By Pat Brozynski

All-star game showcases some of Illinois' top talent

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Thumbnail image for courtney keefe lemont.jpg

(Pictured at right is Lemont's Courtney Keefe.)

Haven't got enough of your favorite senior volleyball players?

Sports Town Chicago ( will sponsor the 2010 Girls High School Volleyball All-Star Game at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, December 6 at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills.

Thirty-six of the top seniors in the state are scheduled to play, including Meg Vonderhaar (St. Francis), Emily Iverson (York), Courtney Keefe (Lemont), Danielle Romeo (Hinsdale South), Jessi Mainczyk (Queen of Peace) and Sarah Hunt (Prospect).

Also, Emily Paschke (West Chicago), Caroline Niedospial (Marist), Jamie Netisingha (Hinsdale Central), Kendra Mikuta (Sandburg), Whitney Kiefer (Scales Mound), Martha Stewart (Waubonsie Valley) and Shay Michel (Mt. Assisi).

Also, Ellen Chapman (Glenbrook South), Catie Steffen (Libertyville), Delaney Clesen (Evanston), Kelly Lamberti (Cary-Grove), Mari Faines (Payton), Lara Ontko (Benet), Amanda Raschke (Reavis) and Madison Kamp (Chicago Christian).

Also, Courtney Thomas (DeKalb), Mary Kate Styler (Marist), Jocelyn Birks (Lyons), Lainey Wyman (Joliet Catholic), Jessie Fiala (Naperville North), Dena Ott (Marian Central), Maddie Croft (Edwardsville) and Emily Young (Schaumburg).

Also, Jackie Gulczynski (Bartlett), Shealynn Kolosky (Wheaton Warrenville South), Tracy Friel (Crystal Lake South), Kate Aronson (St. Ignatius), Colleen Smith (Cary-Grove), Ailivia Holman (Rockton Hononegah) and Kelsey Keeve (Lyons).

Coaches are Patty Langanis (Cary-Grove) and James Garcia (Chicago Christian).

Sponsors include Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar, JZ Law Offices, Illinois Center for Broadcasting and Baden.

The proceeds benefit A Silver Lining Foundation and the organization's fight against breast cancer.


Here is (reprinted by permission) John Tawa of talking about his choice for the national high school champion:

By John Tawa

There wasn't a lot of movement in the rankings this week, as 12 states finished up their seasons, leaving only California to conclude.

Last week, I promised to detail why St. James will be our national champion. Here goes:

I arrived at St. James as our No. 1 through a process of elimination.

Illinois' Cary-Grove, which was No. 1 until last week's rankings, may well have been the best team in the country, but the Trojans lost a heartbreaker to Lyons Township in the state 4A final two Saturdays ago. You can't win a national championship without first winning a state championship. (It was very warm Monday in Chicago. I extended my trip to the Midwest, where I attended the Michigan finals, in anticipation of presenting the national championship trophy to Coach Patty Langanis and Cary-Grove. Alas, it was not to be).

Nebraska Class A champion Papillion-La Vista may be the best team in the country. Two other entities, MaxPreps and ESPNRise, think so. ESPNRise bases its decision largely on two facts: that Nebraska teams in the largest classification don't often go unbeaten and that three members of the squad were on the Nebraska Juniors team that won Junior Nationals in the 16 Open division. I'm not saying that MaxPreps and ESPNRise are wrong; I know Papio South's personnel - the Rolfzen twins were my National Freshmen of the Year last year and I picked Nebraska Juniors to win Nationals - I just can't award a NATIONAL championship to a team that does not play a national schedule.

The only out of state team Papillion South played was Iowa's Bishop Heelan. Heelan was a very good Iowa team, but not a great one, finishing with a 46-10 record and tied for third in the 3A division. Staying local, the Titans needed help from Class B state champion Omaha Gross to contend seriously for the national title. Gross attended the Asics Challenge in Chicago and a strong showing there by the Cougars could have spoken volumes about the highest levels of Nebraska volleyball. Unfortunately for Papio South, Gross finished only 13th (out of 24) as the Challenge. The Cougars' best win there came over unranked Utah 5A champion Lone Peak. Gross lost to Wisconsin Division 2 champion Catholic Memorial, ranked No. 52; and to Sandburg, a good team but not one ranked among the top 10 in the Chicagoland area.

