Boys Volleyball: Lincoln-Way East has strength in returning numbers
By Logan Malloy For Sun-Times Media March 21, 2014 8:04PM
Lincoln-Way East's Austin Royer | File photo
Boys Volleyball 2014
TOP 10 TEAMS
1. Lincoln-Way East: All the weapons are back for stellar setter Austin Royer, including All-Area outside hitters Nate Van Dellan and Ryan Vorderer.
2. Lincoln-Way North: Brad McFarland and Jake Walenga, the latter the 2013 SouthtownStar Player of the Year, form a lethal combination on the outside for the returning state runner-up.
3. Brother Rice: Four-year starter Mitch Weiler and Kevin Myren will look to send longtime coach Paul Ickes out in style.
4. Sandburg: When outside hitter Paul Chmura is hot, look out. The All-Area player carried the attack in a few big wins last season.
5. Lincoln-Way West: Junior setter Michael Wexter is helping turn the Warriors into a force.
6. Andrew: Sanil Thomas is a slick distributor and should feed 6-foot-9 Lewis recruit Nick VanderZanden.
7. Marist: Matt Munro, a 6-foot-9 middle hitter, is one of eight seniors on the RedHawks roster.
8. Joliet Catholic: Libero Tony Allen and four other starters from a season ago return for a team that took powerhouse Minooka to three sets in the playoffs.
9. Richards: The reigning South Suburban champ brings back four starters, including All-Area hitter Ed Karalius and twins Danny and Eric Krasich.
10. Oak Forest: Outside hitter Jeff Sprayberry and four other starters return for the Bengals, making a run at the South Suburban crown within reach.
TOP PLAYERS (in alphabetical order)
Tony Allen (L, Jr., Joliet Catholic); Paul Chmura (Jr., OH, Sandburg); Ed Karalius (Sr., OH, Richards); Brad McFarland (Sr., OH; Lincoln-Way North); Matt Munro (MH, Sr., Marist); Kevin Myren (Sr., OH, Brother Rice); Josh Phalen (L, Sr., Lincoln-Way East); Austin Royer (Sr., S, Lincoln-Way East); Sean Runyon (L, Sr., Stagg); Adam Sargis (Sr., OH, Lincoln-Way Central); Jeff Sprayberry (Sr., OH, Oak Forest); Sanil Thomas (Jr., S, Andrew); Nate Van Dellan (Sr., OH, Lincoln-Way East); Nick VanderZanden (Sr., MH, Andrew); Ryan Vorderer (Sr., OH, Lincoln-Way East); Jake Walenga (Sr., OH, Lincoln-Way North); Matt Walsh (Sr., MH, Mount Carmel); Mitch Weiler (Sr., OH, Brother Rice); Michael Wexter (Jr. S, Lincoln-Way West); Ian Zalewski (S, Sr., Sandburg).
Updated: April 24, 2014 9:57AM
The stars are aligning for Lincoln-Way East — and one doesn’t need a telescope to see them.
All-American setter Austin Royer bands together a roster chock full of talent, as the Griffins return every starter and key attacker from a team that finished 35-4 a season ago.
“It’s the second year with the same team,” Royer said. “We have a different mind-set but the same goal: to get to state.”
It’s easy for Royer to set lofty goals with All-Area performers Nate Van Dellen and Ryan Vorderer shepherding the rotation as versatile outside hitters. Vorderer had 337 kills a season ago in setting the school record last season while Van Dellen led East with MVP honors at the 20-team Brother Rice Smack Attack.
“We definitely have all the tools to win,” Van Dellen. “I don’t think there’s any reason why we shouldn’t.”
The Griffins were close to making state last season, falling to eventual state runner-up Lincoln-Way North (37-4) in the sectional final after beating North twice during the regular season.
While North returns its dynamic duo of Brad McFarland and Jake Walenga, the latter the SouthtownStar 2013 Player of the Year, the Griffins open the season as the SouthtownStar’s
No. 1 team because of their overall depth — and Royer.
“The way (Royer) fools the block and reads hitters, he just does stuff on the court that still amazes me,” Vorderer said.
Royer, a senior, is climbing Illinois’ all-time assist list. He’s slated to join his brother, Nathan, at St. Ambrose in the fall.
“It’s exciting to beat some records,” said Austin Royer, who already owns the school’s career assist mark, “but a team goal is way more important to me than a personal goal.”
East also will welcome back libero Josh Phalen, whom coach Kris Fiore considers one of the best defensive players in the state. Phalen fueled East to a 25-1 record before breaking his hand in practice and missing the rest of the 2013 season.
Phalen’s return immediately bolsters East’s passing, which should help explosive hitters Aaron Redweik and Carson Slager.
“We really have to work on defense,” Vorderer said. “I think that’s a big key to the year. If we can improve every day, we’ll be a team to be reckoned with by the end of the year.”
Vorderer is being modest. East is a team to be reckoned with from Day 1.