Delaplane, Mahlke figure to rain kills on foes

Preseason No. 9 Downers Grove North will feature some of the most dynamic hitters in the state this season. But coach Mark Wasik knows that even the best strikers need a little help.

“Our success will be dependent on the quality of our first and second contacts, given that we have solid attacking ability at all positions,” he said.

Top returnees for Downers Grove North, which started a freshman and three sophomores while going 20-17 in 2016, include 6-foot-1 senior and Villanova University recruit Clare Delaplane, who had 437 Kills, 30 blocks, 229 digs and 34 aces last season.

Also back are 6-foot junior and St. Louis University commit Margaret Mahlke (255 kills, 17 blocks and 34 Aces in 2016), 5-10 sophomore setter Beth Dunlap, 6-2 junior middle blocker Payton Wendt and 5-11 junior opposite hitter Maddie DeGiorgio.

The passing of 5-7 defensive specialist Kessie Olekemna and 5-5 senior defensive specialist Madi Chudzik will be pivotal to the Trojan’s success.

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Waubonsie Valley’s strong showing during the Great Lakes summer league and its No. 11 preseason ranking are no fluke.

The Warriors return four key starters from last year’s 22-15 team that finished second in the DuPage Valley Conference before bowing to Geneva in the regional final.

“With a roster of 10 upperclassmen and three sophomores, we look to be a strong contender in the DuPage Valley Conference,” said coach Kari Galen. “We lost three seniors, but with our large group of returners, we expect to build on last year’s record and place in conference.”

Key returnees for Waubonsie Valley are libero Michelle Lee, University of California Santa Barbara commit Grace Kloss, Lewis University recruit Gisela Bode, and sophomore setter Melissa Walden.

A player to keep an eye on for the Warriors is sophomore rightside hitter Elenzie France.

The DuPage Valley Conference, which loses Glenbard North, Lake Park, Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South after this academic year, is up for grabs with Wheaton North, Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley and Naperville North also figuring to contend.

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