By Pat Brozynski

September 2009 Archives

You can make a difference in one person's life

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Volleyball teams throughout Illinois sponsor "Volley for the Cure" events to raise money for cancer research and awareness. But sometimes the battle against a dreaded disease strikes closer to home.

Host Neuqua Valley and Hinsdale South are teaming up at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 7 for a fundraiser, "Christine's Battle - Coming Together for Chris" to help defray the cost of a bone marrow transplant for Christine Federico.

Christine (Rehor) Federico was an outstanding volleyball player at Illinois State University during the early 1980s and is a member of the ISU Athletic Hall of Fame. She served as a volunteer coach at Neuqua and also coached at Sports Performance. Her daughter, Nikki, is a senior on the Neuqua Valley volleyball team.

Christine Federico has been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a rare disease that affects 10,000-15,000 Americans each year and acts as an early stage of leukemia. There is no cure for the disease, but her friends and family are hoping that a bone marrow transplant will put the disease in remission.

Her present course of treatment consists of blood transfusions and chemotherapy, but a bone marrow transplant will give her the best chance for survival.

Neuqua Valley will be selling T-shirts and wristbands at the event as well as taking straight monetary donations to contribute to the Christine Federico MDS Fund. At the match, anyone who donates $5 or more will receive a signed Christine Federico mini volleyball. There will also be a raffle and a "split-the-pot."

People who cannot attend the event October 7 can go to the Great Lakes Volleyball Center from 5:00-9:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 11 for another fundraiser, the "Christine Federico Bean Bag Tournament."

The Great Lakes Center is located at 579 N. Oakhurst Drive in Aurora, just off New York Street. The entry fee is $50.00 per team (teams of 2) and the tournament will be a blind draw.

There will also be music, food and prizes, and a dunk tank featuring Sports Performance club coaches.

People who cannot make either event but would like to help can purchase personalized
livestrong bracelets by sending $5 to Robyn Horn, 547 Carriage Ridge Lane, Lemont, IL 60439. Specify size (man, woman, child) and quantity.

Whether you are a friend, a fan and somebody who just wants to lend a hand to somebody who has given so much to the volleyball community, your help is greatly needed.

For more information on how you can help, call Kelly Simon, Neuqua Valley head volleyball coach, at (630) 854-6356.

Did anybody else read the column that ran on the CNN Web site the other day about society's fixation on "me?"

The columnist talked about how incidents like those involving Kanye West and Joe Wilson were symptomatic of society's increasing self-centeredness. Putting "me" above "we." "Self-importance" above "self-sacrifice."

This sense of entitlement pervades sports as well. Why else do some people feel the need to reward every student-athlete with a medal, a trophy, a "false" sense of achievement when in fact they have achieved nothing beyond what they are given.

How does this apply to high school volleyball in Illinois?

It has everything to do with the way the Illinois High School Association does business. It's disregard for competitiveness to the benefit of entitlement.

Not enough kids win trophies? Expand classes. Sponsor a state tournament where the best teams survive? Phooey. Create a system where kids who work hard to develop their skills are rewarded? Only if they are geographically correct.

Last week, the regional and sectional assignments for the Illinois High School Association girls state volleyball tournament were posted. As is the case with many other sports, if you're good and you know it, you probably won't get to show it.

Two of the most grievous injustices were committed in Class 3A where the two best downstate Illinois programs, Belleville Althoff and Breese Mater Dei, were assigned to the same five-team regional at Centralia, and the two best 3A programs anywhere, Joliet Catholic and St. Francis, were assigned to the same sectional in Wheaton.

Last year, Althoff and Mater Dei did not meet until the sectional - Mater Dei won 25-18, 23-25, 25-17 - and St. Francis and Joliet Catholic did not meet until the supersectional - JCA won 25-23, 25-27, 25-21.

But somebody felt that other players were "entitled" to regional or sectional titles.

There are other injustices. The Class 4A sectionals featuring Marist, McAuley and Sandburg on the one hand and Hinsdale Central, Benet, Neuqua Valley, Locport and Naperville North on the other come to mind. But there are examples in the smaller classes as well.

Folks in the deep south are angered at the Class 2A Carlyle regional which features defending state champion Freeburg in a five-team field with Breese Central, Carlyle, Nashville and Trenton Wesclin.

