Julia Conard (pictured right) has West Chiicago soaring after last week's Willowbrook tournament.
Gone is Kelly Lamberti, the Sun-Times 2010 Player of the Year. Gone, too, is Colleen Smith, who took her multiple talents to Indiana, and outside hitter Allison Whimpey, who was third in kills on last year's team.
But don't cry for Cary-Grove. The Trojans still have 6-foot middle hitter turned outside hitter Ashley Rosch, 6-foot senior outside hitter Melanie Jereb and 6-2 junior middle Mallory Wilcynski.
The only thing missing, perhaps, is the comfort zone created by Lamberti and Smith, who were able to provide the big hits or the big plays when they were needed.
"It is a little like starting from scratch," Cary-Grove coach Patty Langanis said. "We're feeling each other out to see who's going too take over. I think Ashley stepped up (Saturday), especially in the first Stevenson game with 16 kills in that match.
"She showed she's ready to take the team on her back," Langanis added. "But so many new kids are just excited to be on the court, trying to find their footing and say, 'Hey, know who I am.' Most of these girls have been in the program for four years. They're ready to take their chance,"
Cary-Grove is coming off a 41-1 season in which is was extended to three games only three times, including the state championship match against Lyons. Langanis does not expect anything to come that easy this season.
"It is a challenge," she said. "We know that this year we have to work extremely hard for every point. The nice thing is that the target is not on our back like last year.
"They're busting their butts in practice every day, and as coaches were trying to take these kids who don't play volleyball all year round and make them competitive.
"If we can get this team back to Redbird Arena, that's going to be some hard work and we'll know that was done in the gym," she said.
St. Ignatius might have been suffering from a little bit of bus lag after the 90-minute trip from the westside of Chicago to Jacobs Saturday. No sooner had they disembarked their bus than the Wolfpack found themselves staring across the net at Cary-Grove.
Their second match was no picnic, either. St. Ignatius squared off against Stevenson, which advanced to the tournament finals by stunning Catholic Memorial of Waukesha, Wis. in the semifinals.
Despite the setbacks, the questionable seeding and faulty pool play assignments, St. Ignatius coach Erik Eastman was happy to have the opportunity to travel beyond the comfort of the city limits.
"This was good for us," he said. "We switched things (schedule) around this year. We don't need to play a lot of the teams that we've seen in the past. We have to come out and play these kinds of teams and if we have to travel to do it, OK.
"Like I tell the girls all the time, this is preseason," he added. "No one is going to remember what your record is someday. What they're going to remember is if you're holding the big trophy in your hands. Nobody cares about anything else."
High school play has just gotten underway but it's never too early to start thinking about club season.
Sky High Volleyball Club in Crystal Lake will begin holding tryouts on October 1 at its locations in Vernon Hills, Crystal Lake and Hoffman Estates. Sky High offers two divisions - Junior Olympic (most competitive) and Regional (shorter season).
Sky High 17 Black won an AAU national championship in 2011, and its 16 Black and 16 Red teams both finished fifth in their respective divisions. Sky High's Julia Thompson and Emily Casaletto also won AAU and USA national beach titles in the 16U division.
Sky High offers teams in Crystal Lake, Hoffman Estates, Lake Barrington, Libertyville and Vernon Hills.
For information about tryouts, visit www.skyhighvolleyball.org or call (815) 356-0006.
Top Flight Volleyball Club in Elgin will begin holding tryouts for its junior girls programs on October 1. Top Flight VBC offers club volleyball for boys and girls age 7-18 and has teams in Palatine, Arlington Heights and Elgin.
Top Flight is located at 1360 Madeline Lane Suite 400 in Elgin. For more information about tryouts, visit www.topflightvbc.com or call (630) 606-1342.
In case you missed them in Monday's paper, here are this week's girls volleyball rankings with last week's ranking in parenthesis:
1. Benet 7-1 (5)
Hannah Kaminsky finding her attackers.
2. York 8-2 (1)
Caroline Rose, Melissa Deatsch can hit.
3. Joliet Catholic 8-0 (4)
Junior Morgan Reardon powers Angels.
4. Marist 3-0 (7)
RedHawks stop Mishawaka (Ind.) Marian.
5. Mother McAuley 2-1 (6)
Lizzie Scanlon packs a powerful wallop.
6. Cary-Grove 6-0 (NR)
Ashley Rosch on outside looking strong.
7. St. Francis 6-0 (NR)
Daiva Wise, Spartans have Saints' number.
8. Huntley 7-0 (NR)
Can Sam Boesch & Co. dispel doubters?
9. St. Charles East 7-2 (9)
Erienne Barry is back and Saints are glad.
10. West Chicago 6-0 (NR)
Mary Kate Katarzynski is nice addition.
Others: Marian Central, Rosary, Barrington, St. Ignatius, Providence, Sandburg, Lyons, New Trier, Glenbard West, Hinsdale South.