Joliet Catholic was thisclose to winning its third consecutive state championship last year before falling to Breese Mater Dei 18-25, 25-18, 26-24 in the Class 3A title match.
Twelfth-year coach Chris Scheibe and the Angels could be back in the winners’ circle in 2011 with four starters back from last year’s 34-8 team.
Among the returnees are 5-foot-11 junior outside hitter and Loyola recruit Morgan Reardon, who compiled some staggering statistics as a sophomore including 278 kills, 37 blocks, 249 digs, 145 service points and 17 aces.
Also back are 5-10 senior outside hitter and Loyola recruit Kelly Feigh, who led the Angels with 315 kills, 29 blocks, 321 digs, 244 service points and 33 aces. Joining Reardon and Feigh will be 5-9 senior Lauren Robertson and 5-5 senior libero Jill Hickey.
Scheibe expects big things from two new faces – 6-foot senior middle hitter Hailey Pennington and 5-11 senior Gianna Lincoln. Pennington will try to replace Lainey Wyman, who used her 6-2 frame to amass better than 240 kills and 110 blocks.
But the big question is at setter, where three players are expected to contend to replace graduated seniors Meredith Vertin and Jordan Huston.
“I feel that we have much more experience on the floor than we had last season and the girls are much more mentally tough,” Scheibe said. “We have already made great strides over the summer to improve our defense. I am excited about the possibilities for this year.”
Shannon O’Brien, who plays club volleyball at 1st Alliance and will be a senior at Benet this fall, has committed to play Division I volleyball at Cornell University of the Ivy League.
“I knew Cornell was the perfect match for me the moment I walked on campus,” O’Brien said. “With it’s beautiful campus, diverse campus life, prestigious academics and volleyball team that could not be more of a perfect match for me, the decision to go to Cornell was simple.”
O’Brien and her Benet teammates should rank among the top 10 teams in the area in the preseason.
“Shannon is one of the most competitive players that I have coached,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “She has great energy and passion which has always rubbed off on others and made the people around her better. She is a natural leader who is very confident in herself and her abilities.
“Cornell is extremely lucky to be getting such a quality person,” he added.
Among other recent college commitments is St. Ignatius’ 5-11 setter/outside hitter Sophie Dodd, who verballed to Wake Forest beginning in fall 2013. Dodd, who plays club volleyball for 1st Alliance, was named the MVP of the 16 Open division at AAU nationals where she led her team to the title.
Also committing recently was York’s 6-foot middle Morgan Semmelhack, who will take her talents to Kent State in fall 2012. Semmelhack, a 1st Alliance product, had more than 150 kills and 80 blocks for last year’s Class 4A fourth-place finisher. Her high school teammate, Samantha Schrenker, has committed to West Point.
Batavia’s Mary Nilles, a 5-11 setter who plays club at Sports Performance, recently announced she will head to Marquette in fall 2012.