Barrington's Julia Thomson and Emily Casaletto ruled North Avenue Beach last summer, and have the Fillies rocking the hardwood at 17-2 this season.
West Aurora's Lauren Carlini said she had never seen anything like the rabid enthusiasm shown by the fans during the 2011 FIVB Girls' Youth World Championships in Turkey last summer.
Carlini, a 6-foot-1 junior setter, participated in the games as a member of the U.S. Girls' Youth National Team. The team spent 20 days training in the United States and another two weeks participating in the tournament.
"It was absolutely amazing," she said. "Turkey played China in the finals and everybody had their red and white on, they had their Turkey flags waving and the sound during the national anthem gave me shivers. Everyone was so proud and patriotic about their county,
"During the game...usually in America when somebody is serving it's totally quiet," Carlini added. "But over there, it was so loud you couldn't even hear yourself think. When China was serving, everybody had these noisemakers. Your ears were ringing so loud.
"Just watching this game and how passionate they are about volleyball there, it was amazing," she said.
Carlini was the starting setter for the U.S. team, which defeated Slovakia for ninth place. She said the physicality of the foreign players and their knowledge of the game surprised her.
"The players were very physical, very built, very muscular," she said. "They were also some of the smartest people I met as far as volleyball goes."
Carlini also learned that you have to be pretty tough and pretty resilient to compete at the international level.
"The one thing the coaches drove into our heads in international play was that if they think you are weak, they will just keep serving you and serving you," she said. "It's no mercy.
"Mental toughness is one of the most important parts of the game," Carlini added. "It's all about your mental game. It was really an eye-opener for me."
Carlini and her West Aurora teammates have also opened some eyes this fall. The Blackhawks are embroiled in a three-way tie atop the DuPage Valley Conference standings with Naperville North and Naperville Central.
Minooka and Stacey Perinar may not be flying under the radar much longer.
Perinar, who is committed to Eastern Michigan, has led the Indians to a 13-2 record by averaging 5.3 kills per game. She has been even hotter as of late, helping her team take home the championship of the West Aurora tournament.
Thursday, Perinar had 10 kills in a 25-13, 25-9 victory over Plainfield East after a 14-kill performance Tuesday in a 25-21, 25-18 victory over Plainfield North.
Minooka is a program on the upswing under second year coach Chris Hoelscher, who previously served as an assistant under Lisa Kasper at Rosary. Last year, Minooka won its conference championship and the school's first regional championship since 1999 before losing in the sectional championship to Edwardsville.
The Indians will get a better idea of where they stack up when they host their own tournament October 14-15 and participate in the Lyons tournament with the likes of York and the hosts October 21-22.
Sandburg coach David Vales admits he can't take many more matches like the one his team played Saturday against Marist in the Gold Consolation final of the Asics Challenge at Mother McAuley.
Sandburg (20-4) trailed 17-10 and 23-18 in the third game, but rallied behind 6-1 junior Dakota Hampton to beat the RedHawks 13-25, 27-25, 25-23.
"I'm still young, but I can't handle many more matches the way we've been running the past 10 or 12 times out," Vales said. "But retire? Uh, no."
After beating Sacred Heart (Louisville, Ky.) and Downers Grove North in three games Friday and losing to Mother McAuley 25-20, 25-15 in Saturday's quarterfinals, Sandburg defeated Huntley 25-14, 25-22 to earn a shot at Marist.
"After McAuley hit us and we came back to beat Huntley, the team was making a joke, 'Hey, we won a game in two here,'" Vales said. "Then you get down 25-13 in the first game (against Marist). What do you expect? We expected to come back because we did it all week."
Mother McAuley coach Jen DeJarld was not very optimistic about the injury to libero Bridget Powell. Powell suffered a serious right knee injury early in the Mighty Macs' semifinal loss to (Tampa, Fla.) Berkeley Prep a Saturday at the Asics Challenge.
But DeJarld is confident her team will adjust.
