Coach: Patty Langanis, 20th season
Last year’s record: 14-16 overall, 5-7 FVC Valley (fifth)
Top returners: Meghan Seymour (sr., S); Kaylie Trausch (sr., MB); Abby Schebel (jr., OH)
Key newcomers: Sarah Graham (so., OH); Bree Coffey (jr., DS); Delaney Bayer (so., DS); Morgan Lee (jr., MB)
Outlook: The Trojans will enter the season a little banged up, having lost two certain contributors – sophomore outside Ally Vaszquez and sophomore middle Ally Splitt – to surgeries, Langanis said. Lee also is recovering from a torn ACL suffered during basketball season. Nonetheless, Langanis sees great promise and feels the keys to success are in place. Look for Seymour, a Northern Michigan University recruit, to be the Trojans’ leader on the court.
Crystal Lake South
Coach: Jorie Fontana, sixth season
Last year’s record: 27-10 overall, 11-1 FVC Valley (co-champions with Prairie Ridge)
Top returners: Avalon Nero (sr., OH); Carly Nolan (jr., OH); Nicole Slimko (sr., MH)
Key newcomers: Cassy Sivesind (jr., S); Emma Burkle (jr., MH); Sara Mickow (sr., MH)
Outlook: South has two of the conference’s best outside hitters in Nolan and Nero, who recently committed to Troy University. Slimko, a Bowling Green recruit, only became more powerful as the 2012 season went on. Sivesind appeared in a handful of matches last season, so she is familiar with the Gators’ hitters. A very solid club player, Sivesind shouldn’t have trouble piloting one of the conference’s deepest teams.
Coach: Christine Hopkins-Muehl, second season
Last year’s record: 14-22 overall, 1-11 FVC Valley (seventh)
Top returners: Emily Michalski (sr., MH); Kaylee Sommers (sr., L); Franki Scarpelli (sr., DS); Lauren Lococo (jr., OH); Alissa Wika (sr., OH); Audrey Martin (sr., S); Payton DeLuga (jr., OH); Kathryn Novy (jr., MH)
Key newcomers: Kiana Mays (jr., OH); Mandy Mosher (jr., S); Kagan Faulkner (jr., L); Frankie Cavallaro (so., S); Kailey Moll (so., MH); Ashley Raby (so., RSH); Breanna Novak (jr., OH); Ayana Gard (fr., MH)
Outlook: The Chargers are optimistic about their chances in what Hopkins-Muehl knows is a stacked conference. Having such a large group of underclassmen should help D-C lay a foundation for years to come. Look for more from Wika this season, who established herself at the pins last year.
Coach: Karen Liss, second season
Last year’s record: 17-20 overall, 6-6 FVC Valley (fourth)
Top returners: Kelsey DeWulf (jr., S); Emily Westermyer (sr., OH); Erin Lyman (sr., OH); Rachel Shores (sr., L); Britney Gundlach (sr., MB); Eilish Regan (sr., DS); Rachael Kisten (sr., OH);
Key newcomers: Ally Dion (fr., OH); Alex Kisten (so., OH); Erin Orb (jr., OH)
Outlook: Where the Red Raiders were young last year, they are experienced. Huntley is riding a wave of confidence after winning the Great Lakes summer league and shedding the program’s rebuilding tag. Liss predicts her team will be tough this season, which will match its schedule. Outside of conference play, the Raiders head to stacked tournaments including joining South and C-G at the Asics Challenge at Mother McAuley in October.
Coach: Lisa Dwyer, ninth season
Last year’s record: 27-10 overall, 7-5 FVC Valley (third)
Top returners: Kassie Kasper (so., L); Katie Mahoney (so., OH); Jenna Bilgrien (jr., Opp.); Mackenzie Traub (sr., S); Bridget Wallenberger (so., MH)
Key newcomers: Kyla Fitzsimmons (so., OH); Allie Campbell (jr., MH); Ester Onate (jr., S); Sarah Walsh (so., OH)
Outlook: Jacobs has become known for its tenacious defense; the ball just doesn’t hit the floor very often. That means all eyes will be on libero Kasper, who has shown she has the talent to improve on the 463-dig performance she turned in as a freshman. Traub showed she can run a fast-paced offense last year. Look for her to do much of the same this season.
Coach: Jeff Brunstrum, seventh season
Last year’s record: 11-24 overall, 1-11 FVC Valley (seventh)
Top returners: Zoe Lindsey (jr., S); Mary Rouse (jr., S); Becca Dabrowski (jr., MH); Haley Kornfeind (jr., OH)
Key newcomers: Ally Spence (so., DS); Alex Martens (so., OH); Allie McQueeny (so., S)
Outlook: Lindsey, Rouse, Kornfeind and Dabrowski all return to give McHenry some experience, but the team is still very young. All four girls are juniors and surrounded by underclassmen anxious to show the Warriors shouldn’t be overlooked. “We will still be a fairly young team looking to build on our successes from last year,” Brunstrum said.
