Practice officially begins Monday August 8th and our official women’s volleyball preview capsules from all teams in the Herald-News coverage area won’t be released until a few weeks after that. Until then, though, here are five storylines to watch in the region this season.
A battle for supremacy in the southwestern suburbs
No matter the sport, it’s always interesting when a newcomer challenges the old guard for the top spot.
This seems to be the case in the Southwest Suburban Conference. Lockport have traditionally reigned on the roost, as they did last year going 9-0 in the conference and racking up a school-record 25-game winning streak en route to winning a third regional championship. consecutive.
The fly in the ointment for the Porters, however, was conference rival Bolingbrook. The Raiders won the first regional title in school history last year and advanced to the sectional finals before falling to fellow SWSC school Andrew.
Who did Bolingbrook beat in the semi-finals to reach the section title match? It’s true. Lock port.
Lockport coach Nick Mraz says the semi-final loss left a bad taste in his team’s mouth that will keep them going this season. Bolingbrook, meanwhile, will be looking to ride the wave of success from last year to even greater heights this year.
Still competition in the southwestern Prairies
For the past decade or more, Minooka could seemingly always be counted on to be at or near the top of the Prairie Southwest Conference standings. It was a little different last year, when the Indians finished third in the conference.
This season, the Indians will be hoping to return to their usual spot in the top two.
That attempt should be aided by setter Lily King, who is listed by ilprep as one of the 150 best players in the Class of 2023. King only started for Minooka in the last three weeks of the season last year, running a 6-2 system, and Minooka coach Carrie Prosek said the energy on the pitch changed completely once King was added to the roster. This season, King will be the lone passer as the Indians go 5-1.
Although Minooka is a fairly young team, they will be bolstered by the addition of 6-foot-1 right tackle Audrey Gil, who missed all of last season through injury.
Minooka’s main competition appears to come from Plainfield North, which reached the section final last year before falling to eventual Class 4A state champion Metea Valley.
Will JCA rebuild or reload?
One of the things that has been as certain as death and taxes is that the Joliet Catholic Academy women’s volleyball team makes a splash in the playoffs.
The Angels did it again last year, taking fourth place in the state in Class 3A.
However, JCA’s roster was loaded with seniors last year. The best returning players will be defensive specialist Lauren Cardwell and middle/right hitter Ava Neushwander, who finished fourth on the team last season with 116 kills and second with 37 blocks.
They may have lost a lot due to graduation, but one thing seems certain over the years. It is better not to count the angels.
Could Joliet West be a candidate?
Joliet West finished nearly .500 last season at 18-19, but that could be about to change.
The Tigers had a fairly successful summer, winning the summer league at UNO Volleyball Club, as well as first place in a tournament hosted by Joliet Junior College.
Tigers come back 5-10 over junior outside hitter Ava Grevengoed (237 kills, 218 digs), 5-6 junior libero Olivia Baxter (302 digs, 55 aces) and 5-10 junior midfielder Peyton Darguzis (89 kills, 50 blocks), as well as welcome 6-0 junior outside hitter Gabby Piazza.
Coach Chris Lincoln says the Tigers are “all dedicated to school, sports and each other.” They hope their summer success translates into fall victories.
What could be the surprise teams?
The aforementioned Joliet West Tigers could be one of the teams to watch. Providence Catholic can never be ruled out once the playoffs begin, as their regular season schedule prepares them well for the Class 3A playoffs. The team Providence beat to a regional title last year, Morris, could also be a factor, dropping players like Ava Smith and Hanna Lauterbach. Lemont, which won a Class 3A regional title last year, is still a team to watch, as is reigning Class 2A regional champion Coal City.