Sophia Dodd (pictured right) and the 24-6 St. Ignatius Wolfpack are gearing up for the GCAC conference tournament this week.
Two of the top teams in the state - Joliet Catholic and Benet - could both get shut out of the East Suburban Catholic Conference title, but neither team's coach is putting too much stock in the league race.
"(Benet coach Baker) Brad and I were talking about it," Joliet Catholic coach Chris Scheibe said. "We think it's harder to win our conference than to win a state championship.
"Last year, I didn't win conference but we took second in the state (losing to Breese Mater Dei in the Class 3A finals)," she added. "In 2008, I didn't win conference, he did, he finished second in state and we finished first.
"So winning the conference is a nice thing, but it's not the end-all, be-all," Scheibe said. "I'd rather win the last match of the season than to win our conference. But we still got a shot at it. We're tied with Marist and Providence with one game left with Marist. So it's still a doable situation.
Joliet Catholic (28-5), Marist (24-5) and Providence (25-8) each have one loss in conference play. Joliet Catholic and Marist meet Tuesday in Joliet, with the winner doing no worse than a tie for first. Providence can clinch no worse than a share of the conference title by beating Carmel and Nazareth this week.
Benet (30-3 overall), which lost to Marist and Providence and beat Joliet Catholic, is the only team with no chance to win the league. But Benet senior middle hitter Meghan Haggerty, who was named MVP of the Autumnfest tournament at Glenbard East over the weekend, sees the bigger picture.
"Our main goal is to win state at the end of the year," she said. "That's all that matters."
You have to like Benet's chances, if they can get to the finals. Benet is 12-0 on Saturdays and has won every tournament in which it has played - the Benet invite, the Wheaton Classic, St. Charles East/Mizuno Scholastic Cup and Autumnfest at Glenbard East.
Montini's chance of advancing the state semifinals in Bloomington are small...this year.
But coach Steve Dowjotas likes the direction his program is heading and believes the Broncos can be a conference contender as early as next season. Montini started three sophomores and a freshman last week in its match against Chicago Christian.
"When you have three starting sophomores, just getting a year or two of varsity experience under their belts is beneficial," said Dowjotas, who has more than 30 freshmen playing volleyball this fall. "If we can continue to bring kids into the school, we're going to be awesome.
Dowjotas' biggest concern is getting his younger players used to the speed of the game at the varsity level.
"From the freshman level to the sophomore level, and from the sophomore level to the varsity level is a completely different game," he said. The speed of the game is 10 times faster from sophomore to varsity, and 100 times faster than freshmen."
Montini's youngsters are 6-foot-1 sophomore middle Joyce Balash, sophomore libero Bridget Lucas, sophomore outside Natalie Lopez and freshman outside Monica Loftus.
"Monica has grown so much, and Joyce, Bridget and Natalie have all grown tremendously just this season," Dowjotas said. "The future is bright."
The future is now for defending Class 2A state champion Chicago Christian, which has its eyes on a second successive state title despite a sub-.500 record.
A beefed-up schedule that includes the McAuley Preview and matches with teams like York and Lyons has prepared the Knights for whatever they are likely to encounter in the Class 2A field.
"We went three weeks in a row with matches Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with the McAuley and Rich East tournaments facing York and Lyons and St. Francis and those big schools," coach James Garcia said. "The girls have been battle-tested.
"We went three against Lyons and they won state last year," he added. "We lost 25-20 in the third game, so we're right there with them. When our girls set their minds to it, when they step on the court they want to compete with anybody. They don't care who it is."
Chicago Christian's top gun is 6-1 senior Maggie Kamp, the second-leading attacker on last year's championship team. The other seniors are libero Celaine Haan and 6-1 middle Becky DeRuiter.
Sophomore setter Emily Workman, junior middle Emily Lindemulder and sophomore outside Jessica Krygsheid round out the starting six.
Chicago Christian (16-17 overall) should breeze through a sectional where the other top seeds are Ogden International, Cristo Rey Jesuit and Rickover Naval Academy. However, they could see Timothy Christian (24-3), Lisle (22-10) or Immaculate Conception (18-9) in the supersectional.
Benedictine University will hold a fall mini-camp for girls and boys in grades 1-8 from 3:00-5:00 p.m. on Sundays, November 20, December 4 and December 11 in the newly-renovated Dan and Ada Rice Center on Benedictine's Lisle campus.
The camps are designed to introduce beginners to fundamental volleyball skills, and allow more advanced campers to improve their skills through more complex drills and games.
The cost of one mini-camp is $15. The cost for kids who attend all three camps is $35.
For more information, contact Benedictine volleyball coach Jennifer Wildes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (630) 829-6141.