Note: The Sun-Times prep volleyball preview was scheduled to run last Tuesday. A few things have changed since then. Those changes are not reflected here.
By Phil Brozynski
Last season was a magical mystery tour of sorts for Kelly Lamberti and her Cary-Grove teammates, the kind of stuff only a paperback writer could conceive.
"It's still kind of unreal that we did it," said Lamberti, the 6-foot outside hitter and admitted Beatles fanatic who led Cary-Grove to its first state title with a stunning 25-23, 25-16 victory over Lyons in the 2009 Class 4A state championship match.
Although she admits it seems like only yesterday, there is no slowing down Lamberti as she prepares for the new season.
"I'm really excited," she said. "We will have a much younger team and it will be hard to replace Abbey (Heredia), Colleen (Hargrove) and Kayla (Klinger). But everybody has a really positive attitude and we are setting goals for ourselves each week."
Lamberti's goal is simple. She wants to touch 10 feet. Coach Patty Langanis' goal for Lamberti is also simple - act naturally.
"Kelly brings so much to our program," Langanis said. "Not only does she bring great skill and knowledge, she also brings an unmatched work ethic and unselfish attitude that are rare to find in an athlete who possesses the kind of talent Kelly has."
Lamberti has always stood out from the pack. Taller than most of her teammates, she played middle hitter when at age 11 she followed in the volleyball footsteps of older sister Lauren, now a senior at the University of Connecticut.
"I was really tall when I was younger," Lamberti said. "Now I'm only six feet."
Lamberti probably won't get any taller, but the Ohio University recruit has spent a lot of time in the weight room to get stronger and reach her goal.
"Weight training helps me a lot," Lamberti said. "It helps my shoulders and my vertical, too. We lift four days a week out of season and twice a week during the season. It's not a lot of fun, but we listen to music when we lift. We dance around in the weightroom, too."
More Beatles music?
"We usually listen to whatever is on the coach's I-Pod," Lamberti said. "She listens to some of the same stuff we do."
However, no matter what music Lamberti and her teammates are dancing to, she is confident the Trojans can take that long and winding road down to Bloomington again this fall.
"The thing that really sets this apart is our team chemistry," she said. "This is a very close team."
So close that sometimes it must feel like they are together eight days a week.
Sun-Times Top 10 Teams
1. Benet- There's talent everywhere. Lara Ontko and Kaitlyn King are returning starters. Juniors Meghan Haggerty and Jenna Jendryk played for a national championship AAU team, and Villanova nabbed 6-3 junior Gabby Pethokoukis.
2. Cary-Grove - Can Kelly Lamberti be any better than she was in last year's finals against Lyons? Can Colleen Smith make everyone forget Abbey Heredia? Can Ashley Rosch continue to dominate the net? Can Melanie Jereb step up outside?
3. Lyons - Six-foot junior Alexis Viliunas, 6-2 senior Jocelyn Birks, junior defensive whiz Megan Miller, 5-10 junior Laura Williams and setter Erin Juley return from last year's Class 4A runner-up. However, the Lions need help in the middle.
4. Marist - The Redhawks welcome back Northwestern-bound libero Caroline Niedospial, 6-1 senior Katie Krasowski, setter Ashley Holder, 6-4 sophomore Lauren Zielinski and defensive specialist Molly Murphy from a 28-9 regional champion.
5. Hinsdale Central - Five-foot-9 do-it-all Natalie Skiba, libero Jamie Netisingha, 6-1 junior outside smasher Ally Davis and 6-0 middle Katarina Milojevic return from a team that fell to Benet in the sectional finals.
6. St. Charles East - Last fall, the Saints were unable to duplicate their magical 2008 finish. Junior outside Meghan Niski, sophomore Erienne Barry and 6-1 senior Olivia DeSormey are hoping no magic will be necessary.
7. Lemont - If the Indians are going to escape the sectional, this has to be the year. Five-foot-10 outside hitter Courtney Keefe, 6-0 middle Danielle Susz, setter Vicki Wrobel and libero Melissa Bograd are back for another try.
8. Sandburg - Jenny Buczek and Amanda Kijewski are among the top outside tandems around, while 5-11 Val Cutrone and 6-foot Meg Opferman handle the middle. Setter Genna Pavone started two years ago when the Eagles ran a 6-2.
