Glenbard West seeks state title run behind Paulie Bischoff

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Paulie Bischoff finally broke one link to the past.

“I just gave my younger brother Noah all my lacrosse stuff,” he said. “I was huge into lacrosse growing up. Now Noah plays lacrosse. I actually just gave him my stick a few days ago. It was difficult.”

Breaking ties with the past isn’t easy. Just ask Bischoff and his Glenbard West volleyball teammates, who remember their 16-25, 25-22, 25-21 loss to Warren in the state semifinals a year ago. Not a day goes by that match doesn’t enter the conversation at practice, in the hallways or after school.

“It still hurts, especially for me and the returning state players,” Bischoff said. “We really just remember that last set. But most of us have gotten over it and are looking forward to this season, because that’s pretty much what we have to do to keep a positive mindset.”

Glenbard West enters the 2015 season ranked No. 1 in the Chicago Sun-Times preseason rankings, and a lot of the hype around the team is due to the presence of Bischoff. The 6-4 junior is being courted by nearly every major program in the country.

“He’s the best setter in the state, if not in the nation,” Glenbard West coach Christine Giunta-Mayer said. “He’s won national tournaments during the offseason and gives 110 percent. He’s a role model for our program. He’s a mentor, a leader off the court and a phenomenal floor leader.

“He is an amazing person. He’s very modest, but his teammates trust him and he makes great decisions.”

Bischoff and junior teammate Kyler Kotsakis are bound by more than trust,

“When I was in seventh grade, it was between lacrosse and volleyball,” Bischoff said. “All my friends played lacrosse. When it came time for tryouts, I decided that if Kyler was going to play volleyball, then I was going to play. If Kyler didn’t play volleyball, I don’t know where I’d be today.”

The chemistry between Bischoff and Kotsakis, a 6-5 junior, led to more than 300 kills last year. Developing chemistry with the Hilltoppers’ other 6-5 weapon, Ball State-bound Parker Swartz, ran into a few obstacles.

Swartz missed most of last season with an injury and did not return until Glenbard West made its state tournament run.

“It’s weird,” Bischoff said. “Parker and I just know how each of us work. We can read each other on the court. It was difficult at the beginning because of his injury. But I set him on the other side of the net in club and now we just know how each other works.”

Meanwhile, Bischoff and all his Glenbard West teammates are dealing with the expectations that come from their third-place showing last year.

“There’s pressure to do well, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done,” Bischoff said. “Yeah, we have players from all different clubs and all different positions and they’re all really good, but it’s still about finding that team feeling of competitiveness and winning and energy on the court.

“We still have holes to fill and still have a lot of errors on the court to fix. We still have a lot of stuff to do before we hit that path and go for the state run. But we definitely have expectations for our team … really high ones.”

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