Illprepvb.com continues its coverage of the 2019 Illinois girls high school season with another set of team previews.
School: Aurora Christian
Conference: Metro Suburban
Head coach: Taylor Knauf (first year)
Last season’s highlights: 24-9 overall, 7-0 in conference, lost to Newark, 25-16, 25-14, in a Class 1A sectional championship.
Top returnees: 6-0 senior middle hitter Claire Sweeney, 5-5 sophomore libero Zoey Schuberth, 5-6 junior outside hitter Amanda Pretet, 5-11 junior middle hitter Lily Karl.
Top newcomers: 5-5 freshman setter/defensive specialist Nina Schuberth, 5-9 junior rightside hitter Lauren Nyong, freshman outside hitter Loryn Ellis.
Coach’s quote: “We are a young but dynamic team, and will compete well in the conference. We have some strong returning players along with a couple incoming freshmen who are expected to contribute.”
Outlook: Aurora Christian graduated five seniors off the team that lost to the eventual state champion Newark in the sectional final, including Grand Valley State recruit Kaitlyn Beebe and outside hitter Justine Czerwinski. Aurora Christian also moves up to Class 2A this season, but the Eagles should be able to hold their own in the Metro Suburban.
Head coach: Diana Lopez (first year)
Last season’s highlights: 0-13 overall, 0-8 in conference,lost to (Varna) Midland, 25-7, 25-13, in a Class 1A regional quarterfinal.
Top returnees: 5-8 senior middle blocker Elladee Escobar, 5-6 sophomore middle blocker Jasmin Rosales, 5-7 sophomore opposite side hitter Azucena Villagomez.
Top newcomers: 5-7 senior setter Summer Hayes, 5-5 freshman outside hitter Berenice Aguilera.
Coach’s quote: “Our goals are to improve and play real volleyball.”
Outlook: It has been a tough stretch for tiny DePue (enrollment: 120), which has not won a match since 2015 and is 0-for-the-state-tournament since 2001 when it defeated Princeton, 15-13, 16-14, in a Class A regional quarterfinal. Lopez, a graduate of DePue and a former setter at the school, hopes to turn around the culture at her alma mater.
Conference: South Central
Head coach: Celia Jubelt
Last season’s highlights: 0-28 overall, 0-9 in conference, lost to Piasa Southwestern, 27-25, 25-19, in a Class 2A regional quarterfinal.
Top returnees: 5-9 senior middle hitter MacKenzy Mix, 5-4 senior outside hitter Emily Schmidt, 5-11 junior setter Sydney Bires.
Top newcomers: senior libero Lucy Gucciardo, senior rightside hitter Deyon Wolber.
Coach’s quote: “The team’s attitude is amazing this year and we have a lot of enthusiasm. We are looking forward to this season.”
Did you know? Gillespie, the smallest school in the conference, is looking for its first winning season since 2012 and its first regional championship since upsetting No. 1-seeded Staunton, 25-20, 22-25, 25-19, in a 2014 regional final.
School: Glenbard East
Conference: Upstate 8
Head coach: Marci Maier
Last season’s highlights: 30-8 overall, 9-0 in conference (conference champions), defeated Wheaton Warrenville South, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22, in regional championship, lost to Downers Grove North, 25-16, 25-21, in a Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-8 junior outside hitter Cassie Schweikle (42 kills, 8 aces, 17 blocks, 25 digs), 5-6 junior setter Becca Honig (104 assists, 20 aces, 134 digs), 5-4 senior defensive specialist Libby Hurlburt (161 digs, 15 aces), 5-3 senior defensive specialist Gabbie Spontak (229 digs, 22 aces), 5-9 junior middle hitter Emily Ryan (20 blocks, 10 kills).
Top newcomers: 5-7 junior outside hitter Kendall Crackel, 5-8 junior opposite side hitter Lauren Huber, 6-0 senior middle hitter Andrea Jovanovic, 5-7 freshman outside hitter Madison Manning, 5-7 junior outside hitter Julia Slusher.
Coach’s quote: “We graduated quite a few from last year’s team. However, we have a core group back from last year. We have a large team of 16 with eight returners and eight players new to varsity. We should be defensively strong with three returning defensive players. The goal will to be balanced offensively and defensively as soon as possible. We have strong leadership and have a great group of girls.”
Outlook: The trio of Ball State recruit Allison Hamaker (350-plus kills), Emily Sarles (600 assists) and Sarah Elliott (330-plus kills) led Glenbard East to one of its most successful seasons ever. They have graduated, however, and the Rams will have to rely heavily on their defense until some new offensive threats emerge.
School: Indian Creek
Conference: Little Ten
Head coach: Stephanie Crutcher
Last season’s highlights: 19-15-2 overall, 6-2 in conference, lost to Beecher, 25-20, 25-23, in a Class 2A regional championship.
Top returnees: 5-10 junior outside hitter Trysta Foster, 5-6 senior libero Maya Petragallo, 5-8 senior setter Jodie Penman, 5-11 senior middle hitter Evelyn Witte.
Top newcomers: 5-11 junior middle hitter Emily Astling, 5-8 junior outside hitter Ava Splear, 5-7 senior middle hitter Abbie Pigott.
Coach’s quote: “There are 20 girls out for varsity, so every athlete is competing for playing time. We are hoping to continue our success last year at the Class 2A level. However, we are young and inexperienced at the varsity level. We are still working on communicating and learning the system together.”
Outlook: Foster is an outstanding libero for her Club Fusion volleyball team, but is also a dynamic outside hitter and should lead the Timberwolves to another successful season in the conference and in nonconference play as they drop into Class 1A. However, a potentially season-ending injury to Witte could cast a pall on Indian Creek’s post-season aspirations.