Lake Zurich High School is loaded with male athletes.
So it can only be a good thing for coach Lesly Ravenscraft that more of those athletes are migrating to volleyball. This year, the sixth season Lake Zurich has competed as an IHSA volleyball program, the Bears were able to field a freshman squad.
“Interest in volleyball has only increased,” she said. “It’s very gratifying and exciting that we have a freshman team.”
Now, some middle school players in the district have expressed interest in having Ravenscraft and Lake Zurich players come watch their games. Attendance at Lake Zurich’s volleyball camp this summer was also robust.
Senior outside hitter Michael Savio, a four-year starter, has observed this firsthand when he volunteers at Lake Zurich Middle School South volleyball practices.
“The interest among the freshmen is great for our program,” he said. “The freshmen will have the experience of watching and learning from [the varsity]. People are figuring out how our program works and we’re establishing traditions.”
One interested observer in the Lake Zurich program is Buffalo Grove varsity coach Matt Aiello. Aiello teaches at Lake Zurich and coaches the varsity girls. Ravenscraft is one of his assistants for Lake Zurich girls volleyball.
“I know Lesly and have had a number of the boys in class,” Aiello said. “The freshman team is a great opportunity for their program and I’m excited for them.
“Some of Lake Zurich’s good athletes are slowly but surely getting excited about the sport of volleyball. They should win their fair share of matches this season.”
Added Ravenscraft, “He’s been very supportive and he’s happy to see the way we’re building the program.”
Ravenscraft said the attitude toward boys volleyball at Lake Zurich has changed dramatically.
“When we started we didn’t have the numbers and it felt more social and park district-y,” she said. “There wasn’t that expectation of winning that we have now.”
The Bears are off to a 1-5 start, but that is mitigated by two factors. Lake Zurich has played Buffalo Grove twice, once in the always competitive Buffalo Grove Tournament on Saturday. Also, they played the entire tournament without two starters because of previous conflicts.
“We’re a [veteran] team with players who have come through the program together,” Ravenscraft said. “We’re really looking forward to a successful season.”
Savio said it benefits the Bears to play a tough schedule in the early going.
“It’s a good gauge of where we are and what we need to work on,” he said. “We [learned] that blocking is a [challenge] for us and something we’ll need to work on. When we play the top teams at the beginning of the season, we’ll do better later in the season once we’ve figured things out as a team.”
By the end of the season, the Bears hope to compete for the first regional title in program history.
“It won’t be [easy] but that’s our goal,” Savio said. “We have high expectations this year.”