Libertyville looks to bounce back; Mt. Zion “cautiously optimistic”

Batavia makes its way into the new DuKane Conference in 2018.

School: Batavia
Conference: DuKane
Head coachLori Trippi-Payne  
Last season’s highlights: 22-14 overall, fourth in conference, finished second in three tournaments (Jacobs Invite, Waubonsie Valley Warrior Blast and Maine West Pumpkinfest), lost 25-23, 25-11 to DeKalb in a Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-11 senior outside hitter Maddy Boyer, 5-6 senior libero/outside hitter Sam Juarez, 5-7 senior setter Becca Robinson, 6-2 senior rightside hitter Melissa Kozak.
Top newcomers: 5-6 senior libero/defensive specialist Olivia Greco, 5-10 senior middle hitter Emily Acquaviva.
Coach’s quote: “We should remain very competitive as we lost only three to graduation from a 22-win team. However, the first few weeks will be quite a big adjustment filling the shoes of those we did graduate as two were AAU All Americans and big college recruits. I think by the end of September we will really start to make some noise.” 
Outlook: The new DuKane Conference, which features teams like St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Wheaton North and Geneva, will be a challenge. Batavia will get an immediate idea of how it stacks up with its home opener September 4 against Lake Park.  
Did you know, Part I? The future looks bright at Batavia, which had 95 girls try out for the program.
Did you know, Part II? Batavia’s 2017 varsity team was awarded the AVCA All Academic All-American Award, the 21st year in a row it received this honor.

School: Hartsburg-Emden
Conference: Tomahawk
Head coach:  Jennifer Hayes
Last season’s highlights: 32-7 overall, 7-0 in conference, lost 25-23, 21-25, 25-12 to West Prairie in a Class 1A sectional final.
Top returnees: 6-0 senior outside hitter Anna Hayes (Illinois’ kill leader in 2017 and a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit), 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Grace Beekman.
Top newcomer: 5-10 sophomore middle hitter Alaina Bradburn.
Outlook: “Good,” Hayes said.

School: Hinckley-Big Rock
Conference: Little Ten
Head coach: Stefanie Rich
Last season’s highlights: 1-21 overall, 0-6 in conference, lost 25-13, 25-10 to Serena in a Class 1A regional semifinal.
Top newcomer: 5-6 sophomore setter Tessa Prellberg.
Coach’s quote: “We will have a young team, but they have the drive and motivation to have a successful season.”

School: Lawrenceville
Conference: Little Illini
Head coach: Trinity Britton 
Last season’s highlights: 6-22 overall, 1-7 in conference, lost 25-19, 25-12 to Mt. Carmel in a Class 2A regional quarterfinal.
Top returnees: 5-9 sophomore setter/outside hitter Chloe Britton (277 kills, 47 aces, 16 blocks, 228 digs, 181 assists), 5-5 junior setter/rightside hitter Paige Tewell (36 aces, 24 kills, 103 digs, 252 assists), 5-3 sophomore libero/defensive specialist Elizabeth Steffey (23 aces, 73 digs).
Top newcomers: 5-9 senior outside/rightside/middle hitter Amanda Marley, 5-6 junior rightside/outside hitter Raylin Carey, 5-11 freshman middle/rightside hitter Abbie Vaughn, 5-5 freshman defensive specialist Paisley Winkles.
Coach’s quote: “2018 could be a stronger season for Lawrenceville with our goal being .500. Realistically, we could have 12-18 wins depending on how fast the younger players develop. If we struggle early, it could just as easily be 8-12 wins if the younger players don’t develop quickly.”

School: Lena-Winslow 
Conference: Northwest Upstate Illini
Head coach: Sue Amendt         
Last season’s highlights: 24-14 overall, 9-4 in conference, lost 25-15, 25-14 to Keith Country Day in a Class 1A regional final.
Top returnees: Junior outside hitter Madi Schultz (199 kills in 2017), junior middle blocker/setter Jaden Julius (216 kills), senior opposite hitter Liv Matz, senior middle blocker Ana Zinke, junior libero Jordan Streckwald, junior setter Jenna Bidlingmaier, junior defensive specialist Jenna Zeal.
Top newcomers: Senior opposite hitter Megan Packard, junior outside hitter Paige Sowle-Diffenderfer.
Coach’s quote: “We must stay healthy.”
Outlook: The Northwest Upstate Illini produced Class 1A third-place finisher Durand in 2017 and is perennially one of the toughest small-school leagues in Illinois with schools like Galena, Dakota, Eastland, Stockton and Durand. Lena-Winslow returns its top two hitters from a year ago – Schultz and Julius – and look to Jenna Bidlingmaier to replace graduated setter Grace Bidlingmaier.

