How many top seeds will survive sectional play?

No. 1 seed: Glenbard West (31-3)
Favorite: Glenbard West (31-3)
Darkhorse: Wheaton North (23-12)
Led by 6-2 junior Ryan Swartz, 6-3 sophomore Ben Harrington and 6-6 Stone Metz, Glenbard West has rebounded from each of its three losses to go on a lengthy win streak. How long will its recent win streak last? Nick Martinski and Lake Park (28-5) are capable of ending the Hilltoppers’ season short of a fourth straight state championship, but the Lancers are vulnerable as evidenced by their recent loss to Neuqua Valley. Addison Trail (25-10) looked solid while winning the Willowbrook tournament, 6-6 setter Jacob Grygo is a player of the year candidate and the Blazers are finally healthy for the first time since the first week of April. St. Charles North (24-10) boasts Pepperdine recruit Tommy Koppang, but will need contributions from more than the 6-8 outside hitter to derail Glenbard West in the semifinals should it get past a tall, talented but inconsistent Wheaton North team.

Grant sectional
No. 1 seed: Libertyville (30-5)
Favorite: Barrington (29-5)
Darkhorse: Lake Forest (24-7).
Libertyville earned the top seed on the strength of its 25-23, 25-23 victory over the Broncos in Libertyville on April 6. Barrington led in both sets before fading late. The Broncos had no such issues a few weeks later when they swept Libertyville 25-19, 25-22 to win the Northside Classic despite missing starting outside hitters 6-3 sophomore Ben Ridgway and 6-4 junior Gabe Hartke. The Broncos have won 19 of their last 20 matches, losing only to Loyola in the quarterfinals of the Downers South invite. That loss was greeted by “an appropriate level of disappointment,” said Barrington coach Rob Ridenour. There’s no secret what has made the Broncos successful. Six-foot-6 senior Michael O’Toole has been a player possessed since Downers South. He had 15 kills in the win over Libertyville and 15 in the win over Glenbard West in the Northside Classic semifinals. Libertyville counters with 6-3 Ohio State-recruit Jack Stevens, who coach Jennifer Smith calls “the best player in the state,” and 6-4 Brendan Cook.

Illinois Math & Science Academy sectional
No. 1 seed: Neuqua Valley (27-7)
Favorite: Naperville Central (22-12)
Darkhorse: Metea Valley (22-12)
Who can forget the last time IMSA hosted a sectional when the Naperville North student body mercilessly taunted Wheaton Warrenville South star Michal Stefanski, an exchange student from Poland. No. 5 seed Naperville North (29-12) upset heavily-favored WW South (36-3), a team that it had lost to twice previously, 25-21, 22-25, 25-23, and went on to finish second in the state. The Tigers returned to the winner’s circle the following year behind senior Thomas Jaeschke, earning their seventh state title. However, title No. 8 continues to elude WW South. Neither Naperville North nor WW South figure to be a factor this time around, although the uncertainty swirling around No. 1 seed Neuqua Valley (27-7) and stars Jeremy Grove – who is recovering from a high ankle sprain but played last week – and Kevin Kauling (will he or won’t he?), can make things interesting. Waiting in the wings are No. 4 Naperville Central (22-12), which has a couple of shake-your-head losses on its resume, 6-8 middle hitter Owen Wahlgren and Richards’ invite champion No. 2 Downers Grove North (22-12), and No. 3 Benet (24-10). Metea Valley, with a recent win over Neuqua Valley under its belt, is a sleeper.     

Minooka sectional
No. 1 seed: Plainfield East (27-2)
Favorite: Plainfield East (27-2)
Darkhorse: Lincoln-Way West (26-8)
Plainfield East and Trey Cowan seem like an unbeatable combination heading into this sectional, particularly after their impressive showing at the Smack Attack hosted by Brother Rice. But Oswego East (22-9) has been a problem for Plainfield East and the two teams could meet in a sectional semifinal. Small but talented Lincoln-Way West, which recently took Lincoln-Way East to three sets, cannot be overlooked. In the southern bracket, O’Fallon will have to get past Belleville West or Edwardsville to earn a date opposite the survivor of the north bracket.

Brother Rice sectional
No. 1 seed: Lincoln-Way East (32-3)­­­­
Favorite: Marist (31-4)
Darkhorse: Brother Rice (27-8)
Is anybody in the state playing better right now than Marist? Marty Jepsen & Co. are trying to make coach Jordan Vidovic a two-time state volleyball champion during the same school year after Vidovic led the Marist girls to a state title in the fall. Lincoln-Way East was ready to play the part of a wire-to-wire act after beating Glenbard West earlier this season, but the Griffins look vulnerable after dropping a three-setter to Brother Rice two weeks ago. Perhaps the most intriguing story line out of this sectional – other than the potential sectional final showdown between preseason No. 1 Lincoln-Way East and current No. 1 Marist – is the possible Lockport-Sandburg regional final. Lockport (24-11) has never won a regional and Sandburg (19-15) has failed to win a regional only once in the last 14 years (losing to Lincoln-Way Central 25-17, 19-25, 25-23 in 2014).

St. Patrick sectional
No. 1 seed: Oak Park-River Forest (24-7)
Favorite: Oak Park-River Forest (24-7)
Darkhorse: St. Patrick (25-6)
There is nothing here to prevent an Oak Park-River Forest vs. St. Patrick matchup in the sectional championship game. The third seed is Lane Tech (19-9) and checking in at No. 4 is Payton (18-17), which counts Von Steuben and Eisenhower among the teams to which it has lost.

Mt. Carmel sectional
No. 1 seed: St. Ignatius (23-7)
Favorite: St. Ignatius (23-7)
Darkhorse: St. Rita (17-18)
Is anyone more heavilty favored to win a sectional than St. Ignatius? The Mt. Carmel field features the Wolfpack, Catholic League rival St. Rita (17-18) and two dozen members of the Chicago Public League. (Chicago) Hancock (20-8) is the third seed, and (Chicago) Jones (15-6-2), better known for fielding some respectable girls’ volleyball teams, in seeded fourth. The Wolfpack features a pair of twin towers in 6-6 Harrison Detroy and 6-6 Jack Fyda, 5-10 junior setter John Ross and 6-foot sophomore libero Michael Eastman. St. Ignatius went 22-9 in 2017 and reached the sectional semifinals before losing to top-seeded Hinsdale Central 25-17, 25-13. A change of venue should do wonders for the school on Roosevelt Road.

Glenbrook South sectional
No. 1 seed: New Trier (29-6)
Favorite: New Trier (29-6)
Darkhorse: Deerfield (29-5)
New Trier, led by middle hitters Joe D’Attomo and James Snyder, has the talent and size to survive this field. But should the Trevians falter, there are a number of capable teams that could take advantage. Among the contenders are Jake Shapiro-led Deerfield (29-5) and the always capable and well-coached Glenbrook North (21-9). Hersey (28-6) is coming off a 25-15, 25-17 loss to Barrington in the Mid-Suburban League title game, but has a pair of solid performers in 6-6 Jake Mailloux and setter Jakub Migus. Loyola (23-12) and Palatine (27-8) cannot be overlooked, either. Palatine’s three-sport star Johnny O’Shea is one of the most underrated players in the state. Young Loyola has had its ups and downs but features three Division I-caliber players.

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