Girls Volleyball: Marist starts the season as SouthtownStar No. 1
By Tony Baranek email@example.com August 17, 2012 11:58PM
Members of the girls varsity volleyball team at Marist High School in Chicago, Illinois, Tuesday, August 14, 2012. Pictured left to right (kneeling) Shannon Murphy, (1st row) Carolyn Yerkes, Abbi Anderson, Taylor Holder and coach Natalie Holder, (2nd row) Mallory Salis, Haley Richy, Kelly Marcinek, (3rd row) Rachel Dalton and Elyse Panick. Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Cream of the crop
Ashley Holder, the 2011 Jenny’s Steakhouse/SouthtownStar Girls Volleyball Player of the Year, has moved on to the University of Akron.
Who’s next to wear the mantle of Southland’s best?
There are almost two hands full of already recognized candidates, with eight returning All-Area members: Krista Brakauskas, of Providence; Jill Conrad, of Stagg; Amber Clay, of Marian Catholic; Dakota Hampton, of Sandburg; Stephanie Korbakes, of Shepard; Emily Lindemulder, of Chicago Christian; Kara Rockey, of Richards; and Mallory Salis, of Marist.
Beyond them are talented teammates, and girls from other schools as well who put up solid numbers in 2011 or have had success since then during club or summer league play.
Lockport’s Aubrey Ficek led the Porters to the Palos Courts Summer League title. Lincoln-Way Central’s Amanda Dolan received All-American honors at an AAU tournament in Orlando. Lincoln-Way North’s Jackie Billie was among the area leaders in both aces and assists last season.
Mother McAuley? The Mighty Macs’ All-Area player from 2011, Lizzy Scanlon, has graduated. But Jen DeJarld has four returning regulars and five sophomores who were members of the Michio club team that won a national championship this summer.
But the early favorites would have to be Hampton and Salis.
Hampton, a 6-foot senior outside headed for the University of South Florida, pounded down 357 kills and had 277 digs for the 32-7 Eagles last season.
“Obviously, Dakota is recognized for her power, her size. That’s the first thing people notice in the gym,” Sandburg coach David Vales said. “But what people probably won’t notice is how much she improved on defense and serve-receive, and how effective her serving and blocking have become.”
The Ohio University-bound Salis led the area in kills last season with 414, helping the RedHawks make their first trip to state. But her contributions went well beyond putting the ball to the floor.
“In an age where a majority of hitters only specialize at the net, Mal makes a tremendous impact during all six rotations,” Marist coach Natalie Holder said. “Her overall ball control is as impressive as her attacking. And she is tremendous under pressure.”
Survey says ...
Name another area head coach you would love to have as an assistant?
Kathy Sulkowski, Lincoln-Way Central 27 percent
Mary Brown, Lincoln-Way North 13 percent
Dan Grunauer, Shepard 13 percent
Craig Marek, Rich Central 13 percent
Others receiving votes: Troy Grevengoed, Richards; Natalie Holder, Marist; Jen DeJarld, Mother McAuley, Tony Kruse, Homewood-Flossmoor; Julia Hudson, Lockport, Amanda Brown, Oak Forest.
Sulkowski received twice as many votes as the runners-up. Said one coach: “Her volleyball IQ is through the roof. What sets Kathy apart from other coaches is the way she communicates. She is able to read her athletes on the court, then choose the correct tone to take in a huddle to get the most out of her players.”
What volleyball program other than your own would you like to be in charge of?
Sandburg 29 percent
Marist 14 percent
Others receiving votes: Richards, Hillcrest, Joliet Catholic, Lincoln-Way East, Mother McAuley, Marian Catholic, Rich Central, Lockport.
30 years ago ...
Behind Player of the Year Maura Cullen, Mother McAuley went 48-0 and captured its third consecutive Class AA title in 1982, beating Glenbard West 15-10, 15-10 in the title match. Mighty Macs coach Mary Anne Malone then resigned after a four-year career in which she posted a 158-1 record, winning the last 131 in a row. The streak continued on to 143 matches in 1983 under new coach Nancy Pedersen.
