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Girls Volleyball: September 2010 Archives

Cary-Grove not feeling the love on south side

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Apparently, Cary-Grove cannot get any respect on the south side of Chicago.

But all that could change by the end of the week.

The Trojans (17-0), ranked second in the nation by Prepvolleyball.com and owners of a 33-match winning streak, are seeded second at this weekend's Asics Challenge hosted by Mother McAuley.

Seeded first is Berkeley Prep of Tampa, Florida, which was 9-0 and ranked ninth by Prepvolleyball.com in its latest rankings released September 23. Marist is seeded third, McAuley seventh and St. Francis, which split two matches with the Macs, is ninth.

For Cary-Grove, the defending Illinois Class 4A champion, the seedings set up a potential championship quarterfinal against McAuley and a semifinal with Marist.

The guess here is that everybody wants a crack at Kelly Lamberti, Colleen Smith, Ashley Rosch and the Trojans.

The guess is also that if Cary-Grove survives this weekend unscathed, there could be a new No. 1 in the country next week.


Other Illinois teams scheduled to compete at the Asics Challenge are Joliet Catholic (seeded 11th), Sandburg (13th), Rockton Honoegah, Crystal Lake South, Nazareth Academy, Downers Grove North, Stagg and Downers Grove South.

Huntley, which won the McAuley Preview two weeks ago, earned entry into the Challenge next year.


Cary-Grove continues to lead the list of Illinois teams among Prepvolleyball.com's top 100. Also checking in are No. 10 Lyons (18-1), up from 11th but likely to fall slightly after losing at Rich East; No. 11 Breese Mater Dei (19-0), and No. 35 Marist (18-0), unchanged.

Also ranked are No. 54 York (22-3), up one from 55 but also likely to dip slightly; No. 66 Moline (16-2); No. 68 Quincy (17-1); No. 91 St. Francis (19-3), which climbed from No. 96 before losing twice at Rich East.

Teams on the bubble include: Benet, Hersey, Joliet Catholic, Lemont, Libertyville, Lincoln, Marian Central, Mother McAuley, Payton and West Chicago.


Wheaton Warrenville South girls coach Bill Schreier, who has won more state titles (five) on the boys side than any other coach in Illinois history, hates to finish second at anything - even when it comes to raising money for cancer research.

After raising more than $10,000 for "Volley for the Cure" two years ago, the WW South Tigers doubled that last year, raising more than $20,000. The girls sold T-shirts, held a silent auction, worked at local businesses for donations, sold raffle tickets and held a fundraiser at the Warrenville post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"We are shooting for $25,000 this year," Schreier said.

Prepvolleyball.com has released its first in-season high school rankings, and Cary-Grove, which was ranked No. 25 in the preseason, has climbed to No. 2 in the country.

Here are the Prepvolleyball.com rankings of Illinois teams and new national No. 1 St. James of suburban Kansas City, Kansas.

2010 Century Club National High School Rankings

1. St. James (Lenexa, Kansas)
Current record: 9-0; Pre-season ranking: 15

The Thunder have been bringing the noise during the season's first month. First, they got 18 kills from Morgan Voorhes in an easy sweep of 6A champion Washburn Rural Sept. 9. Then they won the Mo-Kan Challenge on Sept. 11, downing Kansas 5A champion Bishop Miege in the semis and Missouri power Lee's Summit West in the finals. Senior OH Hanna Forst led the way offensively with 58 kills over six, best of three matches, while defenders Sheridan Zarda and Molly O'Brien combined for 100 digs for the defensive-minded team. St. James was seeded in the top four at last weekend's St. Joseph's Tournament of Champions in St. Louis.

2. Cary-Grove (Cary, Illinois)
Current record: 14-0; Pre-season ranking: 25

The Trojans swept tough Huntley last Tuesday behind 20 assists from Colleen Smith and eight kills and three aces from Kelly Lamberti. The defending state 4A champs have now won 30 matches in a row. Their last loss came Oct. 3 2009 versus Wisconsin Division 2 champion Catholic Memorial, which was avenged Sept. 4 at the H D Jacobs Tournament.

