Harvest Christian coach Mike Bui schedules for success in the postseason and it paid off with a fourth-place finish in the 2017 Class 2A state tournament.
Illprepvb.com continues its coverage of the 2018 Illinois girls high school season with another set of team previews.
Conference: Mid-Suburban West
Head coach: Michelle Jakubowski
Last season’s highlights: 22-15 overall, 6-4 in conference, third at the Huntley invite, lost 25-14, 33-31 to Hersey in a Class 4A regional final.
Top returnees: 6-2 senior outside hitter Peyton Tilly (185 kills in 2017), 6-0 senior outside hitter Bailey Madrzyk, 5-8 senior setter Tara Kozak, 5-10 senior middle hitter Paige Ramel.
Top newcomers: 5-8 senior libero Mia Ruffolo (457 digs, 37 aces), 6-0 junior middle hitter Noelle Daehler, 5-11 senior outside hitter Ola Magiera.
Coach’s quote: “We’re looking forward to this fall season and building off our third-place conference finish last year. We will have some new faces on the court looking to step into one of the offensive roles. Overall, through our competitive conference and nonconference schedules, we should be prepared to challenge for a conference title and make a long run in the postseason.”
Outlook: Barrington graduated leading hitter Andi Capel, but welcomes back four starters on offense –Tilly, Ramel, Madrzyk and Kozak. Charleston transfer Ruffolo, who averaged better than 14 digs per match last season, should solidify the backrow. Fremd and Schaumburg suffered some graduation losses, but will it be enough for Barrington to claim its first division title since 2013?
Conference: Southern Illinois River-to-River (Ohio)
Head coach: Heather Cox
Last season’s highlights: 23-13 overall, 8-2 in conference (second place), second at the Mascoutah tournament, lost 25-12, 25-16 to SIRR champion Murphysboro in a Class 3A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-4 senior all-conference setter Devin Butler (more than 600 assists in 2017), 5-4 senior outside hitter Josie Drone, 5-6 senior outside hitter Madeline Rider, 5-4 senior libero Mackenzie Marshall (returning after missing her junior season due to a torn ACL).
Top newcomers: 5-9 sophomore middle hitter Autumn Rain Harrawood, 5-7 sophomore middle hitter Carlea Fuerback.
Coach’s quote: “Senior leadership and tough defense will be the determining factor for success this season. We are also looking to our sophomore middles to step up and provide defense at the net.”
Outlook: Harrawood and Fuerback have some pretty big shoes to fill after the graduation of middles Bryleigh Buchanan (John A. Logan Community College) and Matty Hawkins (Trinity International University).
School: Harvest Christian Academy
Conference: Northeastern Athletic
Head coach: Mike Bui
Last season’s highlights: 29-13 overall, 9-1 in conference (shared title with Keith Country Day and Aurora Christian), won seventh consecutive sectional title, finished fourth in the state in Class 2A, losing 25-8, 25-21 to eventual champion St. Thomas More in the semifinals and 20-25, 29-27, 25-22 to Newton in the third-place match.
Top returnees: 5-3 senior setter Kaitlin Murray (798 assists, 188 digs), 5-11 senior opposite hitter Jimena Montero, 5-5 junior libero Zoe Pawelek (223 digs, 91 aces), 5-7 junior middle/outside hitter Madison Pfister (181 kills, 68 blocks).
Top newcomers: 6-0 freshman outside hitter Hayley Martin, 5-8 freshman outside hitter Addie Nava.
Coach’s quote: “We are extremely young in a lot of key positions. I plan on taking the same route as I have done in the past and challenge them every day with playing bigger and stronger teams. We have three months to prepare for the postseason, so I’m excited to see what this team will look like when we start the postseason.”
Outlook: Harvest Christian must replace the graduated Amanda Cassidy, who had nearly 300 kills in 2017, so the development of Martin and Nava will be critical to the Lions’ success in 2018. You can forget the record when the postseason starts. Last year, Harvest Christian played no fewer than a dozen Class 3A-4A teams.
School: Illinois Lutheran
Conference: River Valley
Head coach: Ruth Junker
Last season’s highlights: 13-13-2 overall, 5-7 in conference, took third place at Christian Liberty Academy tournament, lost 25-22, 25-11 to Milford in a Class 1A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-11 junior outside hitter Isabella Biesterfeld, 5-8 junior setter Paige Biesterfeld, 5-8 junior middle hitter Madison Peters.
Top newcomer: 5-10 freshman middle hitter Sophia Biesterfeld.