They said it
“Only two days in and I had to cave. Enjoyed my first hot cup of coffee ever in life to wake up for our 6:30 a.m. practice. Guess that’s happening from now on.” — First-year Lockport volleyball coach Erika Lange
“Whatever the team needs me to do to win. I just want to win ... real bad.” — Shepard’s Stephanie Korbakes to her coach, Dan Grunauer, when asked if she would move from setter to right-side hitter.
Updated: November 6, 2012 7:33PM
Being a preseason No. 1 is an honor and a privilege, assures Marist coach Natalie Holder.
But she’s more concerned with something else.
“We want to end up No. 1 at the end. That’s always the ultimate goal,” she said. “But we won’t take this for granted.”
This year’s returning RedHawks — fourth in the state in Class 4A in 2011 — showed up on the first day of practice with a feeling unlike any of their predecessors, dating to the birth of the program in 2002.
And, Holder believes, it’ll give them an edge.
“We finally have athletes who have been there and played on that floor (at ISU), so it’s more tangible for them,” she said. “They can visualize it. They were there. And the girls who were younger were down there watching.
“In that respect it’s different. But these girls are just as hungry, if not hungrier, because they got there and came up short. They still have the same goal they had last year.”
There certainly is enough talent around to get it done.
The RedHawks will be led by 5-foot-9 Ohio University-bound outside Mallory Salis (414 kills, 352 digs), who is a six-rotation player who’s a threat on all of them. Senior middle Rachel Dalton had more than a few big moments, but none bigger than in the Class 4A supersectional against Lyons when she made the defensive play of the match at the end of Set 3.
Elyse Panick, a 6-1 right-side hitter committed to Marshall, made tremendous strides as a junior in 2011. Outside Kelly Marcinek could be the RedHawks’ most powerful hitter. Carolyn Yerkes was among the area digs leaders in 2011.
More returnees include setter Taylor Holder, who after spending two seasons as the backup for her sister Ashley, will take over as a senior, and defensive specialist Abbi Anderson.
2 LOCKPORT (26-12 in 2011)
How much did winning the Palos Courts Summer League influence this choice? Probably a little. But returning more than 600 kills in Katie Tabisz, Amanda McNabb, Aubrey Ficek and Kayla Pfeiffer from a 26-win team played into it as well. Setter Amanda Wilson needs to be replaced, but Tabisz and Pfeiffer both are capable. Erika Lange isn’t your average new coach, either. She was 143-52 in seven years at the sophomore level, and probably knows the new varsity kids better than her predecessor (Julia Hudson) would have. Among the newbies to watch are middle hitter MacKenzie Wasowicz and defensive whiz Lauren Sexton.
3. LINCOLN-WAY EAST (29-8)
The Griffins lost a few key members of a squad that took Marist to three sets in a Class 4A regional final last year, but return steady setter Taylor Nirchi (647 assists), defensive stalwarts Marissa DeGroot, Dana Van Dyck and dominant middle Kayla Currier. A newcomer to watch is 6-foot freshman Sarah Dobrich. In the 11-year history of the program, Linda Vivona has coached the Griffins to 21 or more victories nine times, including a school-record 29 in 2011.
4. MOTHER MCAULEY (32-6)
Mighty Macs coach Jen DeJarld says this year’s team “will be flying under the radar a little.” The Mighty Macs certainly won’t be anywhere off the screen, though, with two competent setters in Courtney Joyce and Michelle Konecki, two solid middle blockers in Gabrielly Ennis and Kelly Clarke, and five newcomers from the Michio Chicago Volleyball Academy’s 15-year-olds team that won the USAV junior national championship. One of them is DeJarld’s daughter, Ryann, an outside hitter.
