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Boys Volleyball: Brother Rice coach Br. Paul Ickes closing in on milestone of 500 wins

Br. Paul Ickes Brother Rice's boys volleyball coach. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

Br. Paul Ickes, Brother Rice's boys volleyball coach. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Boys Volleyball 2013

TEAMS TO WATCH (in alphabetical order)

Brother Rice: A state quarterfinalist last season, the Crusaders have an electric trio of hitters in Mitch Weiler, Kevin Myren and 6-foot-8 Ryan Paul. Weiler might be the top player in Illinois, while junior setters Jim Dwyer and Dan Hayes are in contention to feed him the ball from a starter’s role. Coach Br. Paul Ickes looks to become first boys coach in state history with 500 wins.

Lincoln-Way Central: The cupboard isn’t bare for first-year coach Brian Danielson. The Knights bring back four starters from a 2012 team that went 23-14, led by Ball State recruit Austin Overby (268 kills last season), Lakeland College recruit Matt Nawa and setter Matt Clark.

Lincoln-Way East: The Griffins return three starters from a 2012 sectional finalist team that finished 35-4. Austin Royer is one the premier setters in the area; he’s poised to break the school’s career assist record (1,718, set by John Boroli) as a junior. Royer sits at 1,334 assists. Middle hitter Aaron Reidwick has a 40-inch vertical leap.

Lincoln-Way North: The Phoenix, 32-5 and a regional titlist last season, return all-conference selections Jake Walenga (outside hitter) and Zac Blasgen (libero). Players to watch include setters Matt Burke and Austin Faller, and hitters Brad McFarland and Hawk Skrodal.

Marist: First-year coach Jodi Frigo takes the helm for the reigning East Suburban Catholic Conference champs after serving as an assistant for six seasons. Four starters are back from a season ago: setter Mike Schreiber, outside hitter John Yerkes and middle hitters Connor O’Neill and Matt Munro. The versatile Yerkes blasted 122 kills last season and is one of the RedHawks’ top passers.

Providence: The Celtics return four starters headed by 6-6 Ball State recruit Brendan Surane (145 kills, 125 blocks last season). Junior setter Dan Niemec (300 assists) is back to pilot the attack, and he’ll look for his hitters — Surane, Matt Martensen and Jordan Houston — on the outside. Watch out for middle hitter Tim Doughney and libero Michael Tucker.

Richards: The Bulldogs went 16-0 in South Suburban play last season to capture their first conference title in 20 years. Returning All-Area player and team captain Nick Costa will lead the charge for a team coming off a 25-7 campaign.

Sandburg: Losing starting setter Nick Bendell (Harvard), for the season because of an injury is a huge blow to the Eagles, but there’s still plenty of talent around. Watch out for Ball State recruit Michael Scannell, 6-10 Lewis signee John Hodul and two-year starter Kyle Burke.

St. Rita: The Mustangs return four senior starters from last season’s state quarterfinalist: setter Thomas McDermott, outside hitters Dan O’Keefe and Kevin Banky and middle hitter Billy White. McDermott is back as the team captain and will look to find O’Keefe, second on the team in kills in 2012. Watch out for junior Tim Dunleavy on the left side.

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Updated: April 20, 2013 6:28AM



It’s a race to 500 for Br. Paul Ickes.

The 21-year coach of Brother Rice is 11 victories shy of becoming the first coach in Illinois boys volleyball history to reach 500 wins.

The question isn’t when he’ll notch the feat, it’s will he be first to hit the mark?

Brother Rice, a state quarterfinalist last season, should get to 11 wins before midseason. Bill Schreier, coach of reigning state champ Wheaton Warrenville South, owns 486 career wins and is hot on Ickes’ trail.

“One thing that I am is competitive,” said Ickes, a campus administrator and senior religion teacher at Brother Rice.

Just don’t expect any bluster between the coaches on their dash to 500. They’re friends, and they serve together on the Illinois High School Volleyball Coaches Association — Ickes is the president, Schreier the treasurer. Both are taking the selfless route, viewing the 500-win mark as a way to recognize their programs and the sport itself.

“I’ve found that you have to create your own enthusiasm,” Ickes said. “You can’t wait for someone else to do it for you. So any opportunity — including the 500-win milestone — that can bring more exposure to the program and affirmation of what we’ve been attempting to do helps grow the sport.”

But they must talk about the record, right?

“Not a word,” Ickes said. “It’s funny, because he updates the IHSVCA website, and one of the things he put up there is all the records. Honestly, there are so many things to discuss, we just don’t have time. But he’s an outstanding coach that has an unparalleled record of success in terms of state titles. (I) highly respect him.”

“It’s mutual,” Schreier said. “It’s amazing his hand in the Southland volleyball scene and what he does for the sport.”

The race isn’t lost on the Crusaders, who look to be among the area’s finest behind talented 6-foot-4 outside hitter Mitch Weiler, versatile 6-5 hitter Kevin Myren and 6-8 Carthage recruit Ryan Paull.

“We’re definitely getting him that 500,” Weiler said. “It’s a big milestone, especially for the program, because ever since he started it it’s been a strong program. The players have been talking about it. Especially doing it before Wheaton Warrenville South gets it, because they’ve been playing really well the last few years.”

“We all want to get him that. It would be awesome to be part of the 500 team,” Myren said.

Paull didn’t know about the milestone until recently.

“(Earlier in the month) was the first time I heard about the record,” Paull said. “He didn’t bring up the goal. He’s focused on this season and what’s going to happen the first game.”

Weiler, who has interest from seemingly every major college program from Penn State to UCLA, might be the top player in Illinois as a junior. He hopes to help Ickes reach the milestone first not for his volleyball pedigree, but because of the person Ickes is.

“Just his attitude and dedication to the sport is a reason why I love coming to practice and playing for him,” Weiler said.

For Ickes, the upcoming achievement is “a memory of a lifetime,” but hopefully one of many to come.

“It means 21 years of bus rides, countless trips all over the place and doing all sorts of things,” Ickes said. “But it’s also been an amazing journey. To come in 1992 and get the opportunity to literally start something from the ground up and to be able to raise (the program) like a child in many similar respects.”



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