11. Lyons Township (La Grange, Illinois)
Current record: 9-0; Pre-season ranking: 22

Senior Ace Jocelynn Birks had 12 kills and Erin Juley contributed 29 assists in a Sept. 14 win over Oak Park - River Forest. The Lions are ranked second in the Chicagoland area. Their biggest win to date was a sweep of once-beaten York on Sept. 3.

12. Mater Dei (Breese, Illinois)
Current record: 17-0; Pre-season ranking: 31

What can we say about Mater Dei other than that the first part of the season has been a Breese? The Knights have faced 17 opponents - many, like Freeburg, Edwardsville, Moline and Borgia, no slouches - and have yet to drop a set. Brooke Schulte, Nicole Strieker, Samantha Bedard and Ashley Rakers have been big players for Mater Dei, which dominated Cor Jesu, 25-14, 25-15, on Sept, 13.

The Next 75 (with random notes inserted)

35. Marist (Chicago, Illinois)
Current record: 6-0; Pre-season ranking: 44

Random note: Carks Niedospial set a school record with 39 digs and Ashley Holder served 10 straight during a key run in Marist's three-set win on Sept. 14 over previously unbeaten Mother McAuley in front of a crowd estimated at 2,000 strong.

48. Edwardsville (Illinois)
Current record: 7-2; Pre-season ranking: Bubble

Random note: On "A Volley for the Cure" night, the Tigers must have been tickled pink to knock off visiting Incarnate Word on Sept. 15. Edwardsville had twice before faced pre-season nationally-ranked teams and had come away empty handed each time. This win, sparked by 17 Sam Epenesa kills and 22 assists from Lexi Gober, coupled with a win over No. 69 Washington (which beat Moline which beat Wheaton St. Francis and Althoff) makes the Tigers the third-highest team debuting in these rankings.

55. York (Elmhurst, Illinois)
Current record: 12-1; Pre-season ranking: Bubble

70. Moline (Illinois)
Current record: 13-2; Pre-season ranking: Bubble

Random note: The Maroons make it into the rankings on the strength on a superb effort at the 24-team Effingham Crossroads Classic Sept. 10-11. Powered by Kirsten King and Sam Fournier, Moline defeated Althoff Catholic in the semifinals and Wheaton St. Francis in the finals. Its only losses to date have come at the hands of No. 12 Breese Mater Dei and No. 69 Washington.

96. St. Francis (Wheaton, Illinois)
Current record: 12-1; Pre-season ranking: 69

Random note: The Spartans got a scare on Sept. 15 against previously-unbeaten Marian Central Catholic. Tied late in the decisive third game, libero Gina Madonia served the last five points, including four aces, to help St. Francis escape. Meg Vonderhaar had 13 kills for St. Francis. Emma Hussey had 12 for Marian CC.

97. Althoff Catholic (Belleville, Illinois)
Current record: 10-1; Pre-season ranking: 70

Teams We Didn't Quite Find Room For This Week:

Mother McAuley (Chicago, Illinois) 4-1

Dropped Out (29):

*Benet Academy (Lisle, Illinois)
Current record: 7-3; Pre-season ranking: 7

Random note: The Redwings have won three in a row after a rocky start and, on their fifth different starting lineup, may have found one that works heading into last weekend's Wheaton Classic. Benet continues to play without 6-3 senior MB Gabby Pethokoukis, a Division I recruit and defensive difference maker at the net. She has a badly sprained ankle that will require two more weeks.

*St. Charles East (St. Charles, Illinois)
Current record: 13-5; Pre-season ranking: 33

*Hinsdale Central (Hinsdale, Illinois)
Current record: 6-4; Pre-season ranking: 83


The Ilinois High School Association held its "rolling of the peas" Monday to determine the brackets for the state finals in its various fall sports. For the second consecutive year and the third time in four years, the southern Illinois representative in Class 3A (pick one: Belleville Athloff or Breese Mater Dei) will avoid the winner of the St. Francis/Joliet Catholic/etc.sectional in a state semifinal.