"What doesn't kill us will make us stronger," she said. "What if this happened in a state playoff game? You have to be able to cope and move forward, and I think we did in Game 1. They really fought to come back in Game 2. They just lost their focus and starting overplaying and overthinking.
"I think the girls freaked out a little bit, but I am proud of them," she added. "They rebounded and played much tougher during the second half of the second game. But missing a libero the caliber Bridget is a real tough adjustment to make."
Powell did not appear to get tangled up with a teammate when the injury occurred.
"She told me she was covering (a block), she moved and she slipped," DeJarld said. "Her leg went one way and she went another. She felt the pop in in her knee. I told the girls to expect the worse, but let's hope for the best. I just feel that with a knee, it's never anything little.
"I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Bridget's sake and for our team's sake," she added. "It would be a big loss to us."
Joliet Catholic came into the Asics Challenge unbeaten. But the Angels had not been challenged since early in the season. Their soft schedule may have hurt them when they lost to Newport Harbor (Calif.) 25-20, 25-15 in the quarterfinals.
"We were never right from the very beginning, and then you make mistakes on your own side by not serving the ball in the court and give them momentum," Joliet Catholic coach Chris Scheibe said. "They're such a good solid team.
"Every pass they had was to target, they played defense, and when we were not able to do the things we wanted to do on our side of the court, we gave them too many opportunities," she added. "They're too good of a team for that. They were basically running their offense at will."
Newport Beach's quick offense also gave Joliet Catholic fits.
"Our blockers were getting lost a few times, and our defense was out of position," Scheibe said. "I don't know if we played a team this season who's run that fast of an offense and was able to do whatever they wanted to do like that."
Joliet Catholic (17-2) lost to Marist 25-17, 25-19 in the consolation semifinals, but bounced Huntley 25-22, 25-16 for seventh place behind 10 kills and five blocks from Morgan Reardon and eight assists and six digs by Lauren Robertson.
"I think this is good for us now," Scheibe said. "We know what we've got to work on and go back to the drawing board. We had a few strong matches at the beginning of the season, but our recent schedule has not been as strong. So to come out and see this is good for us."
It was a rough week for Huntley.
The Red Raiders (16-4), who snapped Cary-Grove's regular-season win streak at 59 two weeks ago, were stunned by Prairie Ridge earlier in the week then went 2-3 at the Asics Challenge including 0-3 on Saturday.
But the Red Raiders did provide some excitement early Saturday when they rallied from a 21-16 deficit in Game 1 against (Tampa, Fla.) Berkeley Prep to win 25-23.
However, Berkeley recovered to win the match, 23-25, 25-15, 25-15.
"They're a great team, and you know the first game we didn't have the errors we had in the second and third games," Huntley coach Michelle Jakubowski said. "We forced them to make some errors. But in the second game, we missed serves, we shanked some passes and made a lot of hitting errors.
"A team like that, they got their confidence back and they're going to put balls away," she added.
Nevertheless, Jakubowski said her team made a statement by upsetting Catholic Memorial (Wis.) in pool play and taking Berkeley the distance in the quarterfinals.
"We're Huntley, you know, who's heard of where Huntley's at?" she said. "It's good that we showed we deserved to be in this gold bracket. We worked hard enough to get here. If you can keep it all together, you can beat a team like that (Berkeley)."
You can't expect to go 5-0 at the Asics Challenge. 4-1? Maybe.
St. Francis went 3-2.
The Spartans (23-6) lost to eventual champion (Louisville, Ky.) Assumption in pool play, rebounded to beat Notre Dame (Ky.) and defending Asics champion Cary-Grove in Silver division play, then fell to Sacred Heart (Ky.) 25-20, 25-15 in the Silver division finals.
"When you come here, you have to have your head on straight," St. Francis coach Peg Kopec said. "You're not going to be 5-0, you may not be 4-1. We'd like to be. We're 3-2. I'm happy with that. I could have been happier with some things.
"I'm very happy with the way we played Cary-Grove," she added. "I'm happy with the way we played Notre Dame. At one point, we were 17-17 with Assumption. We did not win that game. We kind of goofed up at the end of the first game, and they kind of manhandled us in the second.
