Cary-Grove (pictured above) setttled for second place in 2010. Who will win it all in 2011?
With the start of the 2011 season just a few days away, here's a look at more teams hoping to make an impression in the days and weeks ahead.
Libertyville finished 35-3 in 2010 after being upset in the sectional semifinals by Stevenson. Gone from that team are outside hitters Catie Steffen (Rhode Island) and Paige Hopper. But Greg Loika still has one of the best setters around in Cindy Zhou.
Zhou, a 6-foot junior and special mention Champaign News-Gazette selection, is headed to Michigan in two years where she hopes to follow in the footsteps of another Lake County standout, former Barrington setter Lexi Zimmerman.
Meanwhile, Zhou will set a team featuring a pair of returning attackers in 6-0 junior rightside Taylor Zant and 6-0 senior middle hitter Kerry Risley. Also back from last year is 5-6 junior libero Kristen Webb, who set the school single-season dig record in 2010.
Eileen Knauff, a 5-8 senior outside, returns after sitting out last year with an injury, while newcomers include 6-0 senior middle Katie Waehner, 6-1 senior Nicole Kruckman, 6-0 junior outside Julie Smagatz and 5-8 sophomore outside Rhiannon Prentiss.
"We are excited to have another talented group," Loika said. "We will be taxed to replace Steffen and Hopper, however, we have a young and talented group coming in. We hope to put together another solid campaign."
After finishing fourth in 2007 and second in 2009, Chicago Christian finally claimed a state Class 2A title in 2010. However, three Kamps graduated from that team - Maddie, Stacey and Emily - leaving Maggie to lead the Knights back to Redbird Arena.
Maggie Kamp, a 6-1 senior outside, was second on the team with better than 190 kills in 2010. She will be joined up front by 6-1 senior middle Becky DeRuiter (team-high 250 kills in 2010) and 6-0 junior Emily Lindemulder (155 kills, 85 blocks).
Libero Celaine Haan is back for another run in the back row, while junior Annika Evenhouse and sophomore Emily Workman could be sharing the load at the setter position.
Chicago Christian beefed up its schedule to include the McAuley Preview.
"We're excited to be starting another season at Chicago Christian," coach James Garcia said. "What else can we do? Our goal this year, aside from the obvious in trying to repeat, is to actually finish better in our conference."
Chicago Christian finished fourth each of the last two years behind St. Francis, Marian Central and Rosary. The Knights may face more of the same as all of those teams figure to be solid again in 2010.
Amanda Brown begins her 10th season at Oak Forest, and for the first time in a long time, she may actually be able to look her players in the eye.
"We have a little bit more height than we did last year," said Brown, who has a career mark of 190-113. "But we still need to find ways to generate the explosiveness that our offense has enjoyed over the past few years."
Oak Forest finished 22-17 last year and was 10-3 in the South Suburban Blue behind Lemont. Back from that team is Gina Ryan, a 5-6 all-conference outside hitter, 5-10 middle Stephanie Dagenais and libero Jill Krygowski.
New faces Oak Forest will be counting on include 5-10 junior setter Kate Zickus, 5-8 junior outside hitter Cassidy Staunton, 5-11 junior middle blocker Kathy Flanagan and 6-9 freshman outside Alissa Tattas.
"We are young and relatively inexperienced at the varsity level," Brown said. "I still have as many question marks today as I did in June. But slowly, players are starting to step up, personalities are melding nicely and the girls are all finding ways to contribute to a positive team chemistry."
Oak Forest's 2010 season ended in the T.F. North supersectional at the hands of (Chicago) Payton, which eventually finished fourth in the state for the second time in three years. Both those Payton teams had something in common - 5-8 outside hitter Michelle Schultz.
Schultz, a second-team Sun-Times All-Area selection in 2010, is back for her fourth varsity season, Last year, an injury to Roxanne Rivera forced Schultz into playing setter for nearly half of the season. This year, Schultz can just focus on hitting.
"Thank goodness she can hit this year full time as we have trained four other setters to handle that duty should something happen this year," Payton coach Joel Anderson said.
Also back from a year ago are 5-10 middle Kaimara Herron, who led the team in hitting percentage and blocks in 2010, 5-3 libero Leanne Okazaki, and 6-1 setter/outside hitter Tea Peric.
Hoping to fill out the starting six are defensive specialist Lindsay Okazaki, defensive specialist Alice Mei, 5-9 junior outside Claire Calkins, 5-6 junior outside Holly Bieber, 5-5 junior defensive specialist Emily Hayes and 5-6 sophomore setter Alyssa Estrada.
Payton lost two of its bigger pieces from last year's 32-10 team - 6-2 towers Mari Faines and Hannah Rehak. Buit while the Grizzlies may be a whole lot smaller, they should be better defensively and at ball control.
"If we figure out a couple of role players, we will be in good shape this season," Anderson said.
The passing of Crystal Lake Central coach and athletic director Doug Blundy left a void in high school athletics and certainly girls volleyball that may never be filled. The 24-year veteran led the Tigers to a 42-0 record and the state title in 2007 and a fourth-place finish in 2009.
"Central volleyball has had a long tradition of history and success under the direction of the late coach Doug Blundy," new coach Lisa Reddish said. "Under his guidance, the Tigers were consistently among the top teams in the Fox Valley and the area.
"As our new season begins, our team hopes to again be one of top teams in the FVC and one of the top teams in our area as well," Reddish said.
Central went 34-5 in 2010, losing to Marian Central 22-25, 25-15, 25-21 in the Class 3A sectional finals at Belvidere. Four starters graduated from that team. But back to make Reddish's job a little easier is 6-1 senior middle hitter Amelia Anderson.
Anderson, a second-team Sun-Times all-area selection in 2010, will be supported by 6-0 sophomore middle Lauren Leverenz, 5-9 setter/rightside hitter Caroline Sdregas and 5-8 defensive specialist Dana Shannon.
Reddish looks for big things from 5-8 senior outside hitter Victoria Day, who comes over from Prairie Ridge, and 5-5 defensive specialist Kellie Fredette.