If form holds, your semifinal pairings in 3A would feature (Chicago) Payton vs. Mater Dei and St. Francis/Joliet Catholic/Lemont vs. Marian Central. In 4A, a rematch of last year's title game is possible if Lyons can beat York in its semifinal and Cary-Grove can handle Moline or Edwardsville in the other.


There are no helmets in volleyball (but maybe there should be).

Downers Grove North's talented 6-2 junior Jessie Tulacka sat out all but a few minutes of last weekend's Wheaton Classic after she bumped heads with a teammate and suffered a possible mild concussion. She was ordered to rest for a week.

Without their star, Downers North lost to Wheaton North 23-25, 25-20, 25-15 for 14th place.

Downers North was not the only team to suffer a loss last weekend, although Sandburg's will certainly be longer term. Jenny Buczek, the Eagles' senior outside hitter, was diagnosed with mononucleosis.


Payton's 6-2 senior middle hitter Mari Faines probably could have gone a lot of places to play volleyball. So why Colgate?

"Academics are very important to both my parents and me," she said. "Colgate not only has great academics, it has one of the top graduation rates in the country."

Prepvolleyball.com has released the remaining 50 members of its Senior Aces list. Here are the players from Illinois who cracked the top 50 and what Prepvolleyball.com's John Tawa had to say about them:

50. Morgan Leach, 6-2 MB, Centennial (Champaign) -- Indiana

A tall, long athletic middle who jump touches 10-3, Leach is a dynamic player capable of attacking at several points along the net and in the pipe. Leach can hit all the sets, off one leg or two, in front of and behind the setter, and started to hit with power as a junior. She has good footwork at the net, has fine natural instincts for the game, blocks well and is an improving passer. Her personality is one of her very best attributes: Leach brings a lot of a lot of fist pumping energy that drives the team. A great kid and bright student, Leach has committed to Indiana and should have a standout career in Bloomington.

48. Meg Vonderhaar, 6-1 OH, St. Francis (Wheaton) -- Notre Dame

A big, physical outside hitter who has played a lot on the left side, Vonderhaar moved to the right this past club season and helped lead the Sports Performance 18 Elite team to the AAU 18 Open championship. She has the potential to be a shut down blocker versus the slide attack and has made tremendous strides in the back row. Blessed with a tremendous work ethic and labeled a "world class teammate," Vonderhaar hopes to lead St. Francis to a state title in 2010 after a three-year drought. She has committed to Notre Dame.

33. Morganne Criswell, 6-1 OH, Decatur LSA (Decatur) -- Illinois

An exceptional athlete with great movement skills and an electric arm, Criswell has all the skills to be a six-rotation standout at the next level. She attacks well front row and back, plays fierce defense and has developed into an outstanding passer, the skill that may land her early playing time on a stacked Illinois team. Criswell also possesses a natural leadership ability which draws other players to her. Some players want to be leaders and others are chosen by their peers. Criswell has always been chosen and only this past year embraced that natural leadership position. With tons of natural ability, a great work ethic and a Big Ten-level skill set, Criswell will find a way to contribute to Kevin Hambly's Illini team and most likely be a leader there, too.

30. Emily Young, 6-2 S/RS, Schaumburg H.S. (Schaumburg) -- Southern California

Arguably the most athletic setter in the class of 2011, Young stands 6-2, has excellent speed and touches above 10-0. Left-handed, she was recruited to Southern California both as a setter and a front row force on the right side, where she can block and attack at a high level. Also an excellent passer, Young has suffered through injuries for the better part of the past two years. Prior to the injury bug hitting, many compared her potential to another tall left-handed setter-hitter from Illinois named Kelly Murphy, who was Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2007. Young is primed for a breakout year in 2010-2011. When that happens, people will stop talking about her potential and start talking about her accomplishments.

26. Jocelynn Birks, 6-2 OH, Lyons Township (LaGrange) -- Illinois

Long limbed and athletic, Birks dominate the net with her attacking and blocking prowess. Blessed with a great arm - "One of the purest attacking arms I have ever coached," says 1st Alliance's Beth Keck - Birks can score at will and will be an immediate point producer at Illinois, where she has committed. She has great reach and range defensively, reads well and has developed into a strong six-rotation player. She led her high school team to the state final as a junior and her club team to a top five finish at Junior Nationals. The Illini have a great class in 2011 and Birks is one of its cornerstones.

