Girls Volleyball: 2012 Season Preview
By Gene Chamberlain For Sun-Times Media August 29, 2012 5:12PM
Larkin's Brianna Stewart (far left) and Olivia Kofie contest a shot by St. Edward's Katie Swanson last season. All three players return this fall and figure to make significant contributions. | Karen Naess ~ For Sun-Times Media
Ten area players to watch
• Erienne Barry, St. Charles East, Sr., S
• Sydney Doby, Harvest Christian, Jr. MH
• Alyssa Ehrhardt, Jacobs, Sr., OH, 5-10
• Olivia Kofie, Larkin, Jr., 6-1, MH
• Taylor Krage, St. Charles North, Jr., OH
• Hannah McGlone, Streamwood, Jr. 6-0 MH
• Maris Smith, Jacobs, Sr., OH, 5-7
• Brianna Stewart, Larkin, Jr., 5-10, OH
• Katie Swanson, St. Edward, Jr., 5-10, OH
• Nicole Woods, St. Charles East, Sr. OH
Updated: October 1, 2012 4:45PM
The page has been turned to another chapter in area prep volleyball.
With only two players returning from The Courier-News All-Area first team, and with perennial state power St. Charles East returning only three players from a team that finished third in the state Class 4A tournament, the potential for great change exists at the top.
Then there is the coaching turnover. Five area schools have new head coaches. Huntley, Hampshire, Dundee-Crown, Bartlett, and Larkin all will have different people calling the shots on the sidelines.
Huntley’s new coach is former Hampshire coach Karen Whitehouse. Replacing Whitehouse at Hampshire is her five-year assistant Andy Lindley.
“We’ll run pretty much the same stuff that we have,” said Lindley, whose team will be led by All-Big Northern East outside hitter Jen Dumoulin, an All-Area honorable mention player last year.
Former assistants take over at each of the other schools with new coaches. Not only did Bartlett’s Michele Ehrlich serve four years as former coach Brandon Mueller’s assistant, and Dundee-Crown’s Chris Hopkins-Muehl coach 12 years under former D-C head coach Tracy Williams, but Ehrlich and Muehl both played for those schools.
Larkin’s new coach Henry Graack, a former player at Maine West and ISU, not only has coached lower level girls teams at Larkin in the past but has been the boys varsity coach for five years.
Class 4A favorites
Jacobs has both of the returning All-Area players, a good reason the Golden Eagles rate at the very least as strong challengers to perennial state power Cary-Grove in the Fox Valley Valley.
Toledo-bound senior outside hitter Alyssa Ehrhardt led the area with 72 aces while making 370 kills (38.9 percent kill ratio) and had a passer rating of 2.16 on a 3.0 scale for a 24-12 Golden Eagles squad last year. Teammate Maris Smith (182 kills, 34 percent kill ratio) is the other returning All-Area player at outside hitter. The two help provide what eighth-year coach Lisa Dwyer “a well-rounded front line.”
Senior middle Rachel Arceneaux also returns, and setting it all up is senior setter Taylor Lauder, who had 671 assists last year.
Huntley has been a traditional power in the FVC Valley, but its success depends on the development of players like freshman middle Erin Erb and sophomore Kelsey DeWolf to complement returning standout middle blocker Hailey Vitacco, junior outside hitter Erin Lyman, and junior hitter Emily Westermeyer.
“Our quickness and scrappy defense will make us very competitive,” Whitehouse said.
In the Upstate Eight River, a younger St. Charles East team will have to contend with a crosstown North squad that returns senior setter Emily Belz, 6-foot middle hitter Alex Stone, senior libero Alex Busch, and 6-foot outside hitter Taylor Krage from a regional title club. Krage is the focus of college scouts after playing for a national champion in club volleyball, and the Stars will be at their best playing the net.
“For the first time in awhile though, this group of girls is a very solid defensive team, with great ball control, which should help our offense be more successful,” North coach Lindsey Hawkins said.
East has only star all-around player Nicole Woods and setter Erienne Barry back from last year’s trophy-winning team, although hitter Caitlyn Ballard also played some and returns.