"But if we can play as well as we did at some points of this tournament, while we're having a fine season, we could have an even better season," she said.
Cary-Grove has had better Asics Challenges.
The Trojans, who won the Challenge a year ago, went 2-3 this year. But at 21-4 overall, Patty Langanis isn't throwing in the towel.
"We fight hard to catch up in matches, to stay in it, but when we have a team on the ropes we don't seem to have the killer instinct to put the match away," she said after the Trojans lost to Catholic Memorial 25-20, 21-25, 25-22 in the Silver division third-place match.
"As the season goes on, we need to start seeing the ball a little more on the other side of the net," Langanis added "We're waiting so long to react to everything. That was happening in that second match today (vs. St. Francis). We need to pick up our reactions.
"When we get the ball to our setter, our offense is lethal," she said. "The problem is getting a consistent ball to our setter. We did a little better job against Catholic Memorial."
Nevertheless, Langanis was happy to be a part of the Challenge and believes it will only make the Trojans better in the long run.
"Last year was fun, it was unbelievable," she said. "This year, we knew things were going to be a little tougher. It's still a fantastic tournament. The talent of all these teams is great, and be able to come here and get challenged every match is only going to make us so much stronger."
The Lyons Township volleyball program will host a charity event to benefit the Sarcoma Foundation on Tuesday, October 11 when the Lions host Hinsdale Central. The event will honor Erin Potts, a volleyball player at Lyons who passed away in December 2009 from sarcoma cancer.
Volleyball players are selling T-shirts, and all proceeds will go to the foundation. Donations will be accepted at the gate on the day of the match.
Rosary will be hosting a "Kills for Kylie" fundraiser when it hosts Montini on Monday, October 3.
Kylie Schalz, who played at Rosary from 2004-2007, has severe scoliosis. Last June, she went in for surgery to help correct the curvature that was starting to affect internal organs. During the surgery, the doctors noticed that nerve conduction was cut off at T4 and stopped the surgery.
Although the spinal cord had not been compromised, Schalz was paralyzed from mid-back down. Once the swelling went down, some feeling and movement have returned, but she has had to learn to walk all over again.
Schalz was at the Rehabilitation Institute all summer and is now home, but still needs braces to walk. She had been attending Oakland University in Michigan where she was playing softball.
"Kylie is one of the hardest working players I have ever coached and her goal is to get herself back on the softball field and playing again," Rosary volleyball coach Lisa Kasper said. "She has a very long way to go to reach that goal, and she needs our help and support."
Lakes Community and Antioch will combine forces to "Volley for the Cure" on Monday, October 3 at lakes. Both schools hope to exceed last year's numbers - in the stands (last year was standing room only) and in money collected.
During the past three years, the teams have raised nearly $30,000 at this event. All proceeds from this event go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation in support of Breast Cancer Research. There will be several raffles, activities, and a special recognition of Breast Cancer survivors throughout the evening.
For more information, contact Lakes coach Molly May at email@example.com or Carla Thompson firstname.lastname@example.org.
The St. Charles North and East volleyball programs will host their third annual "Volley for the Cure" match on Tuesday, October 4 at St. Charles North. All proceeds are donated to the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Wheaton Warrenville South and Naperville Central will hold their annual game to benefit the "Volley for the Cure" on Monday, October 3 in Naperville. However, the DuPage Valley Conference rivals have made it easier for their friends and families to donate by providing an online link to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
Online donations made to the following link will be credited to the WW South/Naperville Central "Volley for the Cure" effort, which raised more than $30,000 in 2010 after collecting more than $20,000 in donations in 2009.
To donate on behalf of WW South and Naperville Central, go to http://chicagoland.info-komen.org/site/TR/Events/HIL_ChicagolandAreaAffiliate?pxfid=185156&fr_id=1704&pg=fund.
For more information, contact Colleen Abrahamovich at (630) 947-3714 or Vickie Bischoff at (773) 491-5247.