Another reason to deny Papio South is that cannot intellectually distinguish its great season from the season Iowa 3A champion Mt. Vernon had. Mt. Vernon is ranked No. 28 by ESPNRise and unranked according to MaxPreps, but we have the Mustangs No. 6 because we know their personnel, which includes four six-foot plus players who all played on the Iowa Rockets 17s club team that was one of the best teams in the nation last year.

Like Papio South, Mt. Vernon went undefeated in 2010 and was by far the best team in the state. Like Papio South, it did not venture beyond state borders though it could have. Like Papillion South, it could have been aided by a strong showing from Dubuque Wahlert at the Asics Challenge. But the Golden Eagles were just an average team this year and showed it with a 17th-place finish in Chicago, losing to Cary-Grove and Lone Peak.

Here's the kicker: Mt. Vernon defeated Bishop Heelan in the Iowa 3A semifinals. When Papio South won, in two sets, the point differential was 10. When Mt. Vernon won, in four sets, the point differential was 20.

The bottom line is that we cannot really distinguish one of these teams from the other. We do know, however, that neither played national schedules. Therefore, neither can be our national champion.

Long Beach Poly is playing awfully well right now and could win the California state title. Could the Jackrabbits be the best team in the country? Possibly, but they cannot be our national champions for the simple reason that they've lost twice already. We have never recognized a national champion with more than one loss on its resume. And on those occasions when we have chosen a one-loss team, that loss has come to a team our national champion also defeated during the season. Of Poly's two losses, one, to Harvard-Westlake, cannot be avenged.

Could Lyons Township have been our national champion? The reasons for choosing Lyons were compelling: the Lions were the only team to defeat a Cary-Grove team that may have been the strongest in the country, they avenged their only loss with a convincing sweep of Marist in the state quarterfinals and they were undefeated with their full roster on the floor.

So why not elevate Lyons? Well, the team did defeat Marist and Cary-Grove, but otherwise didn't play a schedule that was all that tough. I was also impressed by the opinion of several coaches who witnessed the final that Cary-Grove was actually the better team despite the loss. One of those coaches, from a Missouri state championship team, said that she thought one-loss St. James was clearly a better team than one-loss Lyons. Based on those factors, Lyons could not go ahead of St. James.

The toughest call came down to Indiana 2A champion Muncie Burris and one-loss Kansas 4A champion St. James. Like Papio South and Mt. Vernon, Burris stayed in state and fashioned an undefeated season. The Owls handed Indiana 4A champion Penn its only loss and defeated the 4A runner up as well as the 3A champion. Unlike Papillion South and Mt. Vernon, however, Burris was able to play, and defeat, Louisville Assumption in the final of its own tournament. That's a huge win for any program and one that de facto establishes it as one of the national elite.

But was it enough to earn it a national title? We concluded "no" for several reasons: 1. At least four coaches we know and respect a great deal and who know the Muncie area intimately and the Burris program in detail told us in confidence that this Burris team was not a dynastic team. 2. Assumption coach Kordes said that while Burris was a good team, both Cary-Grove and Harvard-Westlake, the other two teams the Rockets lost to, were better.

That wasn't enough for us, however. Because if St. James wasn't better than Assumption, how could we make the Thunder national champion over a Burris team that had actually beaten the Rockets?

To help us with this problem, we turned to Louisville Mercy coach Todd Garvey. Mercy finished second to Assumption in Kentucky this year and faced the Rockets four times, winning the first in five, then losing the last three times. Mercy also lost to St. James, 25-12, 25-16, in the semifinals of the St. Joseph's Tournament of Champions. We asked coach Garvey who would win between St. James and Assumption.

"I think if they played 10 times St James would probably win 6 or 7," he said. "Assumption has the best hitter in Houser and more height and power but St James has the better ball control, defense and serve receive. They have a quick offense that I think would be hard for AHS to stop. And they didn't seem to make hardly any unforced errors from when I watched them."

Okay, so having established that St. James could have beaten Assumption, what is the case for the Thunder over Muncie Burris? They played a tougher schedule and a national schedule, plain and simple.

While Burris' schedule includes wins over the Indiana 4A and 3A champs, the Indiana 4A runner up and the Kentucky champion, St. James' resume includes wins over the Kansas 5A champ and runner up, Missouri Class 4 champion and runner up, Missouri Class 3 champion, Oklahoma 5A champion and Kentucky runner up.