The state volleyball tournament is a system which guarantees not that the best teams or the best players are showcased, but that the teams whose addresses fit the IHSA bill are rewarded.

In other words, the IHSA embraces "geographic entitlement."

The IHSA's Sue Hinrichsen, who supervises boys and girls volleyball and has resisted efforts to move the boys finals to a college site like St. Xavier, is retiring at the end of the school year. It may be time for coaches and athletic directors statewide to lobby her successor to address some of the issues hurting the sport, its players and fans.

Of course, it all begins with not the players, coaches, parents or athletic directors, it is up to the folks who really run high school sports in Illinois - the principals. And if you look at their voting records on IHSA referendums, they apparently care about as much about the issues that affect student-athletes as vultures do about where their next meal is coming from.

Someday, the IHSA will get it right. Meanwhile, the rest of us are only "entitled" to our opinions.

Don't count out the Mighty Macs

| 6 Comments | No TrackBacks

So when was the last time Mother McAuley began a season 3-3?

Mother McAuley's 26-24, 25-17 loss to St. Francis on September 17 left the Macs at 3-3 with a three consecutive losses to Sandburg, Marist and the Spartans. A short two seasons ago, the Macs started the season 2-3 with losses to Downers Grove South, Sandburg and Marist.

That year, Mother McAuley, led by Melissa Joyce and juniors Kelly Griffin and Catherine Wildner, bounced back to win 32 of its next 36 matches, advancing to the state championship game before falling to Naperville Central.

McAuley coach Jen DeJarld believes this team can achieve similar success.

"I'm really proud of the way the girls played against a high caliber team," she said after the loss to St. Francis. "They have some college-level hitters. We have some youth and inexperience."

Seniors Paulna Sambor and Jessica Galotta are McAley's only players with significant experience.

"But I'm really excited about where we're at right now," DeJarld said."I'm in a comfort zone with this group. We'll just build and grow from here."

DeJarld has reason to be excited about her young players. Sophomore setter Ryan Arundel had eight assists, four kills, a block and an ace against St. Francis. Junior Mary Kate Styler had a team-high five kills.

Junior middle Maddie McElroy played well off the bench. Junior setter Kailey Scott had three assists when McAuley went to a 6-2. And senior outside Jessica Falk is coming off a season where she spent most of the year on the bench because of injury.

"We flip in and out between a 6-2 and a 5-1," DeJarld said. "But we try not to do too many sophisticated things because we're young."

These seniors are aces

| No Comments | No TrackBacks has released its list of the Senior Aces, the top volleyball recruits in the Class of 2010. Five Chicago-area players were listed among those ranked between 30-100. The remainder of the list will be released later this week.

Here are the Chicago-area players who cracked the list between Nos. 30 and 100 (with comments by editor John Tawa):

95. Emani Sims, 5-foot-11 middle blocker, Glenbrook South (University of Miami)

Insanely athletic, Sims may not have prototypical size for a middle, but she more than makes up for it with a 10-foot-4 leap and blazing lateral speed. Because she contacts the ball from a point higher than most, she can do whatever she wants to as an attacker. Her quickness side to side is so extreme that she can move one direction and still close a block in the other. This combination should help Sims, who has committed to Miami, develop into a middle who is feared on both sides of the ball.

94. Annemarie Hickey, 5-foot-8 libero/outside hitter, Joliet Catholic (University of Wisconsin)

A favorite of college coaches, Hickey just knows how to play the game. Her best attribute is her competitive attitude and feisty "down and dirty" style of play. When you watch Hickey, you know she will do anything to win and it rubs off on those around her. Blessed with a hammer for an arm and the innate ability to score, Hickey impacts a game like someone six inches taller than she. Standing 5-8, that arm might not get much use out of the back row at Wisconsin, but Hickey will still impact the game on defense. She has a pure passing platform and plays all-out effort defense. Her feel for the game, her knowledge of the game, and her athleticism are excellent now and will only continue to improve.

