By Pat Brozynski

June 2010 Archives

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While Sports Performance 18 Elite (pictured) was winning the 18 open division at the AAU Juniors Girls National Championships last week in Orlando, 1st Alliance was quietly winning national titles in three club divisions.

1st Alliance 18 Black defeated Club South 18N Corey 25-20, 25-12 to win the 18 club division. Leading the way were 18 club division MVP Sarah McCarthy and all-star selections Jen Milligan and Sydney Sauter.

Other members the 1st Alliance 18 Black team coached by Renata Dargan are Leah Muys, Beth Blackman, Dana Raber, Paige Kruse, Morgan Mientus, Alexis Rogers and Jamie Lundstrom.

1st Alliance 17 Black defeated A5 Mizuno 172 Gary 25-22, 22-25, 15-9 to win the 17 club division. Leading the national champions were MVP Jenna Duddlestun and all-star selections Julia Watkins and Alexis Davito.

Other members of the 1st Alliance 17 Black team coach by Annie Mastandrea are Jillian Briner, Laura Luczak, Victoria Clifford, Claire Miller, Melissa Bograd, Katherine Battle, Kara Conway and Erin Juley.

1st Alliance 16 Black won the 16 club division title by defeating Mizuno Northern Lights 16-2 25-14, 26-24 in the title match. Elizabeth Scanlon was named the division MVP and Brittney Brown and Jacqueline Aird were named all stars.

Other members of the 1st Alliance 16 Black team coached by Kevin O'Neil are Lauren Grady, Ashley Holder, Ryann Arundel, Lauren Behrens, Jordan Reifsteck, Mary Kate Whelan, McKenzie Kuhn and Samantha Schrenker.

Surprises abound as club season winds down

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Shocking? Perhaps. After winning an AAU title last year in the 16s, Sky High 17 Black was expected to duplicate that feat earlier this week in Orlando. However, Asics KIVA 17 Red out of Louisville had other thoughts.

Asics KIVA Red rocked Sky High 17 Black 27-25, 25-14 in the round of 16, ending the club season for what was certainly one of the most talented collections of young talent anywhere in the United States.

Now, volleyball fans will have to wait until the fall to watch Glenbrook South's Ellen Chapman, Cary-Grove's Kelly Lamberti, Prospect's Sarah Hunt, Crystal Lake South's Hannah Burkle and Cary-Grove's Colleen Smith.

Meanwhile, national championships and Sports Performance 18 Elite are nearly synonymous. Led by soon-to-be Tennessee teammates Kelsey Robinson of St. Francis and Carly Sahagian of Bartlett, SPVB downed Munciana 18 Samurai 25-23, 25-22 in Orlando to win the 18s division.

Two players from that SPVB team to keep an eye on this fall are junior middle hitter Meghan Haggerty of Benet and senior Meg Vonderhaar of St. Francis. Vonderhaar appears ready to emerge from Robinson's huge shadow and lead the Spartans to another outstanding season.

Here is an abbreviated version of a story witten by PrepVolleyball.com's John Tawa about SPVB's national championship victory:

"They'd been told -- and were acutely aware -- that no class in a long while, perhaps ever, had gone through the program at Sports Performance without at least one national championship trophy. Moreover, at a club known for winning championships at the highest levels, no player on Mizuno Sports Performance 18 Elite had ever even won a state high school volleyball title.

They had one more chance Monday afternoon in the 18 Open finals at the AAU Junior National Volleyball Championship in Orlando against rival Asics Munciana Samurai, the team that had beaten SPVB here in the semifinals a year ago. Using brilliant setting from Kristen Kelsay (pictured above) and strong work both on the pins and in the middle, Sports Performance got it done before a national broadcast audience and a crowd of 500, defeating error-prone Muncie, 25-23, 25-22.

"This means a lot because no one's ever experienced it and we did it together," said Kelsay, who was one of three Spri players named to the "All-American" team.

Winning a national championship probably wasn't on the minds of Sports Performance players as much as a premature exit from the tournament when the team lost to Circle City Sunday afternoon to close pool play. Circle's win gave it the pool and forced SPVB into a "loser out" Challenge match versus MAVA just to get into the quarterfinals.

"Losing to Circle City definitely was a big bummer," said Kelsay. "We all banded together and said, 'This is our last shot.' It made us want it even more because we knew it was that close from being taken away from us. We came out against MAVA on a mission, feeling sorry for whoever was going to get in our way."

After dominating MAVA, Sports Performance came out Monday morning and swept both KiVA and M1 to reach the finals against Munciana Samurai, which won AAU's 18 Open division in 2009. A strong middle attack and excellent serving from libero Caitlin Cremin were key to those wins.