5. SANDBURG (32-7)
At 6-foot and stronger than ever, Dakota Hampton (350 kills) isn’t the only Eagle who will dominate at the net this season. Kristy Theisen, a 6-foot middle, had some big moments in 2011, as did Paige Bendell, a 6-foot right-side hitter and setter. Kelly Finlay is another middle with height (6-1), while libero Kendall Reichman was one of their best defenders. Sandburg, which tied Lincoln-Way Central for the SWSC Blue title, is aiming at its fourth 30 or more win season in the past six.
6 LINCOLN-WAY CENTRAL (26-12)
Amanda Dolan, a 6-3 middle, will be the go-to hitter for the Knights, the reigning co-champs with Sandburg in the SWSC Blue. Dolan will look to improve on her 92 blocks from a season ago. Setter Kaitlyn Siadek, entering her fourth season on the varsity and third as captain, will have other targets to distribute the ball to in outsides Jacqueline Langer and Maria Brown. Among the newcomers to watch is Claire Bravec, a right-side hitter who has a powerful jump serve.
7. STAGG (19-18)
There was no Senior Night for the Chargers last season — because they didn’t have any. What they did have was youth that got better from the year before, and should be a real contender in the SWSC Red and beyond. Jill Conrad is an efficient setter (251 assists), but also was the first on the team in kills (240) and aces (27) and second in digs (240) behind libero Morgan Thomas (505 digs). Alexa Janus (333 assists) and Lexi Mantas (59 blocks) were also front-runners at their positions.
8. PROVIDENCE (28-9)
In 2011, All-Area senior setter Krista Brakauskas (727 assists) led Providence to a share of the East Suburban Catholic Conference title and its winningest season since 2004. The Celts also return Alyssa Maloney, a tough middle hitter. But they received an unpleasant surprise when power hitting outside Lacey Hill transferred back to Minooka — where she played as a freshman. Becca Rachke and Allison Erthum will work to fill that gap, and Annie Cummings is expected to be a key player in her first varsity season at right-side hitter.
9. MARIAN CATHOLIC (24-18)
The Spartans ended last year with a trip to the Class 3A state finals, and confidence that with almost everybody back they’d be able to compete with the big guns after moving up to Class 4A. Then came an injury to 6-2 Jasmine King and the transfer of Kelsey Clark to Mother McAuley. There still is a lot of talent here from setter Colleen Rynne (916 assists) to All-Area outside Amber Clay (311 kills) to libero Nicole Manno (511 digs) and tough middle Kendyl Todd (132 blocks), so don’t count out the Spartans.
10. LINCOLN-WAY NORTH (21-16)
The Phoenix rose in its biggest match of the regular season in 2011, beating Stagg in three sets to claim the SWSC Red crown. Some pretty serious talent has graduated, including Stephanie Pearson (258 kills), but North will build around super setter/server Jackie Billie (723 assists, 60 aces) and middle Ashley Pickert (149 kills, 83 blocks).
OTHERS TO WATCH
Lincoln-Way West (22-15) also took a hit graduation-wise, but still has Sarah Wegrzyn and Therese Schultz. Andrew (17-15) has four returning starters, including Angela Robison and Tara Adams. Chicago Christian (25-19), with Emily Workman and Emily Lindemulder, probably will lose a bunch to upper-class competition but should make some noise in Class 2A. Shepard (17-11) could surprise in the South Suburban Red behind Natalie Carberry and Stephanie Korbakes. Kaitlyn Shereyk has leadership qualities that could bring Homewood-Flossmoor (19-17) to the next level. Lemont has Megan Litaborski and Kiley Rendek among its returnees, but faces a move up to Class 4A and some rebuilding. Oak Forest (22-16), a perennial contender, returns Kate Zickus and Cassidy Staunton, but needs new people to step up. Kara Rockey and Allison Stasak should keep Richards (22-7) competitive. Oak Lawn (9-22), with Becky Bradshaw and Christina Egan, may provide the area’s biggest jump in wins.