Durand ‘family’ eyes return to state; Sandburg looking for a little love

Payson Seymour must replace its top two attackers as it seeks to defend its Class 1A state title.

Illprepvb.com begins its coverage of the 2018 Illinois girls high school season with the first set of previews.  

School: Downers Grove South
Conference: West Suburban Gold
Head coach:  Kristee Conrad (1st year)
Last season’s highlights: 18-17 overall, 5-0 in conference, lost to Wheaton North, 25-14, 25-10, in Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: Six-foot all-conference outside hitter Lucy Dumford (High Point University), 5-9 junior setter Addy Kartmik, 5-9 all-conference setter Abby Valliere, 5-6 setter Alyssa Mojica, 5-7 outside hitter Grace Lamoreaux, 5-3 defensive specialist Sarah Reilly.
Coach’s quote: “The Mustangs intend to come out strong and surprise teams with great improvement in the offseason. The vision for the program is to revisit the years where the Mustangs were state competitors and train like champions daily. With a balanced mix of experienced varsity athletes and younger athletes thirsty to learn and grow, without doubt Downers South will draw the eyes of spectators this year.”
Did you know? Junior middle blocker Rose Dumford is the younger sister of senior outside hitter Lucy Dumford. Both come from an athletic family. Their brother Sam had offers to both swim and play soccer in college. Rose, who plays soccer year-round, came into high school very new to the game of volleyball, with very few trained skills but a hard work ethic and extensive athletic ability. Last year, she became a varsity starter.

School: Durand
Conference: Northwest Upstate Illini
Head coach: Molly Kelsey     
Last season’s highlights: 35-2-1 overall, 13-0 in conference, won Galena and Oregon tournaments. Lost to Windsor Stewardson Strasburg in Class 1A semifinals, 27-25, 24-26, 25-19, then defeated Newark, 25-19, 25-19, for third place.
Top returnees: 5-4 senior setter Marissa Kelsey, 5-6 senior outside hitter McKenzie Damon, 5-2 senior libero Jaci Damon, 5-6 senior outside hitter Katie Nevdal, 5-5 junior middle blocker Abby Erickson.
Top newcomers: 5-10 junior middle blocker Hannah Proctor, 5-7 junior rightside hitter Ali Asche, 5-3 junior defensive specialist Emily Steder.
Outlook: Durand graduated only two players from last year’s state team, 6-0 middle blocker Katie Asche and 5-11 middle blocker Alyssa Brauer, and will contend with Lena-Winslow, Stockton and Dakota in northwest Illinois.   
Coach’s quote: “We have a lot of experience with five returning starters. However, in order to continue our skills, we will be putting a lot of emphasis on a strong defense and a fast offense.”
Did you know? Durand is literally one big family. Coach Molly Kelsey has two sisters-in-law on the team – Marissa and Miranda Kelsey – and  two cousins – Hannah Proctor and Abby Erickson. Assistant coach Amy Damon has a daughter – McKenzie Damon – and niece – Jaci Damon – on the team.

School: Elk Grove   
Conference: Mid-Suburban League East
Head coach: Stephanie Kezios
Last season’s highlights: 4-26, 0-10 in conference, lost to Glenbard East 25-17, 25-16 in Class 4A regional quarterfinals.
Top returnees and their statistics: 6-1 senior middle hitter Rachel Kandefer, 5-5 junior defensive specialist Megan Murray.
Top newcomers: 5-8 senior outside hitter Grace Gallo, 5-10 senior middle hitter Autumn Franco.
Coach’s quote: “The 2018 season is characterized as one that started during the off-season with incredibly hard work led by our great group of seniors. We’ll be senior-heavy this year and this group has had success in the past. We have some height, so our blocking should be improved. We also should be fairly scrappy defensively.”  

School: (Machesney Park) Harlem 
Conference: Northern Illinois (NIC-10) 
Head coach: Ashley Cerasa   
Last season’s highlights: 21-10 overall, finished fourth in the NIC-10 at 11-5, lost to Hampshire in Class 4A regional quarterfinals, 25-17, 22-25, 25-19.
Top returnees: Senior outside hitter Emily Johnson, senior libero Brooke Mirshak, senior middle blocker Sarah Smith and senior setter Airanna Mohr.
Top newcomer: Junior outside hitter Emily Fabert.
Coach’s quote: “Harlem is going to be young but strong. We have a great group of seniors who will lead us to great success.”

