(Pre-season ranking in parenthesis)
1. Sports Performance 18 Elite (1)
SPVB 18 Elite overcame the absence of 6-foot-2 Northwestern recruit Hanna Lesniak (injury) and second setter Alli Van Eekeren (who set a perfect weekend for SPVB 18 Kahl in the absence of its setter) to go 4-0 on the first weekend of the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division. Six-foot-4 outside hitter Taylor Landfair, one of the top sophomores in the country who broke onto the 18s roster following her freshman year, led the way as SPVB 18 Elite dropped just one set all weekend. A showdown with Michio Chicago 18 National looms when the Power League resumes January 27-28.
2. Michio Chicago 18 National (3)
Michio Chicago 18 National greeted first-year coach Bryn Kehoe rather rudely when it dropped its first set of the season 26-24 to Wisconsin Premier 18 Teal during the first weekend of the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division. Otherwise, the south siders were perfect, yielding more than 15 points in a set only twice the rest of the way. Michio Chicago 18 National will compete in the 2018 Winter Volleyball Championships this weekend at McCormick Place before returning to Power League January 27 with Gold Pool B matches against SPVB 18 Kahl, 1st Alliance 18 Silver and SPVB 18 Elite.
3. Uno Girls 18 Elite (4)
Illprepvb.com Player of the Year Alli Papesh watched her former teammates devour four foes last weekend at the Great Lakes Power League in the 18 Super Open division. Uno won all four matches in straight sets, although Wildcat Jrs. 18 Black fought to within 26-24 in the third set of the fourth and final match of the weekend. Marian Catholic’s 5-10 junior outside hitter Lauren Hatch proved to be solid fill-in for Papesh with her athleticism and powerful swing. Uno Girls 18 Elite will compete in the 2018 Winter Volleyball Championships this weekend at McCormick Place before headlining Gold Pool A when Power League play resumes January 27.
4. IL STLHP (Illinois St. Louis High Performance) 18 Elite (5)
The Greater St. Louis Area Volleyball Club’s top Illinois team went 5-1 on the opening weekend of the Gateway League in St. Louis, dropping its third match of the day Saturday to H2 STL 18 Under Armour 10-25, 25-23, 15-10 at Eureka (Mo.) High School. Six-foot setter Louis Comerford, who guided Belleville Althoff to the Illinois Class 3A state title, 5-11 outside hitter Rachel Pranger of Edwardsville, 5-9 outside hitter Kaylee Hanger from Belleville West and 5-9 outside hitter Elise Smith of O’Fallon won’t have to wait long to get even. They will meet H2 STL 18 Under Armour again when the league resumes January 20.
5. Sky High Adidas 18 Black (NR)
Middle hitters Genesis Sheridan from Prairie Ridge and Kleja Cerniauskate of Crystal Lake South stole the show for Sky High Adidas 18 Black in the 18 Super Open division of the Great Lakes Power League last weekend. But the Sky High group has plenty of talent on the outside, too, with Benet’s 6-2 Lilly Johnson, Geneva’s Molly Lambillotte and Crystal Lake Central sisters Emily and Megan Kelly. By going 4-0 last weekend, however, the Sky High girls punched their ticket into a brutal Gold Pool A opener against Uno Girls 18 Elite when the Great Lakes Power League’s 18 Super Open division resumes at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, January 27.
Dropped out: Illini Elite 18 Cardinal (2).
Other teams to watch: ESVBC (Eastside) Ninjas 18U, 1st Alliance 18 Silver, Sports Performance 18 Kahl, Michio Chicago 18 Premier, Rolling Thunder 18 Blue, Adversity G18 Purple.
1. Michio Chicago 17 National (2)
Shorthanded Michio Chicago 17 national weathered tests from Krush VBC 18 National, Epic United 18 Elite ROX and Fusion 18 Red to go 4-0 during the first weekend of the 18 Super Open division of the Great Lakes Power League. Perhaps the most impressive performance by the young south siders was their 31-29, 23-25, 18-25, 25-20, 15-6 victory over a very solid Fusion 18 Red team. But things won’t get easier for Michio 17 National. They will face Sky High Adidas 18 Black and Uno Girls 18 Elite when Power League play resumes at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, January 27.
