St. Viator moves up to Class 4A after finishing fourth in 3A last fall.
Conference: Little Okaw Valley
Head coach: Jill Hohlbauch
Last season’s highlights: 6-20 overall, 2-6 in conference, lost 25-19, 25-10 to Bement in a Class 1A regional quarterfinal.
Top returnees: 6-0 senior middle hitter Olivia Key, 5-5 senior setter Gabby Becerra, 6-o sophomore middle hitter Hallee Gauna.
Coach’s quote: “With more experience under our belt this year, we are hoping to improve on our overall record from last year.”
Did you know? Fifteen of the 19 Little Okaw Valley Conference schools have announced they are withdrawing from the league following the 2018-19 season.
Conference: East Suburban Catholic Conference
Head coach: David Pazely
Last season’s highlights: 19-17 overall, 0-7 in conference, won Lake Forest tournament where it handed Lakes its first loss of season, lost 26-24, 25-18 to Grayslake Central in a Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-3 senior defensive specialist Jolina Moisio (211 digs, 18 aces), 5-10 junior middle blocker Mya Mainzer (69 kills, 42 blocks), 5-8 junior outside hitter Eileen Tarcha (93 kills, 42 aces, 254 digs).
Top newcomers: 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Annie Bart, 5-4 freshman libero Milana Moisio.
Coach’s quote: “We are going to be a young team again this year. Our defense in the back row is going to be strong. They are fast, scrappy and know how to control the ball. Up front, we have two middles who are athletic and solid both offensively and defensively. We are aiming to finish the season with a better record and a regional championship.”
Outlook: The East Suburban Catholic Conference is loaded with Benet, Joliet Catholic, Marian Catholic, Marian Central, Marist, St. Viator, Nazareth and Carmel. All have made deep playoff runs at one time or another. Joliet Catholic won state titles in 2008 and 2009, Benet won state titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014, and Marist won the 4A title last fall. The ESCC is a tough conference, particularly for a young team. But the conference competition should make Carmel a tough draw outside the league.
Did you know? Carmel senior setter Patti Needham and senior defensive specialist Casey Needham are two of a set of triplets. Their sister, Kate, is pursuing interests outside volleyball. Carmel also boasts another pair of sisters this fall – senior defensive specialist Jolina (“Jo”) and freshman libero Milana (“Mo”) Moisio. “I’m looking forward to the “Mo-Jo” in our back row,” Pazely said.
Conference: Southwestern Conference
Head coach: Abby Hanger
Last season’s highlights: 15-21 overall, 3-4 in conference, lost 25-12, 25-10 to O’Fallon in a Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: 5-8 junior outside hitter Hannah Scrum, 5-10 junior middle blocker Darci Metzger.
Outlook: Collinsville returns nine players from last year’s team and looks to contend with Edwardsville and O’Fallon in the conference.
Did you know? First-year Collinsville coach Abby Hanger is a former standout player at Belleville West and McKendree University, and is also the director of the High Performance Volleyball program in Illinois. Her younger sister, Kaylee, was a standout at Belleville West for the past three years. A 2010 graduate of West where she was an all-Southwestern Conference player and an assistant coach, Hanger succeeds Tracy Plagemann, who resigned after last season.
School: Iroquois West
Conference: Sangamon Valley
Head coach: Dakota Bohlmann
Last season’s highlights: 1-26 overall, 0-7 in conference, lost 25-15, 25-10 to Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley in a Class 2A regional quarterfinal.
Top returnees: Sophomore middle hitter Shelby Johnson, senior outside hitter Maddy Trammel, senior setter Jenny Medina.
Coach’s quote: “Our goal is to work more as a team, make progress each game and get more wins.”
School: Maine West
Conference: Central Suburban North
Head coach: Mike Cott
Last season’s highlights: 23-14 overall, 8-2 in conference (conference co-champions), lost 25-19, 25-20 to Niles West in a Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: All-conference senior setter Ally Block, all-conference senior outside hitter Reilly Olson, senior libero Kaylin Johnson.