Unlike Burris, St. James did lose, but its loss came to a Bishop Miege team that it also defeated three other times, a Miege team that repeated as Kansas 5A champion, a Miege team that is ranked No. 14 currently but was pre-season No. 4. In that loss, moreover, St. James battled back from five points down in the third and decisive set to take a 21-20 lead. The Thunder might have won, too, but for the late-match heroics of Shelby Workman in Miege's 25-23 win.

Two points. Against a team it had already defeated three times. That's how close St. James came to a 45-0 season. If the Thunder had gone undefeated, there'd be no debate here. They'd clearly be No. 1 in light of Cary-Grove's loss. In the extended analysis, however, we still think that St. James did enough to merit the edge over Burris. The Thunder maximized their opportunities to play top national-level competition, won every tournament they played in, defeated five teams in the national top 10 and own 21 wins over teams in the national rankings. That's might impressive.

In tabbing St. James as our national champ, we also note that the Kansas City area, where St. James is situated, is thriving as a volleyball community. At the Show Me National Qualifier in May, clubs from Kansas City won 15 Open (Invasion), 16 Open (MAVS), 17 Open (KC Power) and 18 Open (KC Extreme). Invasion 15 Black also won Crossroads and Nationals in Reno. One year before, KC Power won 16 Open at Junior Nationals in Miami Beach.

Of the 11 players on St. James' roster, nine played on Open-level teams at Junior Nationals in Reno. A 10th played on an Invasion 16 Black team that won 16 American, while senior RS Molly O'Brien, who has signed with Nebraska-Kearney, played for the Team KC 17s team that played in the National division. In other words, these kids are legit.

It was a tough call, as all of the teams considered are great teams that had great seasons. But for us, the combination of great players and a kick-butt national schedule puts St. James just a tad higher than everyone else.

2010 Century Club National High School Rankings

1. St. James (Lenexa, Kansas)
Final record: 44-1; Last week's ranking: 1

2. Burris (Muncie, Indiana)
Final record: 39-0; Last week's ranking: 2

3. Papillion-La Vista South (Papillion, Nebraska)
Final record: 41-0; Last week's ranking: 3

4. Lyons Township (La Grange, Illinois) Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 4

5. Cary-Grove (Cary, Illinois) Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 5

6. Mount Vernon (Iowa)
Final record: 41-0; Last week's ranking: 6

7. Poly (Long Beach, California)
Current record: 36-2; Last week's ranking: 13

8. Assumption (Louisville, Kentucky)
Final record: 39-4; Last week's ranking: 7

9. Pope (Marietta, Georgia)
Final record: 54-1; Last week's ranking: 8

10. La Jolla Country Day (California)
Current record: 30-3; Last week's ranking: 9

24. Mater Dei (Breese, Illinois)
Final record: 41-1; Last week's ranking: 25

38. Marist (Chicago, Illinois)
Final record: 37-3; Last week's ranking: 39

68. Benet (Lisle, Illinois)
Final record: 32-7; Last week's ranking: 69

69. Mother McAuley (Chicago, Illinois)
Final record: 32-8; Last week's ranking: 70

70. Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Illinois)
Final record: 34-8; Last week's ranking: 71

92. Edwardsville (Illinois)
Final record: 32-9; Last week's ranking: 91

Teams on the bubble (listed state-by-state, alphabetically)
Illinois: Althoff, Crystal Lake Central, Hersey, Hinsdale Central, Hinsdale South, Huntley, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Marian Central, Minooka, Moline, Quincy, Sandburg, St. Francis, Stevenson, York

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Shay Michel from Mt. Assisi?

I love that an opinion of a "few" coaches could put Lions out of it.NO ONE thought that Lyons Township was going to beat Cary,read ALL the past boards ,articles and comments on the prepvolleyball web from coaches parents and fans.Lt was underestimated and overlooked all season ,yet got the job done in the end.They also have multiple D1 recruits in their starting line up...I will never understand the politics in sports....even at this level.

I agree with vbfn. The blogs and the press for preps are for gossip only. I wonder how many really good D1 recruits never get any publicity? I bet if Cary Grove and LT played 10 matches they would be 5 and 5. It was a great state final and the best team won that night.

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This page contains a single entry by Back Row published on November 29, 2010 12:13 PM.

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