2. Club Fusion 17 Red (NR)
St. Charles North’s setter/outside hitter Katie Lanz and outside hitter Gigi Crescenzo, veterans of the North Stars run to the Class 4A semifinals, form the heart of Fusion’s 17 Red team, which went 3-1 on the first weekend of 18 Super Open division play at the Great Lakes Power League. The top Fusion 17s team’ only loss was to SPVB 18 Kahl, the host club’s No. 2 18s team, in four sets – 25-19, 20-25, 25-15, 25-20. Fusion Red also boasts Josilyn Borum, a 6-foot junior setter/outside hitter who had 268 kills and 329 assists for her Sterling High School team during the fall campaign, and Katie Jablonski, a powerful outside hitter from Kaneland.
3. 1st Alliance 17 Silver (1)
An ankle injury to 6-3 setter/outside hitter Mary Kate Lopez marred what was otherwise a pretty strong weekend for the youngsters from Western Springs. 1st Alliance 16 Silver beat Wildcat Jrs. 17 Black and SPVB 18 Red, lost to the top 18s team from Far Out (Grand Rapids, Mich.) and went five sets with SPVB 18 Kahl – the host club’s second 18 team — before falling 26-28, 25-12, 26-24, 19-25, 15-7. The 2-2 weekend sent 1st Alliance into the Bronze Pool against Epic United 18 Elite ROX at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, January 27. Also looming is Ultimate’s No. 1 18s team.
4. Illini Elite 17 Cardinal (NR)
Rylee Hinton, a 6-2 middle blocker from Champaign Central who is committed to Illinois, Hailey Flowers, a 6-foot junior middle hitter from Class 2A powerhouse Eureka who led the Hornets to a 30-8 record this fall, Anna Hayes, a 6-foot junior outside hitter from 32-7 sectional qualifier Hartsburg-Emden and a Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit, Bloomington’s Avery Carr, Bloomington Central Catholic’s Morgan Koch and Normal Community West’s Dara Kane form the nucleus of Illini Elite 17 Cardinal, which went 2-2 last weekend at the Great Lakes Power League in the 18 Super Open division including a five-set loss to Far Out 18 Black.
5. 1st Alliance 17 Black (4)
1st Alliance 17 Black went 5-1 at last weekend’s Great Lake Power League, beating four lower level 18s team and losing to SWVBC G18 out of Milwaukee 21-25, 25-22, 15-12. Outside hitters Margaret Mahlke (Downers Grove North), Nikki Marsh (Stagg) and Heidi Westra (Timothy Christian), rightsides 5-10 Samantha Ward (St. Francis) and 6-foot Allison Hamaker (Glenbard East), setter Devyn Petrowski (Mother McAuley), middle blockers 6-1 Mattie McCabe (Marist) and 5-11 Nailah Landon (IC Catholic Prep), libero Kailey Labuda (Providence) and defensive specialist Alexandra Traciak (Hammond Bishop Noll) form Sue Keck’s crew.
Dropped out: Sky High Adidas 17 Black (3).
Other teams to watch: IL STLHP 17 Elite, Illini Elite 17 Black, Uno Girls 17 Elite, Rolling Thunder 17 Blue, Northside Out Chicago 17U, Big Dog 17 Black.
1. Sports Performance 16 Elite (has not played)
SPVB 16 Elite outside hitter Cate Long (Aurora Christian) was called up to the big club to fill in for the injured Hanna Lesniak (Lincoln-Way East, Northwestern) last weekend. “I was nervous, but excited to play with them,” she said. “More excited than nervous. It can be intimidating. I’m not used to that level of play, but it was fun.” Long will be back with SPVB 16 Elite when it takes on VC United 151 Elite in both teams’ Great Lakes 16s Power League opener at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 20.
2. Michio Chicago 16 National (has not played)
With seven players back from the Michio 15 National team that placed 11th at the AAU Junior National Championships last year in the Open division, Michio Chicago 16 National should be more than ready to make some noise in the Great Lakes 16s Power League beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 20 against south suburban rival Uno Girls 15 Elite. Top returnees for Michio Chicago are Marist’s Clemson recruit setter/outside hitter Camryn Hannah and Lemont setter Amy Schwem.
3. 1st Alliance 16 Silver (3)
1st Alliance 16 Silver bounced back from a straight-set loss to SPVB 18 Kahl and a tough 19-25, 20-25, 25-16, 25-23, 15-10 loss to Fusion 17 Red to go 2-2 on the opening weekend of the Great Lakes Power League in the 18 Super Open division. 1st Alliance 16 Silver will head to the Copper Pool against Cyclones 18 Black Adidas at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday, January 27, when Power League play resumes.