Muncie reached the finals by dominating Capital and then easing by Team Indiana in three, thanks to an energetic performance from MB Sloane White.

The crowd was barely settling in when a dig from Meghan Binkerd set up the final's first point, a slide kill from White assisted by Sara Metroka. Sports Performance tied it on a kill from sophomore middle Meghan Haggerty. Two Jeme Obeime kills sandwiched another Haggerty quick attack blast as Munciana took a 3-2 lead, a margin which grew to 9-5 thanks to supreme defense from libero Emmi McIntyre, who had an outstanding tournament, and one-footed attacks from Megan Campbell.

Down four, Sports Performance, wearing spiffy new uniforms designed only for the final (bearing two inscriptions, "KAFS" and "M14M," scored five in a row, starting with a kill from left side Carly Sahagian, to claim a 10-9 lead.

The teams were not separated by more than two points the rest of the way. Kelsay, who was in complete control on Spri's side of the net, fed Sahagian and Kelsey Robinson on the left, Meg Vonderhaar on the right and Anna Dorn, a first-year Sports Performance player formerly with Dunes, for points, while Muncie countered with Obeime kills, strong serving from Binkerd and White and capitalized on four Sports Performance serving errors.

Tied at 20-20, Sports Performance took the lead on a Haggerty kill, then got another from Robinson to extend the advantage. White answered on the slide, but Haggerty blocked the next Samurai swing to restore the two-point advantage. Obeime, one of seven juniors on Munciana's team, pounded home two Samurai kills to tie the set at 23 apiece.

Munciana could not go ahead, however. Sahagian, who along with Robinson has signed with Tennessee, slammed a ball into the seam to give SPVB game point. Then, after Dorn and Vonderhaar kept a rally alive by soft blocking Munciana's attack, Sahagian scored again on a tool shot for the 25-23 win.

"It was a great feeling," Sahagian said. "I always want the ball. I've been waiting for this match for four years."

Game 2 started quickly for Sports Performance, which used a tandem block from Haggerty and Robinson and a Sahagian kill to take a 4-2 lead. Munciana came back with three straight, taking the lead on a joust win from athletic junior middle Kiki Jones and grew the lead to 10-7 thanks to another Jones kill, one from Campbell and an Obeime ace.

The teams then exchanged points, three point-runs each to start, then single points until Vonderhaar and Sahagian scored back to back to pull Sports Performance within 15-14. The Sahagian kill negated a sensational Jones pirouette dig at the net - what an athletic play!

Up just one, Jones scores off of a superb Metroka set to make it 16-14 Samurai and led 19-17 when senior Taylor Unroe, who has played all year on a bad foot, found a way with two hands through the block.

Robinson, who would be named MVP, scored for Sports Performance to slice the lead to one. A Haggerty transition kill and Cremin ace followed thereafter, putting Sports Performance on top for the first time since it was 4-3. A hitting error equalized the score, but Robinson came back with a kill to give SPVB the lead again and a net violation on Samurai extended the lead to two at 22-20.

That would give Sports Performance just enough breathing room to bring home the championship. After Obeime scored to get Muncie one point closer, Sahagian's great cover saved a point for SPVB, which notched the point on a Samurai hitting error. A Haggerty/Vonderhaar block followed by Haggerty's quick attack kill earned Sports Performance the crown.

"We had a hard year with ups and downs and went through everything a team can go through," Kelsey said. "That makes it even more memorable now. We did have that chip on our shoulder and got it done."

"We worked so hard; it totally paid off," Sahagian added."

****

Believe it or not, just a few weeks remain before area volleyball players return to the gym in anticipation of the high school season. Beginning next week, we will start running our annual lists of top downstate and top area players.

If you have somebody you would like to see on the list, pass their name (school, height, position and year too!) along. The area list is already 130 names strong, but there is always somebody we inadvertently omit.

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Erienne Barry (pictured right). Meghan Niski. Jullia Conard. Rachel Kent. Andrea Skipor. Annamarie Ciancio. Kim Juriga. Jenna Jendryk. Meghan Haggerty. Joy Johnson. Daiva Wise. Lauren Carlini.

Names to remember, and not a senior among them.

The youngsters are tearing it up during the club season, promising an unforgettable season this fall when the ladies return to their respective high schools to play for their classmates and hometowns.

Niski, a junior-to-be outside hitter at St. Charles East, and her Club Fusion 16 Black teammates Conard (West Chicago) and Barry (St. Charles East) recently won the 16s division of the PrepVolleyball.com Classic in the Wisconsin Dells. Niski was named the Most Outstanding Player.