School: Hillcrest 
Conference: South Suburban
Head coachAnnie Dachota (1st year)
Last season’s highlights: 5-15 overall, 0-11 in conference, lost to (Chicago) Brooks 25-21, 27-25 in Class 3A regional semifinals.
Top returnees: Senior all-conference libero Kimani Thornton.
Outlook: Hillcrest is looking for a fresh start under first-year coach Annie Dachota.

School: Lincoln-Way West
Conference: Southwest Suburban Blue
Head coach:  Matt Lawrence
Last season’s highlights: 19-16 overall, lost to Shepard 25-18, 25-14 in Class 4A regional semifinals.
Top returnees: 5-8 senior outside hitter Brianna Knezz (204 kills, 10 blocks, 222 digs), 5-9 junior outside hitter Kirsten Leitshuh (148 kills, 5 blocks, 124 digs), 5-6 junior setter Hannah Rubin (194 assists), 5-8 senior middle hitter Sophia Wilkes (78 kills, 35 blocks).
Top newcomers: Caroline Ahern, who was on varsity as a sophomore, but tore her ACL and missed all of last year.  As a senior, Lawrence is looking for her to put up a big block on the right side.  
Coach’s quote: “Last year, we had fairly young group with a mix of sophomores and freshmen starting at setter, outside, right side and middle. With a year of varsity experience and a whole club season, those girls will now be juniors and should make a nice jump this year.”  

School: Lockport   
Conference: Southwest Suburban Blue
Head coach: Nick Mraz       
Last season’s highlights: 24-12 overall, 3-2 and third place in conference, won Tinley Park Invite, lost 25-15, 25-17 in Class 4A regional semifinals to Waubonsie Valley
Top returnees: 5-9 junior outside hitter Morgan Schmutzler (166 kills, 18 blocks, 108 digs in 2017), 5-9 junior outside hitter Taylor Morgan (53 kills, 3 blocks in 10 matches), 5-7 senior setter Hannah Pacheco (490 assists, 67 aces, 145 digs), 5-8 senior defensive specialist Jill Hook (37 aces, 67 kills, 106 digs), 5-10 junior middle hitter Leena Ajibola (13 aces, 46 kills, 36 blocks, 30 digs).
Top newcomers: 6-2 junior middle hitter/opposite Becca Oldendorf, 6-foot sophomore middle hitter/opposite Nadia Goich, 5-6 freshman setter Doville Gorys.
Coach’s quote: “We will feature a very young roster (only two seniors), not by necessity, but rather due to a lot of talent from the underclassmen. There will be experienced offensive weapons all over the floor, while the addition of Becca Oldendorf and Nadia Goich will help our defense by establishing a big block. Defensive specialists Jill Hook and Nora Dykstra will look to replace the holes left by the graduation of Shae O’Neil and Emma Sweeney. Although JoDee Kovanda is hard to replace as a six-rotation setter/opposite hitter, Becca Oldendorf and Doville Gorys appear more than ready to live up to that challenge.”
Did you know? Lockport is seeking a third consecutive 20-plus win season.

School: Mascoutah
Conference: Mississippi Valley
Head coach: Todd Gober
Last season’s highlights: 16-15 overall, 7-3 and second place in conference, lost to Belleville Althoff 25-11, 25-10 in Class 3A regional semifinals.
Top returnees: 5-9 senior outside hitter Payton Adkins, 6-foot senior rightside hitter Mackenzie Golden,
5-11 sophomore middle blocker Mackenzie Hereford.
Outlook: Mascoutah expects to challenge for the Mississippi Valley Conference title.

School: Payson Seymour
Conference: West Central
Head coach: Teresa Loos-Tedrow         
Last season’s highlights: 41-1 overall; defeated Windsor Stewardson Strasburg 25-12, 27-25 to win Class 1A state championship; won Macomb, (Augusta) Southeastern and Champaign St. Thomas More tournaments.
Top returnees: 6-foot senior outside hitter Riley Epperson, 5-7 senior setter Cassie Eidson, 5-7 senior outside hitter Tori Schieferdecker.
Top newcomers: 5-10 junior rightside hitter Emily Schreacke, 5-6 senior libero Lauren Hinthorne, 5-4 junior libero Livia Perry.
Outlook: Despite the graduation of leading hitters Josie Stanford and Kamryn Flesner, the Lady Indians anticipate another strong season behind three returning starters from last year’s state championship team.  

