Bolingbrook building behind Mitchem; Murphysboro looks to extend run

Natalie Mitchem (back row, center) is the centerpiece of the Bolingbrook program. continues its coverage of the 2018 Illinois girls high school season with a second set of team previews.  

School: Bolingbrook
Conference: Southwest Suburban Red
Head coach: Molly DeSerf
Last season’s highlights: 7-21 overall, lost to Plainfield East 17-25, 25-23, 25-21 in Class 4A regional quarterfinals.
Top returnees: 6-2 senior outside hitter Natalie Mitchem (255 kills, 22 aces, 94 digs), 5-10 junior setter Sara Magdziarz (341 assists, 47 aces).
Top newcomers: 5-6 junior outside hitter Taylor Coley, 5-9 sophomore middle/opposite hitter Lauren Shroba.
Coach’s quote: “We have a great group of kids who are invested in the game in the offseason and doing all the right things. Combine that dedication and work ethic with some talent and good things will come. This group is feisty and has a great edge to it. We still have a lot of work to do, but the girls are focused on the details and it’s showing in their play each day as they continue to grow their game.”
Outlook: Bolingbrook competes in one of the top conferences in the state and a sectional that is loaded with the likes of Plainfield Central and Minooka, but the Raiders should benefit from a year of growth and the national championship experience (SPVB 18 Elite) and continued improvement of Mitchem.
Did you know? Bolingbrook features a number of multi-sport athletes, including Magdziarz (soccer), Coley and junior Makayla Conway (basketball), junior defensive specialist Jasmine Doguin (softball) and Jayshawna Smith (track). “There are unbelievable benefits of kids doing more than more sport,” DeSerf said. “It’s tough with year-round play and the pressure to commit to one, but it’s great for the body and avoiding overuse injuries, the cross training, and being coachable in different environments.”

School: DeKalb     
Conference: Northern Illinois Big 12
Head coach: Jamie DiMaggio          
Last season’s highlights: 25-12, 9-1 in conference, conference champions, lost to Class 4A state semifinalist St. Charles North 25-18, 25-14 in regional finals.
Top returnees: 5-7 senior libero Lydia Sabanish, 5-10 junior setter Bella Finch, 6-3 junior middle hitter Kayli Hilliard.
Top newcomers: 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Kallie Siebrasse, 5-10 freshman outside hitter Julia O’Brien.
Coach’s quote: “We are young, but we will be competitive.”

Joliet West
Conference: Southwest Prairie
Head coach: Al Mart
Last season’s highlights: 27-10 overall, 9-5 in conference, second at Peg Bryan Memorial Tournament at Joliet Central; first at Leyden invite, fourth at Glenbard West Invite, third at Bradley-Bourbonnais invite. Lost 25-17, 25-16 to Metea Valley in Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-5 senior libero Emma Baxter, 5-11 junior outside hitter/setter Natalie Stefanski, 5-10 junior middle/rightside hitter Ashley Shawmeker, 5-3 junior defensive specialist Brooke Borgra.
Top newcomers: 5-6 senior setter Britney Drysch, 5-9 senior middle hitter Felicity Jones.
Coach’s quote: “We will be a young team with some experience. We have four returning starters, two who played all-around. I’m excited about our potential. It just may take some time as we learn to play together.”
Outlook: Coming off a solid 2017 season, Joliet West must contend with league powers Minooka, Plainfield Central and Plainfield North.

School: Minooka      
Conference: Southwest Prairie
Head coach: Carrie Prosek
Last season’s highlights: 39-3 overall, conference champions, lost to Marist 22-25, 25-22, 25-15 in Class 4A state championship game.
Top returnee: 5-7 junior setter Zoey Seput (921 assists, 28 aces, 73 blocks, 169 digs).
Top newcomers: 5-7 senior libero Nicole Kijowski, 5-10 senior rightside hitter Bella Alessio, 6-3 sophomore outside hitter Heidi Bonde.
Coach’s quote: “We will be young and I am sure many people will underestimate us since we lost six players. But the incoming group has much better ball control then we had in the past and will step up to the competition. We improved our schedule to play higher level teams and they are ready to take the challenge.”
Did you know? Kijowski and Alessio were members of the Uno Girls 17 team that won the 17 American division of the 2018 USAV Girls Junior National Championships in Detroit, Michigan; Alessio is also one of the top soccer goalies in the state; and Bonde is the younger sister of two-time state runner-up Holly Bonde, who will redshirt her freshman season at Kansas State.
Outlook: Despite heavy graduation losses, Minooka still figures to be one of the top teams in the southwest suburbs.   

School: Murphysboro
Conference: Southern Illinois River-to-River (Ohio)
Head coach: Mike Layne
Last season’s highlights: 27-10 overall, 9-1 in conference, fifth consecutive conference championship, third straight regional championship, lost to Class 3A state champion Belleville Althoff 25-14, 25-13 in sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-10 senior setter/outside hitter and Lincoln Land Community College recruit Rachel Finders (175 kills), 5-10 senior opposite and John A. Logan Community College recruit Maddie LaBranche (150 kills), 5-9 junior outside hitter Lillie Schaldemose (300 kills), 5-4 senior libero Gabbie Brown, 5-10 sophomore Kylee Kerrens.
Top newcomer: 6-foot junior setter/middle hitter Ashley Jarrett.
Outlook: Murphysboro must replace setter Drew Stokes (Colorado School of Mines), middle hitter and 2017 kill leader Mallorie Harris (John A. Logan Community College) and libero Daisy Watkins (Fontbonne University) as it seeks its sixth conference title in a row and fourth straight Class 3A regional title.
Coach’s quote: “It will take a little time to gel losing that leadership from our setter (Stokes), but I feel we can make another run at a stellar season.”