20. Val Nichol, 6-0 S/OH, University (Normal) -- Purdue

Nichol might be the best athlete to come out of the Bloomington/Normal area since another U-High product, collegiate superstar Ogonna Nnamani, graduated and went to Stanford many years ago. Nichol is not only a high flying outside hitter (as Nnamani was), but has also developed into a very strong setter in the last year. An effortless jumper who rises to 10-4 and above, Nichol is a graceful athlete with the ability to do just about anything on a volleyball court. As a freshman/sophomore, Nichol was almost entirely an outside hitter because her teams could not afford not to have her hitting and passing all the time. As a junior, a commitment was made to improve her setting skills and focus on her becoming a setter. She emerged this past season as one of the top setting prospects in the nation. A big time blocker and solid passer, Nichol has committed to Purdue in the Big Ten. She has the ability to change the way the Boilers play the game during her time in West Lafayette.

16. Courtney Thomas, 6-0 S, DeKalb H.S. (DeKalb) -- Wisconsin

When Thomas committed to Wisconsin in 2009, Sports Performance club director Rick Butler stated he thought that she might emerge as the nation's best setter by the time she graduated in 2011. Thomas is tall, silky smooth, very mobile and plays the game effortlessly. She has the ability to take over a match as a setter or a hitter, where she combines physicality with a keen ability to score in any situation. An intimidating force as a blocker, Thomas can strike fear into opposing left-side attackers. Also a very fine passer, Thomas is without question one of the best five tool players in junior volleyball.

6. Ellen Chapman, 6-4 OH, Glenbrook South (Glenview) -- Wisconsin

Chapman is a dominating outside hitter who can swing at anything antenna to antenna. Touching 10-5, the Illinois state high jump champion as a sophomore has become a force on the outside and can be very intimidating at the net. In addition to her attack, Chapman is very proficient with her passing and serving and uses her quickness and mobility to be a fine defender for her height and an imposing blocker. She is part of Pete Waite's fantastic recruiting class at Wisconsin.

Here is the list of seniors from Illinois (and their college choice) ranked 101-250:

Hannah Crippen, 5-11 S, Plainfield North (Northwestern)
Kaitlyn King, 5-9 S, Benet Academy (Maryland)
Kayla Price, 5-9 S, Fremd (Wisconsin-Milwaukee)
Colleen Smith, 5-11 S, Cary-Grove (Indiana)
Mari Faines, 6-1 MB, Payton (Colgate)
Kaisley Fisher, 6-2 MB, Plainfield North (Purdue)
Lainey Wyman, 6-1 MB, Joliet Catholic (Mississippi State)
Kelly Lamberti, 6-0 OH, Cary-Grove (Ohio)
Jamie Netisingha, 5-4 Libero, Hinsdale Central (Cincinnati)
Caroline Niedospial, 5-6 Libero, Marist (Northwestern)
Kelsey Nobilio, 5-6 Libero, Johnsburg (Ohio)

Here are the players from Illinois who just missed cracking the top 250:

Hillary Keltner, 5-9 S, Belleville Althoff (Air Force)
Madison Lang, 6-2 S/RS, Barrington (Florida Atlantic)
Hannah Burkle, 6-2 MB, Crystal Lake South (unknown)
Sarah Hunt, 6-3 MB, Prospect (unknown)
Dariyan Hopper, 5-8 OH, Minooka (North Carolina State)
Courtney Keefe, 5-10 OH, Lemont (Bradley)

Just say "nyet" to changing net rule

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I don't always agree with my good friend Tony Baranek, who has been covering volleyball for the Sun-Times' sister paper, The Southtown Star, seemingly since William Morgan invented volleyball in 1895 at the YMCA in Holyoke, Mass. - some would say even before then.

But this time, I wholeheartedly do.