School: Rantoul Township 
Conference: Illini Prairie
Head coachTraci Riddle 
Last season’s highlights: 5-26 overall, 0-9 in conference, lost to Urbana 25-14, 25-22 in Class 3A regional quarterfinals.
Top returnees: 6-1 junior middle hitter MyeJoi Williams, 5-6 junior libero Lexi Sherrick, 5-6 sophomore setter Bella Shields.
Top newcomers: Sophomore leftside hitter Tanaya Young, senior defensive specialist Jada Mosely, sophomore leftside hitter Madison Palmer.
Coach’s quote: “We are a young team. I see this as a building year for next year. We don’t have a lot of strong hitters, but we will be great defensively… and that will win us some games.”
Did you know? MyeJoi Williams is a three-sport athlete. She placed fourth in shot put at state as a sophomore and is heading to Junior Olympics for the Rantoul Rockets in the shot put at the end of July.

School: Rochester
Conference: Central State Eight
Head coachKallie Sinkus
Last season’s highlights: 24-12 overall, 6-3 in conference, lost to Mt. Zion in Class 3A regional championship, 20-25, 25-22, 25-20. Extended Class 2A champion St. Thomas More to three sets at the Pana tournament before falling 20-25, 25-16, 15-13.
Top returnees: 5-11 junior outside hitter Mary Gegen (198 kills), 5-10 senior middle hitter Kate Petty (207 kills), 5-7 junior libero Sophia Huerta (202 digs, 45 aces), 5-7 senior setter Grace DuRocher (331 assists running a 6-2).
Top newcomers: 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Grace Petty, 5-9 sophomore middle hitter Tatum Outlaw.
Coach’s quote: “We will be more dynamic and have many options offensively.” 
Did you know? Two of Rochester’s top players, Grace and Kate Petty, are sisters.

School: Rosary
Conference: Metro Suburban Blue (1st year)
Head coachBill Allen
Last season’s highlights: 18-19 overall, lost to St. Viator in Class 3A sectional championship, 21-25, 25-12, 25-14.
Top returnees: 5-10 senior outside hitter Annika Pickard (125 kills, 128 digs), 5-6 junior libero Sarah Konovodoff (419 digs), 5-8 junior setter Paige Gardella (406 assists, 129 digs).
Top newcomers: 5-10 senior outside hitter Alyssa Nesterowicz.
Did you know? Paige and Jessica Gardella are twin sisters. 

School: Sandburg   
Conference: Southwest Suburban Blue
Head coach: David Vales         
Last season’s highlights: 29-9 overall, 7-1 in conference, Maine West tournament champions, third place at Plainfield North, third place at Wheaton North, lost 25-21, 25-21 to Marian Catholic in Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees and their statistics: 6-foot senior outside hitter Erica Staunton, 5-10 senior middle hitter Evy Makris (Illinois Wesleyan), 5-3 junior libero Rachel Krasowski.
Outlook for this season: Sandburg graduated five seniors, but had 17 players on its varsity roster for Vales will be filling positions with players with varsity experience. Three-year varsity player Rachel Defries (Truman State University) will set while junior outside hitter Shelby Stefanon will replace her sister, Abbie Stefanon (Bellarmine University). Six-foot seniors Sidney Reeder and Megan Dziadkowiec will step in at middle hitter and rightside hitter, respectively.
Quote: “We didn’t get much ranking love even with key wins over Marian Catholic and Downers Grove North (twice) and solid tournament finishes, but we plan on being better than last year.”
Did you know? Sandburg finished in the top three at three of the four tournaments in which it competed last season. The only tournament at which Sandburg did not finish in the top three was the Asics Challenge hosted by Mother McAuley.

School: Shepard   
Conference: South Suburban Red
Head coach:  Brian Zofkie        
Last season’s highlights: 23-14 overall, 11-2 in conference; finished in the top 17 at Plainfield North, in the top four at Oak Lawn, and in the top eight at both Rich East and Lyons tournaments; lost 25-20, 25-19 to Marian Catholic in Class 4A regional championship.
Top returnees: 5-9 sophomore setter Autumn Molenhouse (690 assists, 39 aces, 227 digs), 5-9 senior outside hitter Meghan Rohe (163 kills, 171 digs), 5-6 sophomore libero Leah Bylut (269 digs, 70 aces), 5-8 senior outside hitter Katie Alex (111 kills, 46 aces).
Top newcomers: 5-9 sophomore rightside hitter Emma Farrell, 5-9 freshman rightside/outside hitter Leah Rizzo.
Coach’s quote: “We lose an all-state caliber player in Sarah Kiwan but bring back six starters from what was a very young team last year. We got a taste of success with some solid conference and tournament wins and gained confidence with a strong showing in regional play, beating Lincoln-Way West and taking Marian Catholic to the wire in a three-set loss. We will still be relatively young, but have great ball control, defense and setting.”

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