Coach’s quote: “We are a small team and will be relying on juniors and freshmen this season. We have three strong returners who have been playing varsity since their freshman year but will need to have the incoming freshmen step up in order to match last season’s record.”
Did you know? There are three Biesterfelds on the team. Two, Isabella and Sophia, are sisters, and Paige is their cousin.
School: Maroa-Forsyth High School
Head coach: Mallory White
Last season’s highlights: 34-4 overall, 9-0 in conference (conference champion), won Clinton Classic and Riverton tournaments, lost 23-25, 25-13, 25-22 to Pleasant Plains in a Class 2A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-7 senior libero Annelise Sparks, 5-11 senior middle hitter Reese Bobitt, 5-7 junior outside hitter Jenessa Wenskunas.
School: Nazareth Academy
Conference: East Suburban Catholic Conference
Head coach: Melissa Masterson (Vandrey)
Last season’s highlights: 14-21 overall, 2-6 in conference, second at the Plainfield Central and Glenbrook North tournaments, lost 25-22, 25-12 to Trinity in a Class 3A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 6-2 junior middle blocker and Brigham Young recruit Leilani Dodson, 5-11 junior setter Ella Sandt, 5-10 senior libero/outside hitter Wren Decker, 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Izzy Decker, 5-11 senior outside hitter Mary Kate Kelly.
Top newcomer: Freshman libero Gillian Grimes.
Coach’s comment: “We are going to be significantly stronger than last season. We endured key injuries all last year that allowed a lot of players to earn significant playing time and varsity experience, which will help the void of the seniors who graduated. It has also made our gym extremely competitive. Five players begin their third season on varsity, so with the culture in the gym matched with the leadership qualities of our upperclassmen, Nazareth will be a team that will cause some surprises. We are expecting big things this season.
Outlook: Nazareth hopes to continue its 2017 late-season roll when it finished 10-4 and break into the upper echelon of the East Suburban Catholic Conference, which features Marist, Benet, Joliet Catholic and Marian Catholic.
Did you know? Senior setter Sam Veome works hard and has a tremendous attitude despite dealing with diabetes, and Wren and Izzy Decker are the younger sisters of former Nazareth star Emma Decker, now a setter at Villanova. There has been a Decker on the Nazareth varsity roster for the past 10 seasons.
School: Rockford Guilford
Conference: Northern Illinois Conference (NIC-10)
Head coach: Julian Jacques
Last season’s highlights: 17-7 overall, 12-3 in conference (second place), lost 25-22, 25-20 to Rockton Hononegah in a Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-9 senior opposite hitter Kaitlin Keefe, 5-11 senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Flynn.
Coach’s quote: “We will be young but competitive, and are planning on developing into a strong contender.”
Outlook: Guilford does not waste any time jumping into the NIC-10 chase, opening the season on Thursday, August 23, at conference favorite Belvidere North.
Conference: Northern Illinois Big 12
Head coach: Jennifer Charles
Last season’s highlights: 15-21 overall, 2-8 in conference, lost 25-12, 25-18 to St. Viator in a Class 3A regional final.
Top returnees: 5-10 junior outside hitter/middle blocker Kylie Feuerbach, 5-3 senior libero Amanda Swedberg, 5-10 senior outside hitter Faith Reynolds, 6-0 junior middle blocker Hunter Morgan.
Top newcomers: 5-6 sophomore setter Mallory Larson, 5-8 sophomore middle blocker Isabelle Jackson, 5-8 junior outside/rightside hitter Trinity Nordbrock.
Coach’s comment: “We have an extremely positive outlook for this season.”
Outlook: Sycamore must contend with Katie Jablonski-led Kaneland, DeKalb and Yorkville in the Northern Illinois Big 12.
Did you know? Kylie Feuerbach is verbally committed to play basketball at Iowa State.
School: T.F. South
Conference: South Suburban
Head coach: Kim Sands
Last season’s highlights: 17-10 overall, 9-4 in conference, lost to 25-20, 25-12 to Lincoln-Way East in a Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-10 rightside hitter Elizbeth Chukwulebe (163 assists, 109 kills), 5-7 outside hitter Elena Hawkins (102 kills, 54 aces), 5-6 outside hitter Erin Titus (77 kills).
Top newcomers: 5-8 juniorPJ Muth, 5-10 sophomore Camryn Berry, 5-10 junior Kayla Whitfield.
Coach’s comment: “This year is very promising. We have a versatile team that will allow us to be very competitive. Even though we will be young, I think we should be more competitive and successful than the past few years.”