By Pat Brozynski

Looking ahead at the 2011 season (Part II)

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Editor's note: This is the second of a three-part series looking ahead to the 2011 season. Here are 11 more teams throughout Illinois to watch:

Joliet Catholic - Many observers did not expect Joliet Catholic to take Mater Dei to the limit in their Class 3A state championship match, given the losses to graduation the Angels suffered the previous spring. But if we learned anything, it's not to discount the girls in Columbia blue and white. Back in 2011 will be junior outsides Kelly Feigh and Lauren Robertson, sophomore outside Morgan Reardon and slick libero Jill Hickey. Coach Chris Scheibe just needs to find a setter and a middle and her veterans will do the rest.

Lyons - How do you replace Illinois recruit Jocelynn Birks? How do you replace setter Erin Juley, who stepped in when Alexis Viliunas missed the first 20 matches while recovering from a wrist injury? How do you replace steady albeit unspectacular middles Kelsey Keeve and Julia Watkins? The answer is you probably don't. Vilunas, 5-10 junior outside hitter Laura Williams and 5-4 junior libero Megan Miller make a nice nucleus. But the defending state Class 4A champions have a lot of work to do if they plan on repeating.

Marist - At least one south suburban Chicago scribe picked Marist to knock off Lyons in a Class 4A supersectional and win it all. Maybe he was a year ahead of himself. The RedHawks return most of their starters including 5-8 setter Ashley Holder, 6-4 middle Lauren Zielinski, 6-1 sophomore rightside Rachel Dalton and 5-9 sophomore outside Mallory Salis. But Marist will have a tough time replacing the irreplaceable Caroline Niedospial at libero and steady if not spectacular middle Katie Krasowski.

Mother McAuley - There is a first time for everything, and Mother McAuley's loss to Marist in the sectional finals was its first ever post-season loss to its south side rival. However, you can bet that the Macs will be back. So will 5-8 junior setter/outside hitter Ryann Arundel, 5-6 defender Bridget Powell, 5-10 outside hitter Lizzie Scanlon and 5-8 sophomore outside hitter Sydney McPhillips. However, the loss of leading hitter Mary Kate Styler and setter Kailey Scott will leave a sizeable void for coach Jennifer DeJarld.

Naperville Central - The Redhawks won a Class AA title in 2005 and a 4A title in 2007, but have been out of the limelight since. However, coach Brie Isaacson won 20 games with five sophomores and a freshman seeing extensive court time in 2010 and is quietly building another state contender. Top players are sophomore setter/opposite hitter Alysia Baznik, freshman setter Ivy Lei, sophomore middles Sammy Condon and Nikki Connors, sophomore outside hitter Kendall Ward and sophomore libero Carolyn Wesoloski.

Providence - A promising season was dealt a blow before it even began when 6-foot senior outside Noelle Burchett went down with an ACL injury during Week 1. Under a new coach for the first time in nearly 30 years (Rachel Ellingson), the Celtics recovered to win a regional title before falling to Marist in a sectional semifinal. Back from that team are stellar 6-1 junior Nora Mitros, 6-foot middle Alyssa Podwell, 5-8 junior outside Katie Urchell and 5-9 sophomore setter Krista Brakauskas.

St. Charles East - A late-season injury to super setter Erienne Barry means we will never know if the Saints could have made a lengthy postseason run. But if Barry can stay healthy in 2011, St. Charles East has a shot at getting back to the state finals. Junior Meghan Niski is one of the state's top outside hitters, and she and Barry will get plenty of help from 5-7 junior libero Maisey Mulvey and 6-1 junior middle Nichole Lambert. Keep an eye on 6-1 sophomore Nicole Woods and 5-9 junior Stephanie Camper, who stepped in for the stricken Barry.

St. Francis - Was the Spartans' 11-25, 25-20, 25-18 loss to Joliet Catholic in the sectional finals - its third consecutive state tournament loss to the Angels - a last hurrah? Setter Kelly Reinke, libero Gina Madonia and 6-2 outside hitter Meg Vonderhaar are gone. All that remains is 6-2 Daiva Wise and a couple of 5-10 juniors who prospered in complementary roles - Haley Gable and Grace Churney. Can sophomore McKenna Kelsay step in at setter? St. Francis has not been to the big dance since 2007, an eternity for a Peg Kopec-coached team.

Springfield Lutheran - Six-foot-2 setter/outside hitter Abby Heise (more than 350 kills and 300 assists in 2010) and the Crusaders could have their way next fall with an embarrassment of riches returning. In addition to the multi-talented Heise, Springfield Lutheran also welcomes back sophomore setter/rightside Cydney Long, 5-11 sophomore outside Naomi Quigg, 5-10 freshman middle hitter Jeslyn Roat, 5-11 freshman rightside Jordan Cowles and defensive stalwart Jamie Voigtmann.

Toledo Cumberland - The Lady Pirates have two third-place finishes and a fourth to show for their three consecutive Class 1A state semifinal appearances. Will they finally win the big trophy in 2011? Back for Cumberland are 5-9 junior opposite Mercedes Sparks, 5-9 sophomore middle Kassidy Hunt and 5-8 junior outside Tayler McCullough. But the bigger question in Toledo might be...will coach Amy Roan will be back next fall? Cumberland has had three head coaches in three years.

York - Coach Patty Iverson vowed after her team's loss in the fourth-place game that there would be a "next time," and 2011 seems like a pretty good bet with five starters back including 5-6 junior outside hitter Caroline Rose. Rose almost single-handedly defeated Lyons in the second game of their semifinal match. Also back from this year's 34-6 team will be 6-foot junior middle Morgan Semmelhack, 5-11 sophomore outside Melissa Deatsch, 5-8 junior setter Katie Gallagher, and 6-1 junior middle hitter Sam Schrenker.

Other teams to watch: Chicago Christian, Chicago Payton, Chicago Young, Crystal Lake Central, DeKalb, Downs Tri-Valley, Hersey, Hinckley-Big Rock, Hinsdale Central, Huntley, Jacksonville, Marian Central, Mt. Pulaski, Orion, Pleasant Plains, Prairie Ridge, Sandburg, St. Ignatius, Wauconda.

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This page contains a single entry by Back Row published on December 24, 2010 10:14 AM.

Looking (through the glass, darkly) ahead at the 2011 season... was the previous entry in this blog.

Two hundred reasons to watch volleyball in 2011 is the next entry in this blog.

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