School: Libertyville
Conference: North Suburban
Head coach: Greg Loika
Last season’s highlights: 17-22 overall, 3-4 in conference, lost 25-18, 25-13 to eventual third-place state finisher Crystal Lake Central in a Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: 6-0 sophomore setter Peyton O’Brien, 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Kellie Hopper, 6-0 junior outside hitter Hope Moody, 5-10 senior middle blocker Amanda Reinhart, 5-5 senior defensive specialist Jenn Formica, 6-0 senior rightside hitter Maddie Spaulding, 6-0 senior middle blocker Tierney Keegan.
Top newcomers: 5-11 junior middle blocker Cassidy Jones, 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Ella Schaffnit, 5-7 senior defensive specialist Alyssa Sorensen.
Coach’s quote: “While the Wildcats were young last year with two-to-three freshmen seeing regular time, we graduate an all-state libero in Morgan DeGregor and both two-year starting pin players Madi O’Brien and Anna Valente. Peyton O’Brien looks to usher a new look Wildcat squad through a treacherous non-conference and tourney schedule. In the initial voyage last fall, we struggled to a regular season record of 14-21 before surprising Cary-Grove and Warren in the regional as a No. 12 seed. Before bowing out to Crystal Lake Central in the sectional, the young Wildcats showed the promise to come and earned valuable experience along the way. It will be a competitive early season test as we have many capable players who will contribute to a well-rounded offense behind another strong defense.  September showings at the Wheaton Classic and Crossroads Classic in Effingham will show the battle chops for this team down the stretch.”
Outlook: Last year was an aberration for Libertyville, which had gone 243-55 the previous eight seasons and had never lost more than 11 games during Loika’s nine years at the reins. If the Wildcats survive their typically tough nonconference and tournament schedule, they should reach their fifth consecutive sectional.

School: Mt. Zion
Conference: Apollo
Head coach: Jay McAtee
Last season’s highlights: 35-5 overall, 11-1 in conference, lost 25-10, 25-21 to Belleville Althoff in a Class 3A supersectional.  
Top returnees: 5-9 junior outside hitter Karlee McAtee (287 kills, 20 blocks, 327 digs in 2017), 6-1 senior middle hitter Dayna Kennedy (260 kills, 25 blocks, 106 digs), 5-8 senior outside hitter Reilly Drake (231 kills, 275 digs), 5-9 senior middle hitter Kaitlyn Lillpopp (181 kills, 32 blocks, 92 digs) and 5-6 senior setter Ali Vaughn (932 assists, 208 digs).
Top newcomers: 5-9 sophomore outside hitter Emily Cole, 5-1 sophomore libero Caitlyn Maley.
Coach’s quote: “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
Outlook: Cole reportedly had an outstanding season for Illini Elite 16 Black, which went 14-10 in the Great Lakes Summer League 16 Super Open division, while Maley will try to fill a gap at libero left by graduation. If those two play up to expectations and the five returnees deliver, Mt. Zion could be playing for a state title come November.

School: Niles West  
Conference: Central Suburban South
Head coach:
Stacy Roth         
Last season’s highlights:
26-7 overall, 8-2 in conference (second behind New Trier by one game), lost 25-20, 17-25, 25-19 to New Trier in a Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-11 senior all-conference and honorable mention all-state outside hitter Natalia Pehar, 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Ellie Scalero, 5-7 senior libero Sloan Tomczak.
Coach’s quote: “We expect to do well this season. We have a good amount of returnees and experience.”

Conference: Midland Trail
Head coach: Sara Lamczyk          
Last season’s record: 20-10 overall, 7-1 in conference (second place), third in conference tournament, lost 25-20, 25-5 to Cobden in a Class 1A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-9 senior outside hitter Madison Tiemann, 5-11 sophomore middle hitter Ashton Barton 5-10 junior setter/rightside hitter Rayci Brown, 5-5 senior libero/defensive specialist Brianna Ward.
Top newcomers: 5-9 freshman outside hitter Lauren Harris. 
Coach’s quote: “We are young but very tall, quick and athletic. We have a very solid defense and a lot of players who can put the ball down.”
Did you know, Part I? Rayci Brown had surgery in April for a knee injury and is expected to be back in action this month.
Did you know, Part II? Woodlawn has won a regional title in six of the last eight seasons and finished fourth in the state in 2014.

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