By Pat Brozynski

April 2009 Archives

By Phil Brozynski

Sitting in a red plastic seat in the stands at Saint Xavier University watching the finals of the Brother Rice Smack Attack between St. Francis and Marist on Saturday, one could not help but agree with the assessment of a nearby spectator.

"They need to play the boys' state tournament here, or at least a place just like it," the spectator said. "I heard they've been talking about the Sears Center in Hoffman Estates, but that facility is probably too big.

"Nothing against Hoffman Estates High School," he added. "They do a nice job. But the atmosphere here is so much better. It's a college arena. No matter what they do, Hoffman Estates is still a high school gym."

The boys state volleyball tournament does deserve a facility like the Shannon Center at Saint Xavier.

The Shannon Center has been the site of some recent supersectionals in basketball, including the girls classic this winter between (Chicago) Whitney Young and (Chicago Heights) Marian Catholic, won by Young on a 25-footer at the buzzer.

It is not a cavernous facility, like Redbird Arena at Illinois State University can become when only a few hundred fans attend Saturday's third-place games (no students because they are already excused from school, and playing for third is not quite playing for first).

But the Shannon Center still has that college "feel." All the way up to the vegetarian concession stand with the power juice drinks. But those can easily be replaced with popcorn poppers and pretzel ovens.

Meanwhile, give Brother Rice coach Br. Paul Ickes credit for undertaking an ambitious plan in putting together Smack Attack. Hopefully, the tournament will grow and prosper in the next few years.

The logistics certainly are more convenient than say, the Nike Challenge girls tournament, which involves some vehicular use to get from site to site.


Congratulations to Dan Dierking and Victor Lei of Naperville Central and Miguel Calvillo and Ryan Kristensen of Naperville North, who committed to play next year for St. Ambrose University in Davenport.

The 6-foot-5 Dierking was a pre-season Sun-Times top 50 player before suffering a knee injury the first weekend of the season.


Finally, as much as one would like to be, you can't be everywhere all the time. So while I have to apologize for not having the results from Minooka and Downers North reflected in this week's rankings, those results were never called in.

So Hinsdale Central remained at No. 5 despite a loss to Neuqua Valley, and Glenbard East should be 17-0 instead of 12-0.

Sorry, again. Coaches can e-mail results to

Zac and Mac help Bro stage Smack Attack

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By Phil Brozynski

It's not the tournament originally envisioned, but the expectations are that it will get there.

The Brother Rice Smack Attack boys volleyball tournament gets under way Friday at Brother Rice, Mother McAuley and St. Xavier with nine teams including Marist, Sandburg, Providence and St. Francis among the six local entries. Three out-of-state teams will also compete.

The original plan was for the tournament to feature 24 teams from Illinois ands across the country, but previous commitments and scheduling difficulties limited the field this year.

Nevertheless, it is the first event of any kind to be held on all three campuses simultaneously.

"It only took us 53 years," said Brother Rice coach Paul Ickes. "While all three institutions have a long history of cooperation and have shared facilities many times, this event brings that cooperation to a new level."

The out-of-state teams which will participate are Spanish River from Boca Raton, Florida, the 2007 state champions; St. Joseph High School from Metuchen, New Jersey, the 2008 state champions; and Christian Brothers High School from Missouri.

The tournament begins Friday at 6:00 p.m. with pool play at all three locations. The tournament resumes Saturday at 9:00 a.m. with crossover games and concludes with the championship, second and third-place games at approximately 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Parking will be a premium at all three sites due to other events including water polo, baseball, softball and soccer.

For more information, visit and click "Smack Attack."

With these peas you get few carrots

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By Phil Brozynski

They rolled the peas and came up with squash earlier this week at IHSA headquarters in Bloomington.

The annual "rolling of the peas," which determines the pairings for state final tournaments in soccer, softball, baseball and boys volleyball, will produce a reasonably intriguing state tournament in volleyball even if some of the best teams in the state won't be there.

Imagine the state tournament without all but one of these teams - Glenbard East, Hinsdale Central, Wheaton Warrenville South and St. Francis. It's possible, since for some reason known only to dispassionate paper-hangers all four have been assigned to the Willowbrook sectional.

Or how about a state tournament without all but one of this group - Marist, Sandburg, Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way Central, Providence or surprising Joliet? It will happen, since only one of those teams can make it out of the T.F. North sectional.

While those teams are battling each other just to get the state, a number of teams can start warming the bus now.

Neuqua Valley should walk through the Bolingbrook sectional, St. Rita (which is hosting its own sectional) will not see another ranked team until the state semifinals, Glenbard North should be able to punch a ticket out of Elgin and Maine South does not figures to run into a lot of resistance at its own sectional.

Meanwhile, Glenbrook North and Buffalo Grove are on a collision course at Highland Park.

The state quarterfinals could look a lot like this: Neuqua Valley vs. Glenbard East (a do-over from last year's quarterfinals), St. Ignatius vs. St. Rita (who's got the bigger "in" with Morgan Freeman?), Glenbrook North vs. Glenbard North (the it's-all-the-same-directional bowl), and Maine South vs. Marist (that one will ruffle some feathers).

Not bad, but leaving four of the top teams in the state at home (including, potentially, the defending state champion) does beg the question: who's bending those rubberbands down in Bloomington?

Yes, the volleyball sectionals are really annoying, but what's really keeping us up at night is....who is going to advance from the Argyle Lake bass fishing sectional (the smart money is on Cuba....after all, isn't it surrounded by water?), and what kind of homecourt advantage are the Skokie Lagoons?