Coach’s quote: “We look to remain competitive and challenge for the top spot in conference.”
Conference: Metro Suburban
Head coach: Aubrey Dondlinger
Last season’s highlights: 19-16 overall, 8-4 in conference, defeated conference opponents Aurora Central Catholic, IC Catholic Prep and Illiana Christian, lost 14-25, 25-19, 25-12 to DeLaSalle in a Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top returnees: Senior setter Leah Rettke (465 assists, 33 aces, 72 kills), senior middle hitter Kaiann Nash (72 kills, 17 blocks), senior outside hitter Joy Greco (90 kills, 40 digs), junior middle/rightside hitter Julia Brom (41 kills, 18 blocks), senior defensive specialist/libero Audrey Santora (100 digs, 40 aces).
Coach’s quote: “We have a few key players who have the potential to lead us to be the top of our conference this year as well as give us a shot at a sectional championship. Being a new coach, the girls have to buy into the competitive edge and technique/skill training I am bringing into the program. Having five returning starters gives us a huge advantage going into the season.”
Outlook: IC Catholic Prep, Wheaton Academy and Aurora Central Catholic always field strong teams, but Riverside-Brookfield’s experience should help the Bulldogs challenge for conference supremacy and a higher seed in the state tournament.
School: St. Viator
Conference: East Suburban Catholic Conference
Head coach: Charlie Curtin
Last season’s highlights: 29-13 overall, 2-5 in conference, won the West Chicago and St. Viator invites, won regional, sectional and super-sectional titles, lost to Resurrection 30-32, 25-23, 25-18 in a Class 3A state semifinal, lost 25-21, 19-25, 25-19 to Normal U-High in the Class 3A third-place match.
Top returnees: 5-10 senior rightside hitter Kate Nottoli (29 aces, 212 kills, 58 blocks, 88 digs), 5-10 senior libero Carrie Leazer (60 aces, 639 digs), 5-11 junior outside hitter Vickie Gorny, 5-7 senior defensive specialist Taylor Pfaller (36 aces, 98 digs).
Top newcomers: 5-7 junior setter Erin Aldana, 5-10 freshman middle blocker Lauren Allaire, 6-0 sophomore middle blocker Ella Kull.
Coach’s quote: “We will compete with the teams in our area and look to improve on our conference record from last year. We have natural born leaders in Carrie Leazer and Kate Nottoli. They will excel at their positions and keep the team going in the right direction. After graduating 11 seniors, we will look to get our new varsity players up to speed and competing at a high level very quickly. Our strength will be our first contact of the ball.”
Outlook: St. Viator’s graduation casualties included outside hitter Catherine Hickey (more than 550 kills in 2017) and Michaela Mueller (1,000-plus assists). The Lions also get bumped up to Class 4A this season.
Head coach: Tim Mills
Last season’s highlights: 24-11 overall, lost 26-24, 25-16 to Pana in a Class 2A regional championship.
Top returnees: 5-8 senior setter and fourth-year varsity starter Savannah Grimes, (school’s all-time leader in assists), 6-0 senior setter and two-year starter Kate Volk, 6-2 senior middle hitter and three-year starter Julia Frye, 5-6 senior libero and three-year starter Katelyn Jansen, 5-11 junior outside hitter and three-year starter Erica Michels, 6-0 sophomore outside hitter and second-year starter Carly Michels.
Top newcomer: 6-2 senior middle hitter Emma Deters.
Outlook: Teutopolis graduated only one starter (Macy Michels, a freshman at the University of Vincennes on a volleyball scholarship), and returns a wealth of experience, so expectations are high at the perennial basketball powerhouse. But a schedule that includes Newton, Windsor-Stewardson-Strasburg, Champaign Centennial, Normal U-High, Altamont, Columbia and Freeburg will be challenging.
Coach’s quote: “We high hopes for the season. This group has won more games than any previous varsity team.”
Did you know? 2017 marked the first 20-win season in school history. The school, which is beginning its ninth season since volleyball was reinstated, has never won a volleyball championship of any kind.