Five of’s top 75 teams belong to Illinois

SHARE Five of’s top 75 teams belong to Illinois released its rankings of 75 of the top 100 high schools in the nation early this week. The list included five schools from Illinois – Joliet Catholic, St. Charles East, Mother McAuley, St. Francis and Lyons. editor John Tawa differed with the Chicago Sun-Times rankings, flip-flopping Joliet Catholic and St. Charles East. The two schools could settle the issue on the court when they meet October 17 at Glenbard East’s Autumnfest.

Here is what Tawa had to say about the five Illinois schools (preceded by national ranking):

8. Joliet Catholic

Last year’s record: 39-3; 2008 final ranking: 13

The Angels, a surprise winner of the Illinois 3A title in 2008, should repeat in 2009 behind a lineup that returns virtually intact. Leading the way is 5-8 senior OH Annemarie Hickey, whom the Chicago Sun-Times’ Phil Brozynski calls “inch-for-inch and pound-for-pound the toughest player in the state.” Also back for JCA are 5-9 senior outside Alyssa Warren, 6-0 senior middle Claire Randich and 6-1 junior middle Lainey Wyman. Senior Jennifer Murphy, sister of budding Florida Gator star Kelly Murphy, will get the call at setter while Stephanie Keca returns at libero.

19. St. Charles East

Last year’s record: 38-4; 2008 final ranking: 14

The defending Illinois 4A champs graduated two big-time contributors, setter Laura Homann and middle Haley Streich, but should be formidable again in 2009 behind senior setter/hitter Jacqui Seidel, a Ball State recruit, and the talented Niski sisters, Caroline and Meghan, who are as good in the back row as they are on attack. Feisty libero Maisey Mulvey returns to anchor what should be a very strong passing team, while 6-2 Olivia Desormey and 5-10 Samantha Szarmach add to the firepower for coach Jennie Kull.

29. St. Francis

Last year’s record: 38-4; 2008 final ranking: 38

If outside hitters Kelsey Robinson and Meg Vonderhaar stay healthy, the Spartans will win a lot of matches in 2009 simply by hoisting the ball to the pin and letting their 6-1 smackers bang away. Senior setter Kristen Kelsay, she of the wonderful hands and SPVB 18 Elite pedigree, will be doing the hoisting this fall. Vonderhaar currently is nursing a severe ankle sprain that may slow her early in the season, which may be a blessing for coach Peg Kopec, who is nearing 1,000 career wins, because it will give the venerable coach a chance to develop some promising younger players. One such player is sophomore middle Daiva Wise, who is a nice blocker and has emerged as the surprise of training camp. Cassie Rio, Gabrielle Zito, Gina Madonia and Katie Parisi are four more Spartans who should contribute to the cause in ’09.

62. Mother McAuley

Last year’s record: 39-3; 2008 final ranking: 17

“Rebuilding” is not part of the vernacular at Mother McAuley. But the Mighty Macs have some work to do after losing Chicago Sun-Times player of the Year Desiree Aramburu, Kelly Griffin, Catherine Wildner, Sue Hayes, Allie Gardner and three others to graduation. Coach Jen DeJarld will rely on four seniors to lead the attack. Two, MB Jess Galotta and OH Jessica Falk, are three-year starters. MB Paulina Sambor and OH Ellen Carberry will start for their second year. DeJarld also expects big things from junior Mary Kate Styler. The biggest question will come at setter, where either junior Kailey Scott or sophomore lefty Ryann Arundel will get the nod.

71. Lyons Township

Last year’s record: 28-12; 2008 final ranking: 346

Lyons was a young team just starting to find itself in 2008. This year, watch the Lions roar. Eight key contributors return for coach Joann Pyritz, including sophomore setter Alexis Viliunas and OH Laura Williams, two key cogs in the Lions 15-1 team that was ranked first nationally for much of the club season. Senior middles Katie Bazzoni and Tiffany Vasquez should give Lyons an advantage at the net over most teams in Illinois, while on the right, junior Erin Juley, who also is a capable setter, has already accepted a Division I scholarship offer to Long Beach State. With Jamie Lundstrom returning to anchor the back row and Maureen Stroka, Jocelyn Birks, Megan Miller, Julia Karas and Ashley Bleck also back, look for Lyons to easily eclipse 30 wins in 2009 and make a run at the Illinois 4A title.


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