Jendryk (Benet) and Haggerty (Benet), meanwhile, helped SPVB 18 Elite win the Pre-National event at the Great Lakes Center although neither of them will be a senior, while Skipor, a 6-3 blocking machine from West Chicago, helped her Fusion 15 team win in the Dells.

Also, keep your eye on a couple of sophomores-to-be from the Sunsetters Volleyball Club -- Hinsdale South's Rachel Kent and Isabella Antoniolli and Downers Grove South's Annamarie Ciancio, who impressed PrepVolleyball.com guru John Tawa last weekend at the Dells.

***

It's never too early to say "On, Wisconsin."

Lauren Carlini (pictured below), who will be a sophomore at West Aurora this fall, has verbally committed to play volleyball for the University of Wisconsin. The 5-11 setter/outside hitter received interest from dozens of schools, but was set on playing for the Badgers.

Carlini had 185 assists, 105 kills, 42 blocks and 30 aces as a freshman at West Aurora. She was named to the Dupage Valley All-Conference Team and was recently selected to the Youth Olympic Team that will play in Singapore in August

"Lauren is not only one of our most powerful hitters, but also is our most aggressive server," West Aurora coach Kari Nicholson said. "As a freshman, she plays with the experience and maturity of a much older player."

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Illinois, which is bringing in 5-foot-9 defensive specialist Courtney Abramovich from Naperville Central and 6-2 middle blocker Anna Dorn from Munster, Ind., recruited the No. 7-ranked class in the nation for 2010, according to a recent report by Prepvolleyball.com.

And that was before the Illini added 6-2 outside hitter Colleen Ward of Naperville North, a transfer from Florida.

Illinois also recruited 5-8 libero Jen Bonilla from Marymount High School in Los Angeles, Calif., generally regarded as one of the best liberos to play the game and a member of two U.S. Youth National teams.

Other programs whose recruiting classes were greatly influenced by Illinois products include No. 4 Tennessee, which is getting 6-1 outside Kelsey Robinson (St. Francis) and 6-0 Carly Sahagian (Bartlett), and No. 8 Wisconsin, which is adding Sun-Times Player of the Year Annemarie Hickey (Joliet Catholic).

Also on the list are No. 17 Northwestern (Stephanie Holthus of Burlington Central), No. 18 St. Louis (libero Grace Bonoma of St. Ignatius and setter Sarah Knouse of Providence), No. 20 Louisville (setter Taylor Brauneis of Prairie Ridge), and No. 26 Kansas (Kara and Amy Wehrs of Hampshire and Brianne Riley of Benet).

Highest honorable mention selections include Marquette (Julie Jeziorowski of Crystal Lake Central), Maryland (Caroline Niski of St. Charles East), Miami (Emani Sims of Glenbrook South), and Western Michigan (Gillian Asque of Young, Ali Gossen of Evanston and Emily Harris of Barrington).

Kylee Baker of Plainfield North and Jacqui Seidel of St. Charles East earned high honorable mention accolades for Ball State, which is joined by William & Mary (Monika Stanciauskas of Wheaton Warrenville South) and Yale (Gina Finke of Benet).

Bradley (Amy Angelos of Waukegan and Lauren Zerante of York), Illinois State (Ashleigh Fisher of Harvard) and UIC (Mary Kate Imrie of Sandburg and Maggie Strus of Stagg) cracked the honorable mention list.

Registration is under way for the Illinois High School Summer Sand Volleyball League and Tournament.

The league, the brainchild of Brother Rice volleyball coach Paul Ickes, begins July 5 with the first matches scheduled to get under way the following Monday, July 12. The "state" tournament will be held Monday, July 26-Thursday, July 29 with the finals on Friday, July 30.

The finals are tentatively set to be played at a suitable location along the lakefront. However, in case of inclement weather, the tournament would be moved indoors to the Chicago Sports and Social Club.

IHSA by-laws allow coaches and players to have 25 days of contact. The summer sand league will not allow matches on Sunday to avoid exceeding the 25-day limit, and if a player participates in both a sand volleyball and indoor volleyball event on the same day, it is considered one contact day.

All incoming freshmen registered at a participating school are eligible to compete. Schools and teams can organize, practice and compete to whatever extent they desire within the date restrictions allowed.

However, to qualify to play in the state tournament in late July, teams must play a minimum of six officially-scored matches, three of which must be played against teams from other schools by Saturday, July 24.

For more information about the Illinois High School Summer Sand Volleyball League and Tournament, visit www.brvolleyball.com.

Player of the Year Eric Butch of Maine South is surrounded by an array of talent on the 2010 Chicago Sun-Times Boys All-Area Volleyball team, including his brother Matt. But the all-area team shows very little brotherly love for opponents when the ball is tossed into the air.