Tony recently penned a column about the disparity between the USAV and National Federation of High School Associations rules governing contact with the net. The USAV allows it (with some restrictions) while high school rules forbid it in all cases.

Tony does not like the rule allowing net contact, and neither do I.

Tony points out that by allowing aggressive play sat the net, you are just asking for kids from both sides to be fearlessly leaping right at the net and landing on each others' feet. Also, it would create a real mess for the officials, who will have more judgment calls than ever to make regarding whether the net contact affected the outcome of the play.

And if I know some (not all, but some) interested parties, an official's interpretation rarely coincides with theirs.

Officials from the Illinois High School Association said a rule change wouldn't take place unless a directive came from the NFHSA, and NFHSA officials said it wouldn't consider adopting the new club rule unless they heard from member state associations that were interested in seeing a change.

I hope the NFHSA never hears from high school coaches. It is bad enough that a serve that tips off the tape can dribble over the net and count as a point. I miss the old days when any serve that even nicked the net was considered a missed serve.

It's like the hanging on the rim rule in high school basketball. I have seen it called, but mostly I have seen it ignored. Players will continue to push the envelope on that rule as long as it is open to an "officials' interpretation."

Of course, I am a purist. I covered tennis for many years and believe that for a ball to be put in play, it cannot touch any object before it touches the ground (other than the serve recipient's partner in doubles, which I always got a kick out of. If I were serving, I'd always aim for the partner. Why risk a return?).

In volleyball, I believe that as long as it is illegal to block a serve, a ball should not be allowed to touch the net on a serve. Nor do I believe that a player under any circumstances should be allowed in the net.

I lost the first argument. I don't want to go 0-for-2.


Congratulations to Marist's 6-foot-4 junior Lauren Zielinski, who recently committed to the University of Georgia, and to West Chicago's 5-10 junior Julia Conard, who has verbally committed to attend Illinois where she is projected as either a libero or defensive specialist.


Apparently, it's not a good year for the Illinois senior class.

Prepvolleyball.com has released the first half of its Senior Aces list, which ranks the top 100 recruits in the Class of 2011. Only one Illinois senior, Wheaton Warrenville South's Shealyn Kolosky, cracked the list of players ranked 50-100.

Here's what John Tawa of Prepvolleyball.com had to say about the Tennessee-bound Kolosky:

At 6-2 and with a legitimate touch above 10-0, Kolosky has ideal size, athletic ability and skill for the middle blocker position. Kolosky is physical -- she hits high and hard and is a big block. She also possesses a fast arm swing, which makes her a capable attacker both in front of and behind the setter. Playing for Sports Performance, Kolosky has received tons of training and match experience playing middle at a high level. She'll be ready to contribute right away when she gets to Tennessee, where she has committed.

Prepvolleyball.com also listed the last 15 players out of the top 100. That list included Cary-Grove's Kelly Lamberti, who is headed to Ohio in the fall of 2011.

The players ranked Nos. 1-50 will be announced later this week. Stay tuned.

Curious about how Illinois looks from a different perspective?

Prepvolleyball.com editor John Tawa has released its annual list of the top 100 high school teams in the country. Heading the list this year is (St. Louis) St. Joseph's Academy. just the second team in the past eight years outside of California or Kentucky to earn the No. 1 ranking.

Nine teams from Illinois are among his top 100, including No. 7-ranked (Lisle) Benet. Here are Prepvolleyball.com's look at the top teams in the country from Illinois:

