By Pat Brozynski

July 2011 Archives

Joliet Catholic was thisclose to winning its third consecutive state championship last year before falling to Breese Mater Dei 18-25, 25-18, 26-24 in the Class 3A title match.

Twelfth-year coach Chris Scheibe and the Angels could be back in the winners' circle in 2011 with four starters back from last year's 34-8 team.

Among the returnees are 5-foot-11 junior outside hitter and Loyola recruit Morgan Reardon, who compiled some staggering statistics as a sophomore including 278 kills, 37 blocks, 249 digs, 145 service points and 17 aces.

Also back are 5-10 senior outside hitter and Loyola recruit Kelly Feigh, who led the Angels with 315 kills, 29 blocks, 321 digs, 244 service points and 33 aces. Joining Reardon and Feigh will be 5-9 senior Lauren Robertson and 5-5 senior libero Jill Hickey.

Scheibe expects big things from two new faces - 6-foot senior middle hitter Hailey Pennington and 5-11 senior Gianna Lincoln. Pennington will try to replace Lainey Wyman, who used her 6-2 frame to amass better than 240 kills and 110 blocks.

But the big question is at setter, where three players are expected to contend to replace graduated seniors Meredith Vertin and Jordan Huston.

"I feel that we have much more experience on the floor than we had last season and the girls are much more mentally tough," Scheibe said. "We have already made great strides over the summer to improve our defense. I am excited about the possibilities for this year."


Shannon O'Brien, who plays club volleyball at 1st Alliance and will be a senior at Benet this fall, has committed to play Division I volleyball at Cornell University of the Ivy League.

"I knew Cornell was the perfect match for me the moment I walked on campus," O'Brien said. "With it's beautiful campus, diverse campus life, prestigious academics and volleyball team that could not be more of a perfect match for me, the decision to go to Cornell was simple."

O'Brien and her Benet teammates should rank among the top 10 teams in the area in the preseason.

"Shannon is one of the most competitive players that I have coached," Benet coach Brad Baker said. "She has great energy and passion which has always rubbed off on others and made the people around her better. She is a natural leader who is very confident in herself and her abilities.

"Cornell is extremely lucky to be getting such a quality person," he added.


Among other recent college commitments is St. Ignatius' 5-11 setter/outside hitter Sophie Dodd, who verballed to Wake Forest beginning in fall 2013. Dodd, who plays club volleyball for 1st Alliance, was named the MVP of the 16 Open division at AAU nationals where she led her team to the title.

Also committing recently was York's 6-foot middle Morgan Semmelhack, who will take her talents to Kent State in fall 2012. Semmelhack, a 1st Alliance product, had more than 150 kills and 80 blocks for last year's Class 4A fourth-place finisher. Her high school teammate, Samantha Schrenker, has committed to West Point.

Batavia's Mary Nilles, a 5-11 setter who plays club at Sports Performance, recently announced she will head to Marquette in fall 2012.

1st Alliance brings back hardware from AAUs

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1st Alliance 16 Silver (pictured above) defeated Texas Advantage VB Rags 16 Black to win the championship of the 38th AAU Girls' Junior National Volleyball Championships. The match can be seen on the ESPN GO website by selecting the Wednesday, June 22, 7:00 p.m. match.

1st Alliance 16 Silver coach Beth Keck called the match up between her team and TAV "a little bit of David versus Goliath" as 1st Alliance pulled off the upset 27-25, 25-16 in a match most experts figured would go Texas' way.

Sophia Dodd was named tournament MVP while teammates Mallory Salis and Melissa Deatsch were named to the all-tournament team.

Among other 1st Alliance finishes, Francesca Cervone, Annicka Griffith and Jennifer Marie Porod were named all stars from the Lions 14 Navy team that finished second in the 14 and under Classic division.

Also, all-star Lizzie Zaleski led Lions 14 Red to a fifth place finish in the 14 and under Club division; Lions 14-1 finished ninth in the 14 and under Open division; and Jackie Aird was named to the all-tournament team after leading 1st Alliance 17 White to fifth place in the 17 Club division.

Amanda Kijewski, Tori Clifford and Jill Briner were named all-stars from the 1st Alliance 18 Black team that finished second in the 18 Club division; and Alexis Viliunas and Jocelyn Birks were all-tournament choices from 18 Open division third-place finisher 1st Alliance 18 Silver.

In the 16 and under Boys division, the 3CE 16 Boys finished fifth.


1st Alliance 17 Silver outside hitter Laura Williams, who helped lead Lyons to the Class 4A state title last fall, was named to the all-tournament team at the USA Volleyball National Junior Championships in Atlanta, Ga.

1st Alliance 17 Silver finished second in the Bronze division and 10th overall, winning six of its first nine matches before falling in the finals of the Bronze division to Texas Advantage.