Rams are ready; Robinson commits

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By Phil Brozynski

Glenbard East headed into last year's state quarterfinals on a roll. The Rams had won 16 consecutive matches, were 36-3 overall, and had the area's top player in 6-foot-5 senior setter/outside hitter Dan Mader.

But the Rams' title hopes came to a quick and unexpected end when they lost to Neuqua Valley, a team they had beaten early in the season, 25-21, 19-25, 25-21, in the quarterfinals. Neuqua Valley later lost to Buffalo Grove and finished third.

Glenbard East has already begun its bid to put that disappointment in the past, opening the 2009 season with wins over Willowbrook and Glenbard North. But the Rams' season really gets into high gear this weekend when they host Springfest.

The 16-team tournament gets underway Saturday at 9:00 a.m. with the first of three rounds of pool play. The winners of each pool advance to the semifinals at 1:00 p.m. and the finals are slated for 2:15 p.m.

Among the teams in the field are Neuqua Valley, St. Francis, Lake Forest, Glenbard North and Wheeling. St. Francis and Neuqua Valley somehow found themselves in the same pool and are scheduled to meet at 11:30 a.m. on Court No. 7.

Glenbard East features three starters from last year's 36-4 team led by 6-5 Mark Jones, who was second on the team in assists and third in kills as a junior. Tim Lovik, who was second in kills in 2008, and 6-6 Piotr Dabrowski also return.

Other players to watch include Lake Forest's Larry Wrather, Neuqua Valley's Rob Bauer and St. Francis setter Mike Segneri.


St. Francis' 6-foot-2 junior outside hitter Kelsey Robinson has verbally committed to continue her volleyball career at the University of Tennessee. Robinson chose Tennessee over Michigan and Nebraska.

Robinson is ranked among the top 50 juniors in the nation by She helped St. Francis win state titles in 2006 and 2007 and powered the Spartans to an Elite Eight berth in Class 3A last fall.

She was named Suburban Catholic Conference Player of the Year, First Team All-State by the Champaign News Gazette and was a Chicago Sun-Times All-Area selection. She finished the season with 341 kills, 183 digs, 40 blocks and 68 service aces

Robinson currently plays club ball for Sports Performance's 18 Elite team. Last summer, she helped SPVB 16 Elite finish third at the Junior Volleyball Directors Association championships and fifth at the AAU national tournament.

Tennessee finished 22-10 last season and earned a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Falknor's return gives Bison a boost

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By Phil Brozynski

There were no surprises Thursday in the first round of the Tiger Classic at Wheaton Warrenville South.

WW South, Marist, Buffalo Grove and Glenbrook North - the latter miscast as the second seed in its pool - each advanced to Saturday's gold medal round which will begin at approximately 1:00 p.m.

Marist (7-1), trying to bounce back from last weekend's disappointing loss to Lincoln-Way East in the finals of its own tournament, handled York 25-15, 25-19 and Lake Park 25-21, 25-19 in Pool B action.

The RedHawks will be making their first gold-medal round appearance in three tries.

"We lost to Naperville Central in pool play last year," Marist coach Bob St. Leger recalled. "I'll never forget that match. We won the first game and were up 20-16 in the second. Then we turned around and lost to York on Saturday.

"But this year's team is so much different," he added. "Just the way they go about their business. When your best players are your hardest workers, it makes it so much easier on me. These guys have a lot of goals."

Buffalo Grove (5-2), which finished fourth at last weekend's Bison Battle with top player Chris Falknor sidelined with a right ankle sprain, outlasted Brother Rice 25-13, 20-25, 25-11 and defeated Evanston 25-21, 25-23 with Falknor back in the lineup.

"I'm not going to lie to was nice to see him out there," Buffalo Grove coach Matt Aiello said. "His presence really energized us in the first game against Brother Rice, and he played well."

Despite the loss to Buffalo Grove, Brother Rice looks like it may be a player on the south side thanks to the addition of 6-1 junior Joe Miller. Miller, who has not played volleyball since middle school, looked right at home in his two matches Thursday.

"He's a very athletic kid," Brother Rice coach Paul Ickes said. "It took him a couple of matches, but he got back into the groove. It's like riding a bicycle. You never forget how."

Miller, who also plays basketball, played baseball as a freshman and sat out the spring athletic season last year before joining the volleyball team this spring.

Miller joins 6-5 outside Pat Andrasco and 6-2 Sean McGrath to give the Crusaders some firepower up front.

"We're young by experience," Ickes said. "We only have two returning players, and they're in new positions. Everyone else is new."

Wheaton Warrenville South (7-1), looking to rebound from last week's loss to Glenbrook North at the Bison Battle, also won its pool, defeating Naperville North 25-23, 25-16 and Oak Lawn 25-14, 25-8.

Friday's Pool D matches will feature Sandburg, St. Rita and Lincoln-Way Central sparring for one spot in the gold bracket.


Wheaton Warrenville South (Wheaton, Illinois) head coach Bill Schreier and Naperville Central (Naperville, Illinois) coach Brie Isaacson will conduct a volleyball camp for boys and girls entering grades 2-8 at Eich's Sports Headquarters in Plainfield, Illinois on June 15-17.

Schreier is the boys and girls head coach at Wheaton Warrenville South. He has led his boys teams to five state championships since 1998 and has sent more than 40 players into the college ranks including 2008 Olympic gold medalist Sean Rooney. Schreier was named the 2007 Mizuno National Coach of the Year.

Isaacson's girls teams have won two state championships since 2003. She is a four-time All-American and has held numerous coaching positions with various club programs in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Grades 2-5 will meet from 9:00-10:30 a.m. and grades 6-8 will meet from 10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. The cost is $150. Eich's Sports Headquarters is located at 24316 W. 143rd Street in Plainfield.

For more information, call (630) 337-0945.

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