The good news for Waubonsie Valley is that practically everybody is back from the 30-8 team that reached the sectional final last year before losing to Benet 25-21, 24-26, 25-13.
The bad news is that one of the players who won’t be back is Chicago Sun-Times All-Area selection Rachel Minarick.
Minarick, who was recently named MVP of the 18 Open division at the AAU Junior National Championships, is headed to Michigan State in the fall after contributing 364 kills, 452 assists, 43 aces and 105 blocks for the Warriors last year.
“It’s obviously a huge position to vacate,” Waubonsie Valley coach Kristen Stuart said last week while watching her team participate in the 40-team Tuesday Varsity Summer League at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora.
“She was our setter for four years on varsity and was obviously a special player in a lot of areas. Yeah, we’ll miss her. But we’re excited. Everybody’s ready to step up.”
“Everybody” includes 5-foot-8 senior outside hitter Becky Breuer, 5-11 junior middle Caroline Cordes, 5-9 junior outside hitter Lauren Howard, 5-9 junior outside hitter Brooke Burling, 5-6 senior defensive specialist Sydney Slevin and 5-8 senior setter Lauren Hiller, all who started last year.
“We just started camp this week,” Stuart said.
“We’re just starting to see the leaders emerge. That’s the other thing that comes into play when you have a huge leader (Minarick) leave. See who steps up. But I think players like Becky and kids who have been on the team are ready to do that.”
Stuart hopes one of those who emerges is Hiller, who ran a 6-2 rotation with Minarick last year.
“She’s experienced, she’s just not as physical, not as big,” Stuart said. “But she has good hands, she knows what to do. We’ll have to see what happens if we run a 5-1 with her or a 6-2. But anyone in a setting position has to take on that leadership role.”
Waubonsie Valley got off to a good start in the summer league earlier this month, splitting sets with Yorkville and 2013 Class 3A finalist LaSalle-Peru and defeating Plainfield North 25-14, 25-16.
“They’re really a great group of girls.” Stuart said.
“They work hard; they get along well. I really like them. We’re going to work as hard as we can. We’re not going to call this a rebuilding year, but we understand it’s going to be a little different at first. But we’re going to continue to raise our level.”