7. Benet Academy (Lisle, Illinois)
Last year's record: 35-5; 2009 final ranking: 132

Benet reached the state 4A final in 2008 only to lose in an upset to St. Charles East. The Redwings were "rebuilding" in 2009 and went 35-5. This may be the year they put it all together. While others are touting defending 4A champion Cary-Grove or runner up Lyons Township as the teams to beat in 2010, we like Benet best. Brad Baker's team is huge and hungry. They can go 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, 6-0, 5-11 and 5-11 in the front row. Heck even Grace Giradot, who started at DS last year, is 5-10! The team is deep and loaded with Division I talent, as five have already made college commitments. The key players are juniors Meghan Haggerty (Wisconsin) and Jenna Jendryk (Virginia Tech), both of whom played for Sports Performance's AAU national championship 18 Elite team. Both are big leapers with heavy arms. OH Lara Ontko (Mississippi) also is back and a strong all-around player, and 6-3 Gabby Pethokoukis, a recent Villanova commitment, is a very long, athletic middle who is a defensive difference maker at the net. OH Alyson Farm (George Mason), setter Kaitlyn King (Maryland) and 6-2 MB McKenzie Kuhn are three other key pieces to the puzzle for Benet, and I haven't even mentioned Haggerty's kid sister, 6-1 freshman Madeline Haggerty, who absolutely crushes the ball on the outside, or Kathleen Severyn, who has the ability to play libero at the Division I level.

22. Lyons Township (La Grange, Illinois)
Last year's record: 37-5; 2009 final ranking: 84

Twenty years after winning its last state title, Lyons found itself in the Illinois 4A championship match last season only to fall to Cary-Grove. The Lions graduated four starters, including both middles, but return their three best players and have a talented cast waiting to fill in for another championship run. 6-2 senior OH Jocelyn Birks, who averaged four kills a set last year to lead the team, will be a mainstay on the left along with junior OH Laura Williams, who also can set. Alexis Viliunas, an acclaimed 6-0 junior, will set and hit. Two other Division I bound seniors, 5-11 setter Erin Juley and 6-1 MB Kelsey Keeve, should also start, along with back row specialists Megan Miller and Kaley Babich and senior middle Julia Watkins.

25. Cary-Grove (Cary, Illinois)
Last year's record: 36-4; 2009 final ranking: 68

The Trojans won the state 4A title in 2009. Setter and emotional leader Abbey Heredia has graduated, as have Kayla Klinger and Colleen Hargrove, who combined for more than 350 kills and 200 blocks a year ago, but coach Patty Langanis thinks this team could be just as good. Three seniors, OH Kelly Lamberti, Setter Colleen Smith and libero Sam Mainzer are back. Lamberti led the team with almost 400 kills last season, Smith is a future Division I setter who led the vaunted Sky High 17 Black team and Mainzer had triple figure digs. MB Ashley Rosch also returns. The 5-11 junior led the team in blocks and was third in kills a year ago and improved greatly during the club season on Sky High's amazing 16 Black team. OH Melanie Jereb was an impact player on that team and will be a terrific addition to the starting lineup. Look for two tall youngsters, 6-1 Sheila Wilhelmi and 6-3 Mallory Wilczynski, also to make big contributions to the team as it goes for the repeat.

31. Mater Dei (Breese, Illinois)
Last year's record: 35-7; 2009 final ranking: 90

The Knights reached the Class 3A championship match last year, but longtime coach Fred Rakers was denied his sixth title by Joliet Catholic. JCA should be much weaker this year, but Mater Dei, which started virtually an all-underclass lineup, should be even stronger. The Knights return one of the best outside hitters in the Class of 2012, 5-9 Brooke Schulte, who amassed more than 300 kills and a team-high 85 aces last year to go along with nearly 100 blocks. Also back are senior OH Kaley Boeckmann, who was second on the team in kills and third in blocks as a junior; both setters, senior Nicole Strieker and junior Samantha Bedard, senior OH Alison Mueller, who was third on the team in kills; and Abbey Winter, a 6-0 junior middle who led the team in blocks. If coach Rakers finds suitable replacements for Mater Dei's two top defenders, they should Breese (pun intended) to the 3A title.

33. St. Charles East (St. Charles, Illinois)
Last year's record: 32-7; 2009 final ranking: 134

The Saints won state in Class 4A in 2008, then fell to eventual champion Cary-Grove in the Supersectionals last year despite suffering through an injury-riddled campaign. Two key players from those teams are off seeking Division I glory, but coach Jennie Kull welcomes back five starters and three key reserves. All but fantastic libero Maisey Mulvey are listed at 5-10 or taller. Key returnees include six rotation standout Meghan Niski, a junior outside hitter; big blocking middle Nicole Lambert, tall senior middle Olivia Desormey, senior OH Sam Szarmach and sophomore setter Erienne Barry, one of the best young setters in the nation.

