Julia Conard (right) and her West Chicago teammates are off to a 12-0 start after winning the Bartlett tournament Saturday.
Need a player to watch this season? Check out Richmond-Burton's 6-foot sophomore Alexandra Frantti.
"She's up-and-coming sophomore," said Prepvolleyball.com webmaster and Club Fusion director Eric Schulze. "She's probably under the radar in the McHenry County area because she plays at Richmond-Burton and not one of the Fox Valley schools, but by the end of this season everybody is going to know her name."
Frantti grew about two inches since last season and improved her reach by nearly six inches. She was a member of the Fusion 15 Black team that finished third in the 15 Open last year at AAUs. Recruiters are all over her right now including many Big 10 schools, Schulze said.
"She physically built very similar to (Northwestern's Stephanie) Holthus," he said. "Her athletic abilities are very similar. She probably will get tired of the comparisons at some point, but being a 6-foot blonde skinny kid who explodes and touches over 10 foot, the comparisons are inevitable."
Nazareth was 7-2 after Friday's Lyons quad after it lost to the hosts but defeated Glenbrook South and Normal. However, Loyola recruit and 5-11 senior outside hitter/setter Brittany Brown injured her shoulder during the tournament, and was unavailable Saturday at Prairie Ridge.
The Roadrunners went 0-5 without their top gun Saturday, but they were the only team to take a game off eventual champion Cary-Grove.
"We had to go to a 5-1, which limits our offense a little bit because we run Brittany out of the backrow," Nazareth coach Wayne Saunders said. "She hits very well from there. She blocks well, she's an offensive standout and she sets really well.
"We had to change around a lot and we had to do it on the fly, so we didn't know what's what before we played Prairie Ridge," the coach added. "So I'm pleased only had two real bad games - one against Cary-Grove and one against Barrington."
Brown's availability this week and the rest of the season is uncertain.
"She's got her whole career at Loyola ahead of her so I am not going to rush her back," Saunders said.
West Chicago's Kayla and Mary Kate Katarzynski are sisters who have their little spats, and sometimes they bicker a little bit on the court. But they also have one very important thing in common - they hate to lose.
Mary Kate transferred to West Chicago after spending her freshman year at St. Francis. The 5-foot-9 sophomore's decision to join her sister at West Chicago was good for the volleyball team, but not always so good for the sisters.
"Its different with her playing with us," said Kayla, a 5-3 junior libero. "She is good and I knew she would make varsity. I also knew it would be difficult for us to get along. We do get along at home for the most part, but volleyball is kind of getting in the way."
Mary Kate Katarzynski and Payton Bayless set in West Chicago's 6-2 offense. Setting is something the younger Katarzynski had never done prior to the recently-concluded club season.
"I was an outside hitter," Mary Kate said. "I started setting this year for the first time. I like hitting because you get more credit. You get credit for setting, too. But I feel like if I do go far in volleyball, I'll do better as a setter because I'm not tall."
But she still towers over her older sister.
"We get along off the court sometimes," Mary Kate said. "It's just little sister fights. It's like, 'Get out of the way.' It's things sisters always do."
Whatever disagreement the sisters may have, it has not stopped the West Chicago volleyball team. The Wildcats improved to 12-0 by winning the Bartlett tournament Saturday.
Eight Illinois players were named to Prepvolleyball.com's "Senior Aces," the 100 best volleyball recruits in the current senior class.
The eight Illinoisans (and their college choices) are No. 14 Meghan Haggerty (Wisconsin) of Benet, No. 33 Samantha Epenesa (Purdue) of Edwardsville, No. 34 Alexis Viliunas (Illinois) of Lyons, and No. 52 Ally Davis (Michigan) of Hinsdale Central.
Also, No. 54 Emily Bemis (Arizona) of DeKalb, No. 80 Katie Gallagher (Iowa State) of York, No. 63 Amelia Anderson (Indiana) of Crystal Lake Central, and No. 93 Jenna Jendryk (Virginia Tech) of Benet.
Just missing the top 100 were Bloomington Central Catholic's Meredith Boe (St. Louis), Batavia's Mary Nilles (Marquette), St. Francis' Carly Warner (Cincinnati), Benet's Gabby Pethokoukis (Villanova) and Lake Zurich's Amanda Orchard (Pittsburgh).
Also, Carmel's Taylor Pippen (Southern Illinois), West Chicago's Julia Conard (Illinois), Huntley's Amy Dion (Maryland), York's Caroline Rose (Western Michigan), Evanston's Casey Durham (Pittsburgh), Providence's Nora Mitros (uncommitted) and Lake Forest's Mary Streidl (Pittsburgh).
Among those just missing the "Senior Aces" were York's Sam Schrenker , St. Francis' Daiva Wise, Marist's Lauren Zielinski, Cary-Grove's Melanie Jereb, St. Charles East's Meghan Niski, Lyons' Laura Williams, Marist's Megan Miller and Mother McAuley's Bridget Powell.
Also, Nazareth's Brittany Brown and Downers Grove North's Jessie Tulacka.
And finally, congratulations to Immaculate Conception's Jean Field, who recently became just the seventh coach in Illinois High School Association history to reach the 800-win plateau.
Field led the Knights to state titles in 1981 and 1984 and runner-up finishes in 1979, 1980 and 1983. She has coached a number of different sports at the west suburban school for 37 years.