Chicago Sun-Times
By Pat Brozynski

Lincoln-Way East leads pack of contenders in 2014

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jendryk decision.jpgSt. Francis' 6-foot-7 junior Jeff Jendryk has decided to play his college ball at Loyola.


Here's a glance at some (emphasis on some, not all) of the boys volleyball teams that could be good in 2014 (players' years are 2013 classifications):

1. Lincoln-Way East (35-4) - Sun-Times Player of the Year Austin Royer returns -- as does everybody but backup setter Tommy Piet - as the Griffins will try to make another run at state. Also returning are outsides Nate Van Dellen and Ryan Vorderer, and probably a healthier Josh Phalen, whose late-season injury was devastating.

2. Lincoln-Way North (37-4) - Like the mythical bird, the Phoenix will rise from the ashes of their state final loss to Downers South. They will still have probably the best 1-2 outside punch in the state in Jake Walenga and Brad McFarland and a physical middle in Ken Christensen, but replacing libero Zach Blasgen may be the most difficult task.

3. Deerfield (32-7) - Nobody thought much of it when Deerfield and Downers Grove South went three sets in the quarterfinals. Every quarterfinal went three sets. But that was as close as anyone got to Downers South. The Warriors should make another strong push in 2014 with junior outsides Zach Hara and John Harlan.

4. Wheaton Warrenville South (18-20) - Unlike 2012, the Tigers didn't turn over the entire roster at season's end, and you have to like what WW South has coming back in 6-6 junior outside Jared Wilcox, 6-5 sophomore Logan Wiese, 6-4 freshman Zack Meyer and sophomore libero John Hildebrand. Now the Tigers just need to find a setter.

5. Waubonsie Valley (14-21) - A top five team until Michael Simmons and Luke Furman went down with injuries. Simmons came back and got the Warriors to the sectional semifinals and could again in 2014 with help from junior middle Connor Douville, junior outside Tim Williams, libero Andrew Salmon and freshman setter Jake Furman.

6. Lake Park (25-13) - With every player on the roster returning save one (Dillon Hock) from a sectional finalist, Tim Murphy's troops will be tough to handle next season. Among the best of a huge junior class are setter Quin Krisik, 6-5 middles Sean Moore and Derek Burke, 6-3 opposite Shawn Fritsche and 6-2 outside Dominick Terry.

7. Vernon Hills (32-7) - All of the key players return for coach Chris Curry and the Cougars, including 6-4 junior setter Ryan Opitz, 6-2 junior outside Michael Heinz and sophomores Max Spiglanin and 6-5 Lem Turner, the latter virtually coming out of nowhere down the stretch to lead Vernon Hills to the sectional finals.

8. St. Francis (26-10) - The Spartans were stung by Michael Simmons and Waubonsie Valley in the regional and have some holes to fill. But Mike Lynch does welcome back three exceptional juniors in setter Robert Smith, outside Greg Churney and 6-7 middle Jeff Jendryk. Junior Grant Garvey could play a bigger role next season.

9. Downers Grove South (31-10) - Six-foot-6 sophomore Will Tischler will return, as will setter Jordan Pawlicki and outside Mike Schmitt. But the Mustangs will have plenty of holes to fill with the loss of libero David DeMarco and middles Nick Timreck and Austin Adank. Look for Tyler Zawaski to inherit the off-color jersey.

10. Brother Rice (28-10) - It took a while for the Crusaders to get it going and then they were battling some health issues down the stretch, but with juniors Mitch Weiler, Kevin Myren and Matt Mandernach leading the way next year, they should have enough firepower at the very least to keep the Lincoln-Ways honest.

11. Loyola (31-7) - The Ramblers fell into a funk at the Maine South tournament - losing to Hersey and Palatine - from which they never seemed to fully recover. They lose setter James McCabe and outside Sean Barry, but bring back 6-7 Sun-Times all-area selection David Wieczorek, libero Collin Merk and 6-6 sophomore middle Jakub Mazurek

12. Glenbrook South (26-12-2) - Will Koslozki and Matt Kaiser leave some big shoes to fill, but the Titans have some big feet to replace them in 6-6 sophomore Pawel Rafalo, 6-7 junior Anthony Lebryk, and 6-2 outside Jake Carr. Glenbrook South's road to Hoffman Estates could go through Loyola Academy again.