Class 4A challengers
The Elgin-Larkin rivalry could feature two vastly improved teams.
Just 6-30 a year ago, the Maroons figure to improve greatly even without middle Monica Stockman, who had surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament. Senior libero Taylor Powers led the team with a 97-percent serving rate last year, setter Hope Demel returns after breaking an ankle last year, and senior outside hitter Jackie Shioli also is back. The Maroons have junior hitter Melanie Berg and freshman 5-9 middle blocker Emma Sirridge up front. Senior setter Kristin Tayag gives the Maroons a chance to run a 6-2 offense.
“This is my sixth year coaching and probably the most athletic team I’ve seen,” coach Scott Stewart said. “The majority played club at one point or other and we had a summer league for the first time that benefited us.”
Larkin’s potent duo of Western Michigan-bound Olivia Kofie and Brianna Stewart are joined by two key returning teammates in hitter Anna Gaston and junior Alyssa McGhee, and senior newcomer Alexis Price.
“We have some very good blockers on our team, but need to improve our defense behind the block,” Graack said. “We also have some girls who are very efficient at putting the ball away.”
South Elgin might be the most experienced U-46 team with seven seniors, including Amanda Nadler, and experienced junior Ashley Oandasan back from a 13-18-1 regional finalist.
Both Streamwood and Bartlett must overcome inexperience, but the Sabres do have returning senior setter Brittany Kemp and a player coach Lisa Vizzana says “pleases the crowd” with her hitting and blocking in 6-1 junior middle Hannah McGlone.
The Hawks have two returning players and both are juniors: middle Elizabeth Arco and outside Katie Hrbacek.
In the Fox Valley Valley, Dundee-Crown expects to be better behind setter Cori Eischen and hitter Steph Magsamen, the two senior captains. However, the Chargers face possibly the toughest conference in the state.
St. Edward moves up a class in postseason, but during the regular season the Green Wave expects to contend in the Suburban Christian Conference thanks largely to a much taller lineup than in years past, as well as high-flying junior outside hitter Katie Swanson.
“We have some tall people now,” said coach Jamie Dovichi, referring chiefly to 6-1 sophomore hitter Cece Rapp and 6-foot junior middle Maria Von Ahnen.
They join with returning players Rena Ranallo, Cory Kelly, Mallory Gross, Shannon Igielski, and Allison Kruk to form a balanced, experienced group that is switching to a 6-2 attack.
Burlington Central expects to contend in the Big Northern East with two-time champion Richmond-Burton on the strength of a smaller, quick lineup that features setter Jess Emrich, All-Big Northern outside hitter Lexie Bouza (140 kills last year), outside hitter Hannah Yoder and defensive specialist Allie O’Reilly. Emrich suffered a knee injury that kept her from playing as a sophomore and O’Reilly had to play setter before suffering an injury herself.
“What I see is a balanced attack, very good defense and a team that serves real well,” Central coach Marv Leavitt said.
Central’s 3A rival Hampshire will have a tough time challenging in the Fox Valley Fox coming off a 4-8 record its first year in that conference. All-FVC hitter Jen Dumoulin, right side senior Arianna Rominski, senior middle-right side Abby Burke, and senior middle-right side Kaleigh Franklin
“We will be working a lot with ball control and fine-tuning our offensive scheme,” Lindley said.
The backyard rivalry of Westminster Christian and Harvest Christian promises to become big in volleyball with two state-class teams squaring off in Harvest Christian’s first year in the Northeastern Athletic Conference.
Westminster won once last year when they played, but Harvest enjoyed the last laugh en route to a supersectional berth. And the Lions expect to be no less competitive this year with virtually the full team back under Courier-News Coach of the Year Kim Floyd.
Junior star 6-1 middle hitter Sydney Doby (354 kills), senior setter Katelyn Floyd (356 assists), senior middle hitter Sarah Kott (110 kills), and junior outside hitter Erica Manusos (124 kills) lead the offense.
Westminster wound up 19-10 last year and returns junior all-conference middle Claire Speweik and senior all-conference libero Cara Tyrrell to a lineup that features five returning starters and new middle hitter Savannah Dutcher.