Does she get frequent flier miles?

After attending the Sports Performance Setter Camp at Benedictine University and the University of Wisconsin skills camp with potential and committed recruits, West Aurora junior Lauren Carlini departed July 20 for five days of training and five days of competition at the High Performance USA Volleyball Championships in Tucson, Ariz.

After leaving Tucson, Carlini will head to Lake Placid, N.Y. for 10 days of training with her Youth National Team. The team will then leave New York for Turkey where it will play in the Girls World Youth Championships in Ankara on August 10-21.

Carlini is expected to return to the United States on August 22, just in time to join her teammates at the Benet invitational August 26-27.


Stephanie Holthus (Elgin, Ill.; Burlington Central H.S.; Northwestern University) and Alyssa Warren (Joliet, Ill,; Joliet Catholic H.S.; Seton Hall University) are members of the 2011 U.S. Women's Junior National Team, which will compete at the 2011 FIVB Women's Junior (U-20) World Championship from July 22-30 in Lima and Trujilla, Peru.

Holthus was named to the 2010 Big Ten All-Freshman Team in her debut at Northwestern. She was a member of the 2010 U.S. Women's Junior National Team that won the gold medal at the NORCECA Women's Junior Continental Championship.

Warren will be heading into her second season at Seton Hall in the fall.

Rob Browning, head coach at Saint Mary's University, Calif., is in his second year serving as head coach of the U.S. Women's Junior National Team. Browning selected this year's team based off of not only skill and experience, but also based on intangible assets players bring to the team.

"Our criteria are simple - we want to get the absolute best players possible so that we can win the World Championship," he said. "Being the best means more than just having the physical and skill components. It means being the type of person who can contribute to a strong team culture and is capable of helping the team achieve beyond the sum of its parts."

The U.S. Women's Junior National Team is playing in Pool C and will open the tournament on July 22 against Belgium. The U.S. team is scheduled to face Poland for its second match on July 23. For the team's third match, the U.S. will face Korea on July 24.

The top two teams in each of the four first-round pools advance to the top eight second round with another round-robin pool of four teams. The teams finishing third and fourth in the first round drop into the 9-16 classification second round. Both second rounds take place July 26-28.

The semifinal and final classification round is set for July 30, while the medal rounds will be held July 31.

Nora Young, who will be a senior at Benet this fall, has committed to play Division I volleyball for the University of Duquesne. Duquesne is located in Pittsburgh, Penn. and competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

Young is a 6-foot outside hitter who plays club for 1st Alliance (Western Springs). Nora's sister, Sierra, a 2010 Benet grad, currently plays for Cornell University.

"Everything about the school is perfect for me," Young said. "I knew the moment I walked on campus that it was the right fit. The strong program that Duquesne possesses both in volleyball and academics will be an exciting challenge. I feel that I have a lot to offer the program and can't wait to get there."

Benet coach Brad Baker called Young one of the most improved players in the area.

"Nora started playing club in eighth grade as a middle hitter, but has worked extremely hard to turn herself into a six rotation outside," he said. "Nora is extremely long and has learned to hit a variety of shots. Duquesne is getting a great player, and more importantly a great person."

Barrington did not have to look far to find its next girls volleyball coach.

Rob Ridenour, who was named the boys volleyball coach prior to the 2007 season, will handle both jobs in 2011-2012, the school recently announced.

Ridenour replaces Chris Bronke, who stepped down in November after the Fillies' season ended with a loss to Cary-Grove in the regional finals to spend more time with his family and to focus on teaching.

Ridenour served as Bronke's assistant for the past few seasons, so the transition should be a smooth one.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to coach in a program with a fantastic group of girls," Ridenour said. "Chris left the program in great shape with girls that have a passion to succeed and have a high level of technical skill.

"I think we are going to have a lot of fun this fall putting the pieces in place," Ridenour said.

Ridenour will have several pieces with which to work when the season opens in August. The Fillies, who rebounded from a slow start to win 20 matches, return two seniors and three juniors who played extensively last season.

Leading the way will be 5-10 junior middle Julia Thompson, an all-Mid-Suburban League selection in 2010, and all-conference libero Amanda Dee. Sophomore Emily Casaletto will join Dee in the back row, while junior Laura Schectman will join Thompson up front.

A big key for Barrington will be the return to form of 6-1 junior outside hitter Peyton Lang, who was set back by injury during the club season but has been a fixture at Barrington's summer volleyball camp.

"Peyton has a heavy arm," Ridenour said.

Barrington, a powerhouse under Karen Traub in the early 2000s, opens the 2011 season August 23 at Stevenson.


Ridenour was not the only coach making news this off-season. Chad Rakers will succeed his dad Fred at Breese Mater Dei, which won last year's Class 3A state championship in a thriller over two-time defending champion Joliet Catholic.

