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."