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Girls volleyball season preview notebook

08/20/2014, 10:15am CDT
By Jon Kerr | For Sun-Times Media | @prepspioneer

Pioneer Press breaks down the area's girls volleyball team as the 2014 season approaches.


Plenty has changed since the Libertyville girls volleyball team (pictured) earned a state tournament berth in 2012, but seniors Alex Basler and Cassie Ostmeyer return this year. | File

CARMEL

This might be the most talented Carmel girls volleyball team since the 2011 sectional championship season. The Corsairs have just three seniors but return six starters in 2014.

“We have a lot of great pieces to form a solid, complete team,” coach Dave Pazely said.

Senior outside hitter Grace Schofield is one of the team’s three captains and most versatile offensive weapon in Carmel’s 6-2 system. Schofield will likely be on the floor for all six rotations. Senior libero Sierra Kepski will anchor the defense and senior Morgan Meade, a middle a season ago, will set and hit from the right side this season.

Carmel won its summer league over state tournament participant Crystal Lake South.

“These girls have the chance to make Carmel history by winning the supersectional and taking a trip downstate,” Pazely said. “The potential is there.”

MUNDELEIN

The Mustangs should be a potent offensive team in 2014 as they return two experienced outside hitters.

Senior Jasmeen Johnson is a captain and is expected to lead the attack.
“[Johnson] leads by example, works hard. She attended our summer and varsity camp,” coach George Dressen said.

Senior McKenzie Kehr is the other returning outside hitter who saw significant action in 2013. Senior libero Cindy Kokoszka should provide leadership on defense.

LAKE ZURICH

As long as Matt Aiello is coach, Lake Zurich has a chance to field a competitive team.

With almost all of the Bears’ top rotation graduated, repeating as NSC Lake and sectional champs will be challenging. Lake Zurich’s offensive attack will be led by senior hitter MicKenzie Andrews. Sophomores Lexi Gora (hitter) and Hannah Sweetwood (setter) also return.

Don’t be surprised if the Bears start the season slow but find their form by October.

LIBERTYVILLE

Two seasons removed from a state tournament berth, the Wildcats’ roster is almost completely turned over in 2014.

Senior hitter Alex Basler, a contributor in 2012, returns for her third varsity season. Sophomore libero Morgan O’Brien gives the Wildcats defensive experience while senior Cassie Ostmeyer is back at setter.

BUFFALO GROVE

The Bison ended 2013 as they did in 2012: with a regional victory followed by a loss to Hersey.

One reason to believe Buffalo Grove can break through and win a regional title this fall is the return of setter Marie Georgoulis.

VERNON HILLS

Ray Rugebregt begins his first season as Vernon Hills coach, taking over from Abbie Gutzmer. He will lean heavily on senior hitter Kasey Firnbach.

“She has been working hard all summer, attending open gyms and volleyball camp,” Rugebregt said.

Other players expected to be in the rotational mix for the Cougars are senior setter Victoria Smith, senior middle Val Barybina, junior libero Jade Goldufsky and sophomore middle Jenna Joyce.

“Our high-level goal as a program is to have a winning season,” Rugebregt said.

BARRINGTON

A season after it won a Mid-Suburban League championship, the Barrington girls volleyball team is in a strong position to defend its crown.

Four contributors to the offensive attack — including junior outside hitters Teigen Eilertsen and Katie Clement and junior middle Megan Talbot — return. Senior setter Annie Rotcek anchors a rotation that will also feature junior libero Olivia Hagan.

“Through our competitive conference and non-conference schedule, [we] should be battle-tested to defend [the MSL] title and look to make a long run in the postseason,” coach Michelle Jakubowski said.

Juniors Claudia Locke, Edy Merkle, Veronica Rizzuto and Taylor Ensminger are expected to be in the rotational mix for the Fillies.

STEVENSON

This fall brings a full rebuild for the Patriots. Ten seniors have graduated, including star outside hitter Khaila Donaldson, now a freshman at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Stevenson will rely on its three returning varsity players: junior Jacqueline Green, sophomore Corissa Kurth and sophomore Jori Radtke.

LAKE FOREST

Steven Rochon enters his second season as the Scouts’ coach with a more versatile roster than in 2013. Lake Forest will be young, with seven sophomores likely to see significant action. But Rochon believes the underclassmen are ready for the rigors of varsity action.

“These kids are not playing up due to necessity. They are varsity-ready,” Rochon said.

Two sophomores who stand out are setter Emma Patlovich and opposite hitter Ashley Williams. Senior Jenna Dethlefsen will lead the offensive attack. The outside hitter led the Scouts in kills in 2013 and was an all-NSC selection. Senior libero Maddie Locey will anchor the defense. Five juniors are expected to round out a much deeper lineup this fall, giving Rochon more rotational options.

“While I think we will have to learn some lessons on the fly due to our youth, we will surprise many teams and be greatly improved,” Rochon said.

DEERFIELD

The Warriors return just four seniors in 2014, so expect the roster to be filled with underclassmen.

In his third season, coach Eugene Chung will have the services of junior outside hitter Molly Nakahara, the Warriors’ lone all-CSL performer in 2013. Senior Kate Vivacue moves to libero after playing outside hitter a season ago. Sophomores in the varsity rotation are 6-foot-1 hitter Emma Samson and Allison Hector.

“Progress is definitely being made,” Chung said. “We should begin to see the evidence of all our hard work come into the picture over the next few years.”

HIGHLAND PARK

With size in the front row and experience in the back, this year’s Giants team is a legitimate CSL North contender.

Senior outside hitter Stela Kukoc (daughter of former Chicago Bull Toni Kukoc) leads the offensive attack. Senior hitter Kathleen McKean will also be in the first rotation. Senior twins Emily Korman (outside hitter) and Carly Korman (setter) are expected to make contributions. Senior Alison Perlman provides depth at setter behind Carly Korman.

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