo Grove in its 2008 season finale.
It was a good sign for the Bison, in more ways than one.
Among other things, the girls' presence meant that the Bison were playing well into the evening hours on May 31, the final day of the season. Buffalo Grove reached the championship match of the IHSA state tournament against Wheaton Warrenville South.
Although the Bison lost that match 25-15, 25-20, coach Matt Aiello and company are looking forward to filling the stands with more pastel gowns in 2009.
"We do have a bit of youth mixing with a very experienced group," Aiello said. "I believe our talent and offensive diversity will allow us to gain immediate experience and be a legitimate threat to again win our conference and compete to go to state."
Buffalo Grove returns seven players from last year's 31-6 Mid-Suburban League conference championship team, including senior Chris Falknor, who was second on the team in kills behind Joe Ascher (Quincy).
Taking over at setter for the graduated Joe Angerame will be three-year veteran Chris Wichman, who labored in the back row at defensive specialist last season. He may have been the second-best setter in the league last season, but rarely got a chance to show his skills.
Aiello is also looking for help from Nick Baronti, a 6-foot-6 junior left-hander, 6-3 sophomore left-hander Chris Shannahan, and 6-3 junior middle/outside hitter Mike Jambrone.
Senior Joe Duda will patrol the back row at libero. Others expected to contribute are 6-5 senior middle Jason Dubs, 6-4 outside Mike Woodnorth, 6-foot outside John Urban and 6-3 junior middle Nick Mau.
Buffalo Grove will open the season by hosting the Bison Blast on March 28.
"We started 5-4 last year, so our early record is unimportant," Aiello said. "The competition is what allows us to dominate once we roll in mid-April and on."