School: Normal (University)      
Conference: Central State Eight
Head coach: Mike Bolhuis         
Last season’s highlights: 29-10 overall, 8-1 conference. Lost to Class 3A state champion Belleville Althoff 25-13, 25-21 in state semifinal, then defeated St. Viator 25-21, 19-25, 25-19 for third place.
Top returnees: 5-6 senior outside hitter Jessica McDowell (168 kills, 251 digs), 5-7 junior setter/rightside hitter Isabel Schaefbauer (417 assists, 132 kills, 148 digs), 5-11 senior setter/rightside hitter Macy Tongate (135 kills).
Top newcomers: 6-1 junior outside hitter Alayna Crabtree.
Coach’s quote: “We look to build on a very competitive season last year. We lost 8 seniors but return three of our top statistical leaders and add a deep junior class that has been very successful as a junior varsity team the past two years. We play in 3A/4A tournaments all year that we should be competitive in and that also prepare us for postseason play.”  
Outlook: The Pioneers plays a rugged regular-season and tournament schedule that should prepare them for another long state tournament run. But could Joliet Catholic, which drops down to 3A this season, loom in the sectional?    

School: Oak Park-River Forest
Conference: West Suburban Silver
Head coach: Kelly Collins (third year)
Last season’s highlights: 12-24 overall, 1-5 in conference; finished 13th at the Metea Valley invite, seventh at New Trier, 11th at the Mother McAuley Preview and 18th at Glenbard East’s Autumnfest; lost to (Chicago) Jones 25-22, 25-18 in a Class 4A regional final.
Top returnees: 6-2 junior outside hitter Natalie Chizzo, 5-10 senior middle hitter Zora Barnett, 6-2 junior middle hitter Zariah Woodard, 5-5 junior libero Ella Dunanva, 5-9 senior outside hitter Chloe Cantu.
Top newcomer: 6-1 sophomore outside hitter Chloe Gill.
Coach’s quote:  “We’re walking and talking differently. There is already a different feel in our gym this year compared to the past two.  Many of these kids are coming in with two years of varsity experience with us and it’s showing. Add that to the hard work many of them have been putting in since February, and you understand why we’re feeling all right this July. Our main goal continues to be competitive as possible in everything we do, everyday. Once we start putting all the pieces together, it’s going to get real fun.”

School: Paxton-Buckley-Loda
Conference: Sangamon Valley
Head coach: Lindsay Muehlbauer
Last season’s highlights: 18-11 overall, 5-2 in conference, second place in the Paxton-Buckley-Loda Classic, third place in the Sangamon Valley Conference tournament, lost to Heyworth 25-13, 25-17 in Class 2A regional semifinal.
Top returnee: 5-10 senior outside hitter Aubree Bruns (101 kills, 11 aces, 154 digs).
Top newcomer: 5-11 freshman outside hitter Addison Oyer.
Outlook: Paxton-Buckley-Loda will compete with Sloan Boyce-led Cissna Park and Kennedy Bauer-paced Watseka for conference honors.

School: Peoria Notre Dame
Conference: Big Twelve
Head coach:  Shelby Lauterbach        
Last season’s highlights: 23-14 overall, 8-2 in conference, fourth consecutive regional title, lost to LaSalle-Peru 25-19, 27-25 in Class 3A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-10 senior outside hitter Meghan Suelter (221 kills, 35 aces, 273 digs), 5-9 senior middle hitter Samantha Compton (116 kills, 33 aces, 54 blocks), 5-7 senior setter Janey Schlicksup (781 assists, 33 aces, 154 digs), 5-11 senior opposite Olivia Book (59 blocks).
Top newcomers: 5-11 junior middle hitter Halle Peterson, 6-foot junior middle hitter Spencer Sanders, 5-10 sophomore middle hitter Sophie Trad, 5-8 junior outside hitter Mackenzie Shuler, junior opposite/outside hitter Gabby Favorita, 5-9 sophomore setter Sarah Bruch, 5-9 junior outside/opposite/defensive specialist Kaitlyn Dries. 
Coach’s quote: “Peterson, Sanders and Trad are vying to fill big shoes left by the graduated Anna Zallek. All made huge improvements from their games last season. Schuler and Favorita were both on the varsity roster last year but will be finding more court time this season as upperclassmen. Bruch is an up-and-coming powerful setter prospect, and Dries is a great prospect for any position we put her in.” 
Outlook: Peoria Notre Dame is looking to leapfrog Bloomington and Normal Community for the conference championship. If the young players meet expectations, Peoria Notre Dame should make another long run in the state tournament.

School: St. Ignatius
Conference: Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red
Head coach: Erik Eastman
Last season’s highlights: 21-16 overall, 5-2 in conference, placed third at West Aurora invite and sixth at Waubonsie Valley Warrior Blast, regional champions, lost 23-25, 29-27, 25-18 to Whitney Young in a Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-9 junior setter Kate Danaher (439 assists, 161 digs, 21 aces), 5-11 junior outside hitter Lauren Brunsvold (173 kills, 37 aces, 23 blocks, 166 digs), 6-foot senior middle hitter Lindsey Zver (78 kills, 77 blocks), 5-7 senior defensive specialist Rita Grassano (79 digs), 5-5 sophomore libero Maggie Hynes (39 digs).
Top newcomers: 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Makenzie Washington.
Coach’s quote: “With only two seniors, we will be very young after losing six senior starters from last year. This will be a year when we need some younger girls to step up to fill some big holes left from last season.”
Outlook: St. Ignatius faces an uphill climb in a conference that features Mother McAuley, St. Francis, Loyola and Montini.

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