Coach: Stefanie Otto,
Last year’s record: 30-10 overall, 11-1 FVC Valley (co-champions with South)
Top returners: Ali Witt (jr., MB); Maddie Drain (sr., MB); Taylor Otto (sr., S); Olivia Hanley (sr., DS); Kennedy McNeil (sr., OH)
Key newcomers: Kaitlyn Turskey (jr., OH/S); Charlie Beam (jr., OH); Aubree Eggers (jr., OH/MB); Sloane Salerno (so., DS)
Outlook: Prairie Ridge lost a solid group of seniors from its 2012 division title-winning team, but the cupboard hardly is bare. Onlookers could see Witt and Drain gain confidence as the season progressed, and McNeil contributed substantially to Prairie Ridge’s Class 4A supersectional run. Provided Taylor Otto is healthy – she has battled an ankle injury since last winter – the Wolves could contend for another division title.
Fox Valley Conference Fox Division
Crystal Lake Central
Coach: Lisa Reddish, third season
Last year’s record: 26-9 overall, 12-0 FVC Fox (division champions)
Top returners: Natalie Ricca (sr., S); Lauren Leverenz (sr., MB); Kassi Dvoracek (sr., OH); Krissy Pratt (sr., OH); Annie Fox (sr., DS); Maddy Cysewski (sr., RSH); Rachael Schoepke (sr., MH)
Key newcomers: Britney Adams (sr., DS); Sydney Nelson (sr., S); Susie Jeziorowski (jr., RSH); Mackenzie Allen (jr., OH)
Outlook: The Tigers graduated just one senior from last year’s FVC Fox Division championship team. Central’s nucleus has been in tact for several years, giving Reddish every reason to expect the Tigers to be competitive again this year. Leverenz is one of the area’s top middle hitters and should pace the Tigers’ offense, while Ricca knows her way around the court and has a knack for getting all her hitters involved.
Coach: Jason Janczak, eighth season
Last year’s record: 24-14 overall, 7-5 FVC Fox (third)
Top returners: Alex Dahlstrom (sr., OH); Gabi Casper (sr., OH); Anna Basten (sr., MH); Lexi Beckman (sr., MH); Hannah Thomas (sr., DS); Allie Daul (so., RSH)
Key newcomers: Teresa Curtis (sr., DS); Hayley Peterson (jr., S/DS); Dani Sentz (jr., DS)
Outlook: The Rams are working on running a quicker offense and getting the first ball kills off serve-receive, Janczak said. They have the talent to sharpen those skills; Janczak has four seniors who are third- and fourth-year varsity players. The Rams’ roster is peppered with defensive specialists, which should make up for a lack of height in the front row. “This is a cohesive group of girls who works hard and who have the ability and desire to win this year,” Janczak said.
Coach: Nikki Kirchway, eighth season
Last year’s record: 13-24 overall, 3-9 FVC Fox (fifth)
Top returners: Summer Camper (sr., OH); Alaina Geissberger (sr., MH); Maggie Fish (jr., MH/OH); Stefani Keilwitz (jr., DS/L)
Key newcomers: Bailee Hardy (jr., Opp); Nicole LeBaron (jr., OH); Cassie Reimbold (jr., DS/L); Kendall Buchmann (so., S)
Outlook: The Knights’ four returners have the varsity experience Kirchway knows is necessary to build the team around. Kirchway has been impressed with the Knights’ drive over the summer and their obvious desire to get after every point. Defense should be the key to the Knights’ success. Look for Keilwitz to be very active in the back row.
Coach: Andy Lindley, second season
Last year’s record: 13-17 overall, 6-6 FVC Fox (fourth)
Top returners: Brittany Laffin (jr., S); Erin Foss (jr., OH); Julianna Gass (sr., L)
Key newcomers: Kaila Kienzler (jr., MB); Dallas Krueger (jr., MB)
Outlook: The Whip-Purs are young this year, but should not be overlooked. Lindley, the assistant coach for six seasons before taking over the reins last year, knows exactly what works in the system the Whips established and will rely on his young talent to maintain a culture of high expectations. “We have some young talent who can help us reach and surpass our potential,” Lindley said.
Coach: Sue Feely, 12th season
Last year’s record: 27-10 overall, 10-2 FVC Fox (second)
Top returners: Ashly Schmitt (sr., OH); Amy Majercik (sr., OH)
Key newcomers: Abby Majercik (so., S)
Outlook: Johnsburg will work with a nine-player roster, at least at the start of the season. What the Skyhawks lack in numbers they make up for with chemistry. The players have played together for a few years, Feely said, and work very well within their established system. Johnsburg lost standout setter Megan Davis to graduation, but Feely is very confident Abby Majercik will fill Davis’s shoes. Schmitt, a McKendree University recruit, is very strong on the outside and complemented well by Amy Majercik. Provided the Skyhawks’ teamwork holds up, Johnsburg should reach its potential.
Coach: Meghan Mullaney, first season
Last year’s record: 7-30 overall, 2-10 FVC Fox (sixth)
Top returners: Megan Pautrat (sr.); Rachel Lohmeyer (sr.); Amanda Jandernoa (jr.); Rachel Tobias (jr.)