4. Sky High Adidas 16 Black (new)
Start with setter Taylor Jakubowski from Huntley and throw in young outside hitter Trinity Sheridan of Prairie Ridge and you have one of the surprise teams of the Great Lakes Power League 18 Super Open division. Sky High Adidas 16 Black went 2-2 last weekend, beating VC United 181 Elite and Ignite 17 Elite while losing to 1st Alliance 18 Silver in a marathon 17-25, 25-23, 19-25, 25-22, 17-15 match and to in-house rival Sky high Adidas 18 Black 30-28 in the third. Look for Sky High Adidas 16 Black to continue to pressure foes in the Bronze Pool.
5. Uno Girls 16 Elite (new)
Setter Zoey Seput, who helped lead Minooka to the Class 4A state championship match this fall, anchors Uno’s top 16s team. She is joined by the likes of LaSalle Peru’s 5-9 sophomore outside Anna Quesse, Newark’s 6-foot middle blocker Mattie Chapman, 5-9 rightside Claire Dow of Joliet Catholic and 5-10 middle Ashley Shawmeker from Joliet West. Uno Girls 16 Elite, which has yet to take the court, opens Great Lakes 16 Power League play against Motion Volleyball 16 Blue at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 20.
Other teams to watch: Illini Elite 16 Cardinal, Fusion 16 Red, Ultimate G16 Gold, New WAVE 16 Tsunami, Rolling Thunder 16 Blue.
1. Sports Performance 15 Elite (has not played)
Marist coach Jordan Vidovic is very high on 5-10 outside hitter Jillian Elsouso. She is joined by the nucleus of a 14s team that won the AAU Girls’ Junior National Volleyball Championship. Back from that team are 6-1 setter Zayna Meyer (Wheaton Warrenville South), 6-foot outside hitter Brooklyn Borum (Sterling), 5-11 middle hitter Dominique Browder (Plainfield East), 6-foot middle hitter Ariel Amaya (Plainfield North) and 5-5 libero Alexis Rodriguez (Sterling). SPVB 15 Elite opens Great Lakes 16s Power League play against WVA 15 Black at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 20.
2. Lions 15-1 (has not played)
Madison Malone, who led Newark to the Class 1A semifinals in 2017, and Benet’s 5-10 outside hitter Kyla Kenney and 6-1 setter Rachel Muisenga, who played outside for the Redwings this fall, form the nucleus of another strong team out of Lions Juniors Volleyball Club. York middle blockers Gigi and Stella Barr both push 6-foot-1, giving Lions extraordinary size. Lions 15-1 opens its season this weekend at the Winter Classic in Milwaukee.
3. Illini Elite 15 Cardinal (new)
Grace Beekman, a 5-10 setter from perennial Class 1A power Hartsburg-Emden, sets hitters from throughout the Bloomington/Normal/Champaign area including Normal U-High’s 5-11 setter/rightside hitter Kendall Burk, Bloomington Central Catholic’s Abby Cox, Champaign Central’s Katy Shockey and Normal U-High’s Maycie Welborn. Illini Elite 15 Cardinal headlines Pool E at the Great Lakes 16s Power League beginning Saturday, January 20.
Other teams to watch: Fusion 15 Red, Uno Girls 15 Elite.
In the spotlight:
If most of the names sound familiar to those who follow IHSA girls volleyball, it’s because eight of the nine players on Big Dog VBC 17 Black hail from Durand, which defeated Newark to finish third in the Class 1A state tournament this fall. Big Dog VBC 17 Black finished 5-0 at last weekend’s Great Lakes Windy City Power League, winning all five matches in straight sets. Big Dog VBC Club is a new club led by former Lanark Eastland coach Kristy Pierce, who led Eastland to state titles in 2008, 2009 and 2015. Pierce has 35 years of experience at both the club and high school level. Team members from Durand are 5-8 sophomore outside hitter Ali Asche, 5-2 junior libero Jaci Damon, 5-8 junior outside hitter McKenzie Damon, 5-6 sophomore rightside Abby Erickson, 5-4 junior setter Marissa Kelsey, 5-7 junior outside hitter Kattie Nevdal, 6-foot sophomore middle blocker Hannah Proctor and 5-4 sophomore defensive specialist Emily Steder. The lone member of Big Dog VBC 17 Black not from Durand is Orangeville’s 5-7 junior outside hitter Hannah Hazzard. For more information about the club, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (815) 631-1532.