44. Kara Wehrs, 5-foot-9 setter, Hampshire (University of Kansas)

Don't let her size fool you. Wehrs is a dynamic athlete who plays every phase at the highest level. As an attacker, she is explosive off the floor with a quick arm swing that is difficult to defend. At the net, she has developed into a dominant blocker who plays much bigger than her 5-9 frame would suggest. She plays like a libero defensively with the quickness and the athletic ability to pick up any ball. Wehrs' biggest upside, however, is as a setter, which is why she was recruited to Kansas. Having run a 6-2 for the majority of her young playing career, Wehrs has a tremendous ceiling that could allow her to develop into one of the most dynamic setters in the class. The Jayhawks will be counting on it when Wehrs and her twin sister, Amy, arrive in Lawrence in the fall.

32. Carly Sahagian, 6-foot outside hitter, Bartlett (University of Tennessee)

A very versatile athlete who can play both the left and right side, Sahagian has few weaknesses. She possesses excellent passing skills along with a very consistent jump serve and has developed into a much more physical player over the past year. Her best attributes may be intangibles in her game. Sahagian is nothing if not consistent, both in her play and court demeanor. Her ability to impact the game wit h her passing, attacking, serving will allow her to compete early for playing time at Tennessee, where she has committed.

31. Stephanie Holthus, 5-foot-11 outside hitter/libero, Burlington Central (Northwestern)

It wasn't too long ago that many coaches wondered if Holthus could play on the outside in the Big Ten. Was she big enough? Was she physical enough? Wonder no more. The only thing Northwestern and head coach Keylor Chan are left to ponder is how soon she can arrive on campus. After a stellar junior season (525 kills, 294 digs and 75 aces) in which Holthus led Burlington Central to the IHSA state finals, this fiery competitor has answered the questions in resounding fashion. While her skill set internationally might be best suited as a libero, she will make an impact immediately at Northwestern as an outside. Holthus is a six-rotation player with the ball control and defense of a prototypical L2 and the high-flying scoring ability of an L1. Throw in a wicked jump serve and outstanding blocking ability and Holthus has the complete package.

Chicago Christian eyeing a return to Redbird?

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Two years ago, Chicago Christian rolled to 34 wins and a berth in the Class 2A state semifinals, where it lost to Hampshire and eventually finished fourth in the inaugural IHSA four-class volleyball tournament.

This year, faced with a much more challenging schedule which includes home-and-home series with St. Francis, Rosary and Marian Central Catholic and an appearance at the Rich East tournament where Mother McAuley, Lyons and Lemont lie in wait, Chicago Christian could have a hard time matching its win total of two years ago.

But a return visit to Bloomington is not out of the question.

The Knights (7-1) gave St. Francis all it could handle Wednesday in Palos Heights before losing 25-19, 25-22. Chicago Christian led 16-11 in game 2, forcing a St. Francis timeout, before the Spartans rallied to hand coach Peg Kopec her 1,000th win at the Wheaton school.

Kopec was certainly impressed by her school's new conference foe.

"I thought Chicago Christian did very well," she said. "They are a very strong team."

Two Knights are back from that 2007 team that reached the state semifinals for the first time in school history, 6-1 junior setter Madison Kamp and 6-1 senior outside Kirsten Harms, and there's plenty of talent surrounding the two holdovers.

Five-foot-11 junior Stacey Kamp shared team honors with Harms with six kills against St. Francis. Five-foot-11 senior Lauren Madden and 6-0 senior middle Carron VanGroningen also contributed against St. Francis.

With 10 players 5-11 or taller, height will never be in short supply at Chicago Christian. Libero Celaine Haan is only a sophomore, but she held her own against the strong serving of St. Francis.

"We heard a lot about St. Francis, and I couldn't be more proud of the way the girls played," Chicago Christian coach James Garcia said.

The kids can play at Benet, York

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

You can't blame anyone on the Benet roster for looking over her shoulder. They know that if they don't get it done, there is someone else who will.

"Our depth is our strength," said Benet coach Brad Baker, who watched his team defeat visiting York 25-19, 25-20 Wednesday behind 6-foot-2 sophomore middle Meghan Haggerty (seven kills, two blocks), senior Gina Finke (six kills) and junior Lara Ontko (six kills).

"They know that if they struggle, there is someone else ready to go," he said.

