Buffalo Grove has become a fixture at the boys state volleyball tournament, making three consecutive appearance under Matt Aiello who is 121-25 at the Mid-Suburban East powerhouse.
Despite the loss of 6-9 outside hitter Nick Baronti and his 394 kills and 6-4 outside Mike Jambrone, there's no reason to think the Bison won't make it four in a row in 2011.
Buffalo Grove returns four starters from last year's 30-6 quarterfinalist that lost to Maine South 25-20, 25-15, including third-year outside 6-foot-3 Chris Shanahan, who had 281 kills and 266 digs as a junior.
"Chris jumps well over 37 inches and has long arms and is a lefty," Aiello said. "He has played out of position the last two seasons and is poised to challenge for Player of the Year."
Also back are 5-11 setter Lukas Karch, who had 1,188 assists in 2010; 6-6 junior outside hitter Sam Wacker (105 kills, 67 blocks in 2010), who will slide over from the middle; and 6-6 outside/middle Jaimie Schnittker.
Other players to watch include outside hitter Jon Ward, who is expected to pay a bigger role in 2011; Cameron Castle, who returns after splitting time at libero with the graduated Alex Kob: 6-8 junior middle Michael Starzec; and 6-3 junior setter Matt Bloom.
"We believe that we will be in position to win our fourth straight sectional and have a realistic chance to win the Illinois state championship," Aiello said. "We have the talent, experience and confidence to beat any team.
"We really are very well rounded," the coach added. "We have a lot of height across the net and a very creative setter. We can block all spots and four of five hitters in probable starting lineup can hit out of multiple positions."
Buffalo Grove has dominated its conference, winning 47 of its last 50 matches including 30 straight.
"We are very excited about this upcoming season," Aiello said. "There is a whole lot of work ahead and we will be a major target as usual in our area, but we could prove to be the best Buffalo Grove team yet.
"We are bigger, faster, more experienced and more athletic than last year," he added.
However, there are some areas which Aiello would like to see improve.
"We have to be sure that we focus on our serve receive," he said. "Chris and Cameron will cover the majority of our passing, but we will need one more person to prove that they can consistently contribute or we will make Lukas work too hard and burn him out."
York setter and Iowa State recruit Katie Gallagher is resting comfortably after being rushed to the hospital Monday following 1st Alliance 17 Silver's semfinal victory over Asics KIVA 17 Red at the President's Day Tournament at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora.
She is expected to make a full recovery.
"Katie is very excited to play at Iowa State for Christy Johnson-Lynch (who was an All American Setter when Nebraska won the National Championship in 1995)," said her father John Gallagher.
Iowa State has qualified for the NCAA tournament each year since 2006 and made Sweet 16 appearances in 2007 and 2009 and reached the Elite 8 in 2008. The future looks good for the Cyclones who have commitments from three other Top 50 recruits.