The group of fierce competitors features 6-foot-9 senior Nick Baronti, who was a big reason Buffalo Grove won its second Mid-Suburban League title in three years. Baronti led the Bison with 341 kills, 85 blocks, 115 digs, 35 aces and 55 assists during the regular season.

"Nick does not just rely on his size or talent," coach Matt Aiello said. "He works to be arguably the most dominating hitter in the state. He is a complete volleyball player who leads his team with character and class."

Matt Butch and his brother Eric are two unique personalities off the court, but on the court they are of the same mind. During the regular season, Matt Butch compiled 285 kills, 25 aces and 96 blocks to help the Hawks run the table heading into the state tournament.

"Matt has been an outstanding performer for us this season," coach Gary Granell said. "One of his biggest assets is his consistency. He is a force at the net and he is almost as good defensively as he is on offense."

Providence's Denny Falls drew a lot of attention during his career, including that of Stanford where he will play next year. The Tony Lawless Award winner compiled more than 300 kills and 50 blocks during the regular season, and his 32 aces and 167 service points were team bests.

"Denny is one of the best players I have coached in my 30-plus years of coaching," Providence's Cindy Olczyk said. "He is an excellent student both in the classroom and of the game of volleyball. It is no surprise that Stanford chose Denny and Denny chose Stanford."

A three-time all-Catholic League performer and the outstanding player of the 2010 league tournament, Loyola's Reis Foster battled injuries to amass 205 kills in 23 regular-season matches with 141 assists, 25 blocks, 20 aces and 132 digs.

"I could go on forever about the kid," coach Lionel Ebeling said of Foster, who eclipsed the 1,000-kill mark for his career.

The state got a brief glimpse at Albert Klimek's budding talent in 2007 when Young reached the state quarterfinals behind his brothers Michal and Konrad. No one in the city overshadowed Albert this year, as he led the Dolphins with 362 kills, 233 digs, 54 aces and 31 blocks.

The three-time first team all-city selection, who received an athletic scholarship to attend Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne in the fall, had a season-high 23 kills against Glenbard West for the reigning city champions.

When you have a team with as many weapons as Sandburg, it's not easy keeping everybody happy. But as his 808 assists during the regular season attest, Ryan Mabbott not only got his teammates the ball, he put them in a position to put it away.

"Ryan is an easy-going, fun-loving guy off of the court, but once the match starts, he is all business," coach David Vales said. "His personal dedication to getting better and stronger is one of the main reasons this team has done as well as it has."

There may be no more complete player in the state than Hinsdale Central's Graham McIlvaine. His numbers - 243 kills, 671 assists, 187 digs - may have been gaudier had he been able to focus on just one skill, but for the Red Devils to be successful, he had to do a lot of everything.

"Because of some personnel limitations, Graham had to set all the way around in all but a few games," coach Len Serwat said. "Yet he still led the team in kills. He is a true leader by example with his hard style of play."

People wondered how Marist would fare after losing Joe Smalzer to graduation. They need not have worried. David Nelson opened up the outside for the RedHawks young hitters by dominating the middle. Nelson had more than 200 kills, 30 solo blocks and 165 block assists.

"Dave has been as consistent a player as I have ever coached," said coach Bob St. Leger. "His ability to attack and block makes the jobs of his teammates much easier. Our outside attackers had numerous one-on-one opportunities because opponents respected Dave so much."

Tyler Parks' 241 kills, 36 aces and 106 digs during the regular season do not tell the whole story about the contributions he has made to the Eagles' success. Parks not only makes the impossible look possible, he makes the ridiculous look routine.

"Tyler is not the tallest player nor does he jump the highest, but he makes impossible plays each and every match," Vales said. "He is a threat in the front row, back row and even line. Although we are balanced offensively, he still has the capability to get 20 kills if necessary."

A two-time all-West Suburban Conference selection and three-year varsity player, Buddy Steinhaus will go down as one of the best ever to step on the court for Downers Grove South. Steinhaus' 255 kills this season give him 652 for his career. He also has 98 career aces.

"I knew Buddy was going to be a special player when he was brought up to the varsity team his sophomore year," coach Tony Nverly said. "He has become one of the top players in the area because of his work ethic and love of the game."

If Connor Wexter were paid like a professional basketball player, his salary would be LeBron-like. Half of Wexter's sets result in kills. An all-tournament selection three times this season, the Lincoln-Way Central star had 834 assists, 76 kills, 68 blocks and 290 service points.

"Connor has been successful because he is passionately driven about the sport of volleyball," coach Joann Holverson said. "He is focused and works hard on the details of his craft. Brought up at the end of his sophomore year, he has made our program better each year."

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