44. Marist (Chicago, Illinois)
Last year's record: 28-9; 2009 final ranking: 270

The Redhawks graduated two, including Molly Murphy, from last year's solid team. Six starters return for coach Natalie Holder, including Molly Murphy. What? Last year, the Chicago school had two Molly Murphys on it. The powerful outside, who signed with Indiana State, has graduated, but the senior DS, one of two Division I defenders, is back for a Marist team that could contend for an Illinoi 4A title. Murphy, who will play at Western Illinois, is joined on the defense by libero Carks Niedospial, the Northwestern-bound digging machine who coach Holder said is the best back row player in school history. There should be plenty of perfect passes this fall to junior setter Ashley Holder, who runs a quick offense and was an all-area performer. 6-4 middle Lauren Zielinski, a blocking fiend, 6-1 senior middle Katie Krasowski (Eastern Michigan) and 5-11 senior OH Courtney Collins are returning front court players for Marist, which should get solid contributions as well from 6-1 middle Rachel Dalton and 5-9 OH Mallory Sallis.

69. St. Francis (Wheaton, Illinois)
Last year's record: 36-3; 2009 final ranking: 30

The Spartans were the second best team in Illinois in 2009, but because of the playoff structure, they bowed out of the running before getting Downstate, courtesy of two-time reigning 3A champion Joliet Catholic. Though St. Francis suffered heavy graduation losses - notably OH Kelsey Robinson (Tennessee) and setter Kristen Kelsay (Michigan State), Peg Kopec-coached teams always reload and always contend. Leading the 2010 edition will be 6-1 senior OH Meg Vonderhaar, a Notre Dame recruit and one of the top 100 seniors in the country. Gina Madonia, a senior who was libero for SPVB 18 Elite, will be the team leader in the back row, while athletic junior Daiva Wise returns to the middle. Impact newcomers include senior setter Kelly Reinke, whose injured ACL prevented her from contributing last year; and MB Halley Gable, a strong, athletic player with great potential. This team is not deep, making health a priority in 2010.

70. Althoff Catholic (Belleville, Illinois)
Last year's record: 29-6; 2009 final ranking: 195

The Carly Thomas era is over at Althoff. The Youth National Team setter has graduated to Southeast Missouri State, but the Crusaders return a great core group that includes three Division I recruits. Hillary Keltner, a smooth dealing senior setter headed to Air Force, will lead the team in a 5-1 offense this fall. Dynamic Me'Ashah Nicholson, a senior middle, brings great athleticism to the floor, while Missy Muckensturm, a senior outside, is a smart hitter with good ball control. Hana Michael, who can hit or play defense, is the team's best passer, while Sara Birk, a 5-8 junior, is a great athlete likely to don the libero jersey. Madeline Schoen, a 5-11 junior lefty RS who puts up a big block; Abby Allard, a 5-6 junior back row player, and Lizzie Kurowski, a 5-9 junior middle, are other players that have second-year coach Lisa Orlet thinking the Crusaders will be one of the best teams this fall in the St. Louis area.

83. Hinsdale Central (Hinsdale, Illinois)
Last year's record: 33-6; 2009 final ranking: 133

Hinsdale Central reached the sectional finals a year ago before running into Benet. It was the Red Devils' most successful season to date. Head coach Sheralynn Kellough is hoping for one just like it or better in 2009, but will have to fill a void at setter, given the graduation of Nikki DelZenero. Sophomore Meghan McDowell, who stands 6-2 and also plays on the right, may be the solution there. In other areas, Central is more than solid. Soph 79 middle Ally Davis is back after leading the team in kills and blocks. Senior OH Natalia Skiba and senior libero Jamie Netisingha also return. Both are among the state's best at their positions. Coach Kellough also returns two impact defenders, senior Susie Golden and junior Elle VanKeirsbilck, plus senior middle Katarina Milojevic.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Girls Volleyball category from September 2010.

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