The 2023 girls volleyball season started this week. Here are previews of Kane County Chronicle teams.
Coach: McKenna Kelsay (third season)
Last season’s record: 18-18, 2-6
Top returners: McKenna Bremner, jr., S/RS; Teagan Rokos, jr., DS/L
Top newcomers: Hallie Crane, jr., OH; Morgan Raiser, fr., S/RS; Brooke Robertson, sr., M
Worth noting: The Bulldogs will look virtually brand-new after graduating 13 seniors and returning only two players in Bremner and Rokos. The absence of star setter Amanda Otten is most notable. There will be plenty of opportunities for others to step into prominent roles.
“I am super excited to see the hard work that these girls are putting in on and off the court to create that,” Kelsay said. “We are looking forward to playing the tough schedule that we do in both our DuKane Conference and tournaments. We are going to be seeing some of the top teams in the state consistently and can’t wait to battle each and every night.”
Coach: Julia Smagacz (second season)
Last season’s record: 18-18, 8-10 FVC (tied for sixth)
Top returners: Leah Freesemann, jr., OH; Brianna Gritzman, jr., L; Ashley Arceo, sr., S; Ashli Bonds, sr., OH; Sarah Jack, jr., S; Emily Maramba, jr., RS; Delilah Ostrye, jr., DS
Top newcomers: Rukmini Gangavarapu, so., MB; Julia Johnson, so., RS; Haidyn Schatz, so., OH; Angelina Drew, sr., RS
Worth noting: The Rockets fell to St. Francis 24-26, 25-10, 25-14 in the Class 3A St. Francis Regional championship. Central last won a regional title in 2014. The team graduated captain Brooke Hoffman, a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team pick who is now at NCAA Division II Mar Hills University (North Carolina). Freesemann led the Rockets offensively in many matches last year. Smagacz said the team’s biggest strengths are its depth and versatility. “With the majority of our core players returning, we are looking to improve upon last season’s conference and overall records and make a statement in the FVC,” Smagacz said.
– Alex Kantecki
Coach: Lauren Kosecki (third season)
Last season’s record: 17-20, 5-3
Top returners: Reilly Day, sr., L/DS; Charlotte Potvin, sr., MH; Fiona Turnbull, jr., MH; Sam Vanda, jr., OH
Top newcomer: Lillian Hallahan, jr., OH
Worth noting: The Vikings are in good position to contend in the DuKane Conference and the postseason. Despite the graduations of Lauren Benson, Mia Kane and Abby Buban, Geneva has plenty of returning experience. Vanda is a constant threat to score on the outside in her third varsity season. Day’s consistency in the defensive end will be prominent.
“We have added some strong younger players that will be instant contributors. We will be stronger in each position this coming season,” Kosecki said.
Coach: Cynthia Violett (11th season)
Last season’s record: 30-7, 14-1
Top returners: Rosie Karl, sr., OH; Sofie Knauzer, sr., MH; Mia Vassallo, sr., L
Top newcomers: Morgan Beam, jr., MH; Delaney Calebrese, sr., OH
Worth noting: The Knights have become a juggernaut in volleyball and this roster expects to be no different. Vassallo, who is uncommitted, was Interstate Eight MVP last year. Karl, who is committed to Aurora University, also returns for the reigning conference champions and sectional finalists.
“Kaneland has hopes again to be in the running for the conference title with a lot of good competition. We’re also hoping to earn a fifth straight regional title,” Violett said.
Coach: Franky Martinez (fourth season)
Last season’s record: 18-18, 8-0
Top returners: Lilly Caruso, jr., S; Molly Lambert, jr., S; Clare Mceniry, jr., OH; Lilli Riddiford, so., S
Top newcomer: Sarah Nierman, jr., MB
Worth noting: Rosary returns an extensive list of talent from last year’s 18-18 team. Mceniry led the team in kills. Lambert led in aces and was among the top two in assists. Riddiford and Caruso offer a lot of athleticism on the court and allow for lineup versatility. Nierman is a name to watch.
“[We have] a huge junior class. We have one senior this year, Maggie Smith, who is also returning,” Martinez said.
Coach: Kate McCullagh (first season)
Last season’s record: 33-9, 5-2
Top returner: Sarah Musial, sr. S
Top newcomers: Tatum Ahrens, jr., OH; Roshni Dave, MH/S
Worth noting: The Saints enter a new era after the retirement of coach Jennie Kull. McCullagh, who coached the boys varsity team in the spring, takes over the girls varsity squad, which made a state tournament appearance last fall. All of the major contributors to that team except for Musial have graduated, so it will be interesting to see how the pieces come together this season.
Coach: Lindsay Hawkins
Top returners: Alex Bardouniotis, sr., OH; Haley Burgdorf, so., OH; Katie Scherer, sr., L/DS
Top newcomers: Mia McCall, so., S; Noelle Nyman, sr., MH
Worth noting: The North Stars graduated standout setter Jessica Parker, but still have perhaps the best 1-2 scoring punch in the DuKane Conference in Burgdorf and Scherer, who had a combined 507 kills last season. Add in Alex Bardouniotis, who was third in kills (146), third in blocks (35) and fifth in digs (25), and it’s a legitimate top scoring trio.
“The athleticism of [Bardouniotis] is amazing. She has a wide range of what she can hit. We’ve had her in the middle, on the outside, the right side, so we’re really excited for how far she’s come and the level she’s playing at,” Hawkins said.
Coach: Lisa Ston
Last season’s record: 30-12, 7-2 Metro Suburban Conference.
Top returners: Addy Horner, jr., S/RS; Anna Paquette, sr., OH/L; KK Dumpit, sr., S; Catherine D’Orazio, sr., DS; Liv Basel, sr., S; Emma Delaney, jr.; Shay McMillen, sr., OH
Top newcomer: Brooklyn Johnson, MH
Worth noting: Wisconsin recruit Horner leads a ton of experience back from the group that won St. Francis’ 13th state championship last fall. Horner, a 6-foot-2 setter/right side, had 321 kills, 372 assists, 145 digs, 80 aces and 65 blocks as a sophomore. Paquette, third on St. Francis in kills last year, and assist leader Dumpit, who had close to 500 as a junior, are other key returners. The Spartans are rejoining the GCAC with IC Catholic.
“We are excited about our experienced returning players and the leadership they bring,” Ston said. “It will be fun to watch this group develop chemistry and learn to compete as one unit. This year’s team is driven to be successful and motivated to be highly competitive in every match we play. We have 10 seniors who will all contribute to the success of our team. Returning to the GCAC is exciting and will certainly prepare us for the postseason.”
– Joshua Welge