13. Benet (25-11) - Amy Van Eekeren's Redwings will be a force to reckon with despite the loss of East Suburban Catholic Conference MVP Sawyer Yeazel. Freshman setter Ben Mazza will have a year of experience and won't have to look far to find some go-to guys in 6-9 Ricky Gevis, 6-4 middle Garrett Metzger and sophomore outside Scott Kleiser.

14. Glenbard West (27-10) - Downers South's run to a state title began with a 23-25, 25-20, 25-13 win over the Hilltoppers in the regional final. Gone are Johnny Davis and Jacob Stone, but coach Christine Giunta will reload with juniors Alec Garwood, Andrew Roberts and Galen Horvath and sophomores Jackson Nagle and Parker Swartz.

15. Hersey (20-18) - Sometimes good, sometimes not, Hersey finished at .500 in the Mid-Suburban East but took out Glenbrook North in the regional final. Six-foot-5 sophomore Bart Migus, 6-4 junior setter Matt Torvik, 6-7 junior middle Mike Fuerst and 6-3 junior Matt Aguilar could lead the Huskies back to state for the first time since 2005.

16. Minooka (36-3) - Is Minooka's run at the top of the southwest heap coming to an end? A healthy Justin Toth and outsides Mason Novak, Mitch Perinar and freshman Brandon Baranski give coach Janel Grzetich something to build on. But the loss of setter Phil Hannon's leadership and middle Maalik Walker's athleticism and energy are severe.

17. Barrington (28-9) - The Mid-Suburban West co-champs lost to Deerfield 25-15, 22-25, 26-24 in the sectional semifinals. Don't be surprised if the two tangle again next year. Back are setters Noah Richetti and Tommy Soifer, 6-3 outside Connor Wright, outsides Adam (6-3) and Justin (6-4) Glader and 6-4 middle Colin Castagna.

18. Lyons (31-4) - The Lions lost a lot to graduation - leading attacker Kyle Smuda, outside Clayton Smentek, Aidan Spangler, 6-9 middle Gabe Fisher -but return one of the best setters in the state in Marko Kostich. Who will he set? Maybe Rob Watkins and Michael Dean. Or maybe somebody will set Kostich?

19. Payton (28-8) - Junior Earl Schultz and company should have one more run at that elusive first win at state. Joining Schultz (267 kills, 237 digs this year) next season will be outside Alex Brown, setter Lincoln Wang and middle Ryan Krull. Casey Feeney will need some help from his youngsters.

Other teams to watch: Elk Grove, Lake Forest, Morton, Naperville Central, Sandburg, Warren.

***

Former St. Francis star Kelsey Robinson will join the nation's top recruiting class and former Benet standout Meghan Haggerty and play for Nebraska in 2013. Robinson, who spent her first three seasons at Tennessee, was among four players granted their release to transfer.

Robinson was named a 2012 AVCA All-America honorable-mention selection and a first-team All-SEC pick. In 2011, she was named the SEC Player of the Year and was a 2011 AVCA Second-Team All-American and Volleyball Magazine Second-Team All-American.

Robinson recorded a career-high 29 kills against Iowa State on August 25, 2012. As a junior, she led the SEC with 22 double-doubles.

***

Former Sun-Times Player of the Year Kelly Murphy (Joliet Catholic, University of Florida), a four-time AVCA All-American, was named to the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team roster for the 2013 Pan American Cup contested this week in Lima, Peru.

Murphy is one of just two opposites included on the Team USA roster and one of just three making her debut wearing the U.S. jersey at the senior level. Team USA will look to defend its Pan American Cup title from 2012.

Team USA opens against Trinidad & Tobago on June 10, followed by Puerto Rico on June 11 and Argentina on Jun 12. All three pool matches are scheduled to start at 6 p.m. PT.

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This page contains a single entry by Back Row published on June 10, 2013 9:09 AM.

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