By Phil Brozynski
OK, so the last couple of boys state volleyball championships have provided few surprises.
2008: Wheaton Warrenville South.
2007: Wheaton Warrenville South.
2006: Maine South (OK, that was a surprise).
2005: Wheaton Warrenville South.
2004: Wheaton Warrenville South.
2003: Glenbrook South (no stunner here...the Sam Kim years).
2002: Marist (the last truly surprising winner in years).
Maybe this will be the year that familiar pattern is broken.
Let's look at a few teams that could make some noise late in the season:
St. Ignatius: The Wolfpack is 20-3 (through May 4) and has already beaten St. Rita. There may be too many gimme's on the St. Ignatius schedule to get a true gauge of their strength, but like it or not, the Wolfpack has the easiest path of any ranked (or nearly-ranked) team to the state tournament. Peter Doerrer is a bonafide killing machine, and don't you want to hear the state P.A. guy try pronouncing Rimas Grybauskas?
Neuqua Valley: A newcomer to the top 10 so maybe not a complete surprise. Outside power Rob Bauer and middle magician Derek Menendez are holdovers from last year's third-place finisher. Once again, almost nobody in the way to state. The Wildcats are 25-2 (through May 4) and have gone 2-1 against St. Francis (although one of those wins came with the Spartans' Mike Segneri nursing an ankle injury).
New Trier: Would another appearance by the Trevians be all that much of a surprise? Six-foot-6 senior Chris Ahlin is solid in the middle and libero Simon Holstein can go get 'em in the back row. New Trier was 17-7 (through May 4) and steadily improving.
Lake Park: Brad Baker, the man who almost brought you unbeaten Benet in the fall, is trying to work his magic with the Lancers (and what would spruce up a state tournament more than those gaudy blue and white shorts with the palm silhouettes?). After a 5-5 start, Lake Park is 10-1 with its only loss to WW South while beating heavyweights Loyola and St. Francis.
Lincoln-Way Central: Two words - Connor Wexter. The Knights are one of those teams that just hangs around long enough to make opponents sweat. Maybe they can make a few more teams sweat later this month.
Providence: The Celtics have the capability, they have Brian Urchell and 6-foot-7 Denny Falls, they have Cindy Olczyk calling the shots and they still have some unfinished business after last year's grueling three-set semifinal loss to WW South.
Warren: Everybody who's anybody up north is at Highland Park. But they can dream, can't they. If not this year, then next. Watch 6-4 junior Kyle Schwede , 6-5 sophomore Eduard Ciobano and 6-3 sophomore Dillon Schaefer.
Stevenson: Stuck among the "other teams" all season, the Patriots have a pair of solid gold sluggers in 6-2 senior Kyle Buck and 5-11 senior Brad Feiger. Setter Brian Czosek runs the show. No height (middle Travis Naftzger is a modest 6-2), but plenty of great defense.
Vernon Hills: Keegan Harris and Ernie Choi are as good as it gets on the attack, and setters Sam Lee and Justin Opitz make sure they get the ball early and often.