Key newcomers: Amanda Gelasi (so.); Grace Detwiler (fr.); Georgia Wicker (fr.)
Outlook: Mullaney is confident the Blue Streaks can improve as she’s already seen significant strides since the beginning of the summer. “We’ve come very far from the first day of camp until now and we are all very excited to begin our season,” Mullaney said.
Coach: Greg Bruns, sixth season
Last year’s record: 8-25 overall, 1-11, FVC Fox (seventh)
Top returners: Sam Abbate (sr., OH); Becca Molve (sr., MB); Manda Landrey (sr., S)
Key newcomers: Emily Andrychowski (sr., S); Eden Powell (sr., RSH); Casey Gavers (sr., DS)
Outlook: Unlike many area teams, Bruns’ roster does not include many club volleyball players. Instead, the Thunder have several multisport athletes, making them a well-rounded, athletic team that’s fast and aggressive, Bruns said. The Thunder also have 11 seniors between the varsity and junior varsity teams, so Bruns has mature players leading the charge. “When this team is playing well, it means they are having fun,” he said. “We should have a lot of fun this year.”
Suburban Christian Conference
Coach: Laura Watling, fifth season
Last year’s record: 18-21 overall, 3-6 SCC Blue Division
Top returners: Frankie Taylor (sr., OH); Hannah Davis (sr., MB)
Key newcomers: Alex Kaufmann (so., RSH/S); Rachel Giustino (so., MB)
Outlook: The Hurricanes will be young at nearly every position, but they are not without plenty of talent. Davis and Taylor both have waited for their year in the spotlight, so look for both to have strong senior campaigns in one of the most dangerous conferences in the state. “The makeup of this team is almost completely different from last season,” Watling said. “However, we are not short on talent or skill. If we can develop a chemistry and rhythm, look for us to have a successful season.”
Big Northern ConferenceEast Division
Coach: Nicole Holmes, first season (seventh in the Hornets’ program)
Last year’s record: 9-25-1 overall
Top returners: Maty Brincks (sr., OH); Mallory Haak (sr., DS); Sammy Genz (sr., OH)
Key newcomers: Sophie Sticker (so., S)
Outlook: Holmes’s team is determined to dominate this year, and Harvard has talented players who can compete in the BNC East. Holmes is focused on making the offense as dynamic as possible, coaching her girls to play a strong mental game and keeping team spirits high “through positive interactions and communication,” she said.
Coach: Meg Dobbertin, eighth season (took three seasons off)
Last year’s record: 12-23 overall
Top returners: Peyton Velasquez (jr., OH); Lynsey Hoeske (sr., MB)
Key newcomers: Nicole Johnston (so., S)
Outlook: The Indians were scrappy last year with a deceiving record. Marengo was hard for teams to put away. Dobbertin sees that tenacious attitude again this season. “This team is full of athletes that want to compete to win,” Dobbertin said. “They are fun to watch and I know they are leaving 110 percent on the floor.”
Coach: Kaycee Kaywood, sixth season (eighth in the program)
Last year’s record: 35-5 overall, 12-0 BNC East, IHSA Class 3A state runners-up
Top returners: Ali Frantti (sr., OH); Kelsey Burlini (sr., OH); Libby Anderson (sr., MB)
Key newcomers: Jenna Mazur (jr., L); Celena Kanagin (so., MB); Jessie Duncan (so., S)
Outlook: The Rockets lost many of the key elements to their state finals run last season, but R-B still has its biggest weapon. Frantti, one of the area’s best outside hitters and committed to Penn State, should ensure R-B is not overlooked. Beyond Frantti, Kaywood has been impressed with how her middle hitters, Anderson and Kanagin, have worked together and developed a presence in the front row. “[The players] have been working very hard at summer camps both at R-B and [Illinois State University],” Kaywood said. “They have bonded very well and are working very well together.”
Northeastern Athletic Conference
Coach: Carrie Recard, first season
Top returners: Brooklyn Hilton, Hannah Behrens and Jacqueline Walters (grades and positions not provided)
Key newcomers: Tallor Lalor and Chey Knoll
Outlook: Recard is inheriting a team she has realized is hungry to compete. The trick is getting them to expect to have success, Recard said. “We have challenged them all summer and they have graciously accepted every challenge,” Recard said. “Our goal will be helping them with the rigors of the game along with the expectations of having success. We are doing everything we can to make sure they are prepared for what lies ahead.”
Coach: Laurie Mathiesen, fourth season
Last year’s record: 3-19 overall
Top returners: Susannah Boyer (so., MH/OH); Kassandra Clauss (so., OH); Emily Cunningham (so., S)
Key newcomers: Natalie Borman (fr., MH)
Outlook: It could be another challenging year, but for different reasons. Last year, the Saints struggled with injuries, and this year they are very young. Three upperclassmen are on the Saints’ roster, but most starters are sophomores and Borman is a freshman. “Once maturity is fully established and confidence is built, we will be a team to be reckoned with,” Mathiesen said. “The future looks very bright indeed.”
– Compiled by Maureen Lynch – email@example.com