Baker ran nine players in and out of Wednesday's match. There were times you could not tell who was coming or going. There were also times (no thanks to Benet's dark uniforms and darker numbers) it was difficult to tell who was setting and who was hitting.

But that confusion is part of Baker's plan.

"We don't want our opponents to know where the ball is going," he said. "Last year, it was going to go to Ari (Mankus), Natalie (Patzin) or Jess (Jendryk). This year, our goal is for our opponents not to know where the ball is going to be set."

Eight different players registered kills for Benet (2-0) against York. At least three were credited with an assist. Junior Ashley Veselik led the way with 16 assists and senior libero Brianne Riley, who recently committed to Kansas, had eight digs. Ontko, who had six kills, was rarely mentioned by Baker before the season.

"You can only talk about so many kids," he said. "Nobody would believe you if you said you had six kids who can pound the ball until you see it for yourself."

Benet will be on display again this weekend at Willowbrook when the Redwings face Hinsdale Central and Wheaton Warrenville South.

Meanwhile, the road doesn't get any easier for York. On the heels of back-to-back losses to Glenbrook South and Benet, the Dukes continue their "Top 10 Tour" Friday at Lyons where they will play the host Lions, Sandburg and Lake Forest.

"We won't know what to do with ourselves after this weekend," said York coach Patty Iverson, alluding to a schedule that can't get any more difficult.

Iverson said that part of her team's struggles Wednesday can be attributed to doubt that invariably creeps into the mind of a young hitter when the opponent turns up the pressure.

"Instead of hitting the ball, they were just making shots," she said. "They started doubting themselves."

Wednesday's match was not without its bright spots, however.

Five-foot-6 sophomore Caroline Rose dominated a stretch of the first set to give the Dukes a 9-4 lead, and York trimmed a 18-13 deficit to 20-18 in the second set. Sophomore Morgan Semmelhack and junior Claire Grabinski also were bigger factors in the second set.

"We did some good things," Iverson said. "There were times we had four sophomores on the floor at the same time. We're still playing with our lineup. We'll get there."

Veteran outside hitter Britta Baarstad suddenly finds herself the elder statesman of the Downers Grove North volleyball team.

"Yeah, it's scary," said Baarstad, who had 10 kills Tuesday to lead the Trojans (2-0) to a 25-22, 27-25 victory over visiting Naperville Central. "But we work really well together on the court. If we continue to do the things were supposed to do, the sky's the limit."

Four of Downers North's top eight players are either sophomores or juniors including junior middle hitters Alexa Loufman (four kills) and Gina Gammonley and sophomore outsides Jessie Tulacka (five kills, two blocks, ace) and Taylor Kasal.

The only seniors other than the 6-foot Baarstad to play extensively Tuesday were defensive specialist Maureen Eggert, libero Robyn Eggert and setter Sam Marek.

"We were young last year," said Downers Grove North coach Mark Wasik. "We're young again this year. But we're also a year older."

Tulacka lived up to her billing as one of the best sophomores in the state with her performance against Naperville Central. This came on the heels of her effort Monday against Marian Catholic when Wasik called her "the best player on the court."

"Jessie's very good," Baarstad said. "She's got a lot of potential. She's actually a setter, but having her play outside really helps. She's unbelievable."

Still, it was Baarstad who rallied the Trojans from a 23-19 deficit in the second set against Central with a pair of kills down the line that forced a tie at 24-all.

Meanwhile, Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson learned a lot about her young team, which returns only one starter (middle hitter Nicole Sarby) from last year's 33-5 sectional runner-up.

"We played so many balls that were out," Isaacson said. "We made it a lot harder on ourselves. Not playing yesterday hurt. We struggled working out the kinks that you usually work out in your first match.

"But we played some good defense," she added. "All of our pin hitters are juniors. Only Chloe (Lupina) was on varsity last year and she did not play a lot. We have a week off now. We'll go back in the gym. We need a little more time to work it out."

Central's future may be in its freshman class, led by opposite Alysia Baznik, who is up on varsity but did not play Tuesday. Five freshman are up on Central's junior varsity team.

Another player to watch for the Redhawks is 6-foot-2 sophomore middle Emma Donahue, who gave Central a lift defensively in the second set.

About this Archive

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

August 2009 is the previous archive.

October 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.