9. Mother McAuley - Loyola-bound Mary Kate Styler, and 5-10 middle Maddie McElroy and Liz Scanlon will power the Macs' offense, while 5-5 juniors Bridget Powell and Jackie Aird make sure nothing hits the floor behind them.
10. West Chicago - From zero wins in 2007 to 22 in 2009. Six-foot-2 middle Emily Paschke, 5-9 junior Julia Conard and 6-3 sophomore Andrea Skipor have their sites set on more than just the DuPage Valley Conference title.
Others: Chicago Christian, Evanston, Hinsdale South, Huntley, Joliet Catholic, Payton, Providence, St. Charles North, St. Francis, York.
Sun-Times Top 50 Players
Amelia Anderson, 6-1, Jr., MH, Crystal Lake Central
Mandy Beniac, 5-4, Sr., L, Lincoln-Way North
Jocelyn Birks, 6-2, Sr., OH, Lyons
Jenny Buczek, 5-9, Sr., OH, Sandburg
Hannah Burkle, 6-2, Sr., MH, Crystal Lake South
Lauren Carlini, 6-0, So., S/OH, West Aurora
Ellen Chapman, 6-5, Sr., OH, Glenbrook South
Delaney Clesen, 5-8, Sr., L, Evanston
Julia Conard, 5-9, Jr., OH, West Chicago
Hannah Crippen, 6-0, Sr., S, Plainfield North
Chelsea Cunningham, 6-0, Sr., MH, Whitney Young
Ally Davis, 6-1, Jr., OH, Hinsdale Central
Amy Dion, 5-6, Jr., L, Huntley
Mari Faines, 6-2, Sr., MH, Payton
Kaisley Fisher, 6-3, Sr., MH, Plainfield North
Tracy Friel, 5-10, Sr., S, Crystal Lake Central
Alexandra Funk, 5-10, Sr., OH, Lake Forest
Meghan Haggerty, 6-2, Jr., MH, Benet
Sarah Hunt, 6-3, Sr., MH, Prospect
Jenna Jendryk, 6-0, Jr., S/OH, Benet
Tyler Jones, 5-11, Sr., OH, Jones College Prep
Madison Kamp, 6-2, Sr., S, Chicago Christian
Courtney Keefe, 5-11, Sr., OH, Lemont
Amanda Kijewski, 5-9, Sr., OH, Sandburg
Shealyn Kolosky, 6-2, Sr., MH, Wheaton Warrenville South
Kelly Lamberti, 6-0, Sr., OH, Cary-Grove
Gina Madonia, 5-6, Sr., DS, St. Francis
Jessi Mainczyk, 5-8, Sr., OH, Queen of Peace
Nora Mitros, 6-1, Jr., OH, Providence
Molly Murphy, 5-5, Sr., DS, Marist
Caroline Niedospial, 5-8, Sr., L, Marist
Meghan Niski, 5-10, Jr., OH, St. Charles East
Kelsey Nobilio, 5-6, Sr., L, Johnsburg
Lara Ontko, 5-11, Sr., OH, Benet
Amanda Orchard, 6-0, Sr., MB, Lake Zurich
Emily Paschke, 6-2, Sr., MH, West Chicago
Caroline Rose, 5-6, Jr., OH, York
Michelle Schultz, 5-8, Jr., OH, Payton
Natalia Skiba, 5-9, Sr., OH, Hinsdale Central
Colleen Smith, 6-0, Sr., S, Cary-Grove
Martha Stewart, 5-11, Sr., OH, Waubonsie Valley
Mary Kate Styler, 6-0, Sr., OH, Mother McAuley
Danielle Susz, 6-0, Sr., MH, Lemont
Courtney Thomas, 6-1, Sr., OH, DeKalb
Jessie Tulacka, 6-1, Jr., OH, Downers Grove North
Alexis Viliunas, 6-1, Jr., OH/S, Lyons
Meg Vonderhaar, 6-1, Sr., OH, St. Francis
Lainey Wyman, 6-1, Sr., MH, Joliet Catholic
Emily Young, 6-1, Sr., OH, Schaumburg