Fred Rakers retired with 1,046 wins, second in Illinois history to St. Francis' Peg Kopec. The elder Rakers won six state titles in 35 seasons and made 20 trips to the state tournament.

Chad Rakers served as an assistant coach at Mater Dei for the past four years and is a graduate of the Breese private school.

Mater Dei lost half of its rotation and most of its star power to graduation, but does return 5-10 senior Brooke Schulte, the team's best player in 2010.


A pair of downstate teams who could be favored to win their respective classes in 2011 - 4A Edwardsville and 2A Decatur St. Teresa - squared off in the Carlinville tournament last Saturday and split two games. St. Teresa won 19-14 and lost 20-18.

Decatur St. Teresa finished 37-3 and in fourth place in 2010 behind 5-9 senior-to-be Alexis Clemons and 5-8 sophomore-to-be Marie Less. Edwardsville welcomes back Sam Epenesa and a veteran supporting cast from a 32-9 team that finished third a year ago.

The boys volleyball season offically ended with the 2011 USAV Junior National Championships last week in Minneapolis, Minn. But can another club season be far behind?

Here is a look at twho could be dominating the Illinois high school volleyball scene come next spring.

1. Wheaton Warrenville South - The Tigers return five of their top eight players from last year's 35-3 team - 6-foot-7 Thomas Jaeschke, 6-5 Matt Nussbaum, 6-7 Matt Callaway, 6-6 Tim Zyburt and libero Dan Eastman. Alex Valdez and Kit Bruzek vie to set.

2. Glenbard West - Yes, there will be holes to fill. But outside hitter won't be one of them. Six-foot-7 junior Ian Lawson amassed more than 400 kills in 2010. Also back are setter Alex Emanuel, DS Mikey O'Dea, MH Scottie Thomas and OH Alex Kahn.

3. Barrington - Libero Austin Czarnecki, 6-8 MH Tommy Leonard, 6-5 OH Jeff Hochstein and athletic setter Taylor Ganzer are back from a team that had trouble closing matches in 2010. Maybe a little experience was all this team needed.

4. Glenbard East - The Rams will challenge WW South in the western suburbs and the DuPage Valley Conference behind 5-9 libero Matt Finder, 5-8 setter Mike Heim, 6-5 sophomore OH Joe Farrell, 6-5 junior MH Tim Shenkin and 6-3 sophomore MH Jake Hamaker.

5. Benet - Bobby Wehrli, a 6-foot-5 outside hitter, was one of the best juniors around in 2010 and should only get better. Junior Luke Ladowski, sophomore Sawyer Yeazel, sophomore setter Pat Dougherty and 6-2 junior Kevin Weithers also return.

6. Vernon Hills - Six-foot-6 Thomas Robinson and 6-5 Martin Niemczewski are a solid one-two punch for the Cougars, but the loss of Justin Opitz's leadership and setting will be difficult to overcome. Will freshman Ryan Opitz step in for his older brother?

7. Lincoln-Way East - A healthy Nathan Royer and a year of experience for freshman setter Austin Royer bode well for the Griffin's future. Also back from a sectional semifinalist are libero Jake Tomaras and 6-5 rightside Jason Garnett.

8. Plainfield North - The Tigers lost to Neuqua Valley in the regional final but reurn all but one player. Five-foot-9 Matt Guerreri is one of the best setters around and will look to 6-1 outside Peter Bednarz, 6-2 freshman Doug Aremba and 6-6 sophomore Zack Yost.

9. Glenbrook South - The Titans ran into a red-hot New Trier team in the sectional semifinals, but setter Brian Brennan, 6-8 junior middle blocker Piotr Rafalo and athletic 6-4 junior middle Troy Farsakian are back for another run at the state quarterfinals.

10. Sandburg - The defending state champions will boast two of the best setters around in 6-1 Scott Fifer and 5-10 sophomore Nick Bendell, who split the 2011 season. The only question for coach Sean Airola - who will they set?


Sports Performance 18 Mizuno was the top area finisher at the USAV Boys Junior Championships in Minneapolis last week, finishing fourth in 18 Open after going 8-3 in their division.

Members of the team included Nolan Albrecht (unafilliated), Adam Lepold from Glenbard West, Eric McCarthy from Willowbrook, Matt Nussbaum, David Priest and Michal Stefanski from Wheaton Warrenville South, Zachary Parik and Greg Petty from Downers Grove North, Jonathan Storm of Neuqua Valley and Trace Szczygiel from Lake Park.

Ultimate 18 Gold finished in 11th place at 7-2.

In other divisions, SPVB 17 Mizuno finished fifth and Ultimate 17 Gold was ninth in 17 Open; Ultimate 16 Gold was fifth and Adversity Elite 16 was ninth in 16 Open; and Ultimate 15 Gold was sixth in 15 Open.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from July 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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