All-area girls volleyball teamThe Sun-Times All-Area girls volleyball team. L-r bottom row are: Katie Gallagher, Caroline Rose, Katie Urchell, Meghan Niski, Julia Conard, and Abby Gilleland. and L-r top row are: Meghan Haggerty, Ally Davis, Alexis Viliunas, Amelia Anderson, Lauren Carlini, and Jenna Jendryk. Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times
Updated: November 9, 2011 6:17PM
Led by University of Illinois recruit and 2010 state champion Alexis Viliunas of Lyons, the 2011 Sun-Times All-Area girls volleyball team reflects the hotbed of college recruiting that is the Chicago area.
Amelia Anderson has left an indelible mark on the Crystal Lake Central volleyball program, helping the Tigers finish fourth in Class 3A in 2009 and rank among the best programs in the state each of the last two years. This year, the Indiana-bound outside hitter racked up 297 regular-season kills to set a new career record with more than 1,100. She matched her career high with 20 kills in a three-set loss to Marian Central on October 15.
“Amelia has been a very influential player in our program, not only as a leader on the court through her play but off the court as well,” coach Lisa Reddish said. “Amelia will be greatly missed here at Crystal Lake Central, and we wish her the best of luck at Indiana University next season.”
Was there anything Lauren Carlini did not do for West Aurora this fall? Not only did the Wisconsin recruit and Benet and Autumnfest all-tournament selection amass 198 kills, 39 aces, 273 assists, 41 blocks and 156 digs during the regular-season, she led the Blackhawks to their first conference title since 1994 and first-ever DuPage Valley Conference crown.
“Lauren sets an example with her intensity, motivation and skill for all her teammates,” coach Kari Nicholson said. “That said, Lauren is an excellent teammate. She is the first one to encourage and suggest helpful strategies to her teammates. She is also the first one to throw her hands up in the air to celebrate her teammates’ achievements.”
It’s hard to believe that a few short years ago, West Chicago endured an entire season without a win. Then Julia Conard came along. The future Illinois libero led the Wildcats to back-to-back regional titles and a DuPage Valley Conference title as a junior in 2010 while collecting 315 kills, 230 digs, 45 aces and 26 blocks this fall.
“Julia is a smart player and has great court sense,” coach Kristi Hasty said. “We run an offense with all hitters engaged, but when we need to have the ball put away, we go to Julia. In addition to her hitting, Julia passes well, plays great defense and has a powerful serve. She has definitely been the nucleus of our team the last four years. She brings a confidence on the court that is contagious.”
Ally Davis has set the bar for future generations of Hinsdale Central volleyball players with her record-setting performances – she owns the single season and career records for kills and blocks – and her maturity and leadership. Despite missing seven matches with an ankle injury this fall, she still compiled 307 kills, 179 digs, 30 aces and 22 blocks during the regular season.
“There’s so much to say about Ally and what she has meant to this team and this program,” coach Sheralynn Kellough said. “She has grown tremendously over the four years that she’s been a Red Devil, and has impacted this program in ways she probably doesn’t even realize. Her dedication to her teammates and coaches and her passion for the game will be greatly missed.”
Iowa State-bound Katie Gallagher moved seamlessly from sharing setting responsibilities during York’s run to a fourth-place finish in 2010 to serving as the team’s only setter as they climbed to the top of the Sun-Times rankings in 2011. The 5-foot-10 senior finished the regular season with 32 aces, 48 kills, 49 blocks, 182 digs and 611 assists.
“The chemistry between Katie and our setters made our offense very diversified and enabled us to attack from all positions,” coach Patty Iverson said. “Katie has beautiful hands and is able to deliver a good set from most passes she receives. She is also a quick defensive player, has a tough and consistent serve, and blocks well, making her a very valuable asset for our team.”
Marian Central setter Abby Gilleland is a two-time Sun-Times all-area first-team selection, earning all-area honors as a junior while directing the Hurricanes to third-place finish in Class 3A. Gilleland’s 668 assists during this regular season gave her 2,144 for her career and had her within a few dozen of cracking the IHSA all-time top 20. She also had 147 kills, 142 digs 60 blocks and 32 aces this fall.
“Abby has been the heart and soul of this team for the past three years and has set an amazing example for future setters who come to Marian Central,” coach Laura Watling said. “She has shattered the school’s career assist record and is only 70 assists shy of cracking the IHSA top 20 all-time career assist leaders. With Abby as your leader on the court, anything is possible.”
Ranked as the 14th-best senior in the nation by Prepvolleyball.com, the 6-3 Wisconsin-bound Meghan Haggerty was named to all-tournament teams at Benet, Wheaton, Mizuno and Autumnfest. She was the MVP at the latter two. Haggerty led the Redwings in blocking (65), hitting percentage (.440) and kill percentage (.58) and was second in kills (193) and aces (21).
“Meghan has worked extremely hard to become one of the best high school middles in the nation,” coach Brad Baker said. “She is constantly striving to improve all aspects of her game. She is an unstoppable offensive player who can also change matches with her size and blocking. Meghan also leads our team with her intense attitude and her willingness to always do things the right way.”
Where Haggerty did not reign, Jenna Jendryk did. The Virginia Tech recruit was named all-tournament four times this fall, and was the MVP at the Benet invite and Wheaton Classic. Rated as the 93rd best senior in the nation by Prepvolleyball.com, Jendryk led Benet in kills (231) and was second in blocks (62) during the regular season while hitting at a .390 clip.
“Jenna is an extremely athletic player who has a superfast arm swing,” Baker said. “Jenna not only hits the ball hard, but has worked hard to develop the ability to hit a multitude of shots. She has also worked to make herself one of the best blockers in the state. As far as point scorers, Jenna is one of the best in the state and in my opinion is the best right-side attacker in Illinois.”
Meghan Niski has enjoyed a phenomenal career at St. Charles East, contributing to the Saints incredible upset of Benet in the Class 4A finals in 2008 and helping the Saints remain among the state’s elite programs each of her ensuing years on varsity. This fall, the 5-11 senior outside hitter compiled 308 kills, 30 aces, 149 digs, 19 solo blocks and 17 block assists.
“Meghan has had an amazing career in high school,” coach Jennie Kull said. “She is one of the hardest working kids that I have had the opportunity to work with. Not only is she an incredible person on the court, but equally amazing off the court. She is a true leader who is driven to be the best. I am so lucky to have had four years with her on varsity. She will be missed greatly.”
As tough and hard-nosed a player as you are likely to find anywhere, York’s Caroline Rose ranked as one of the state’s top offensive threats despite her somewhat undersized stature. The Western Michigan recruit had a season-high 20 kills in a loss to Benet in the finals of the Benet Invitational and finished the regular season with 29 aces, 247 kills, 33 blocks and 253 digs.
“Caroline’s ability to read the defense and see the block makes her a very effective hitter,” coach Patty Iverson said. “Caroline is also one of our most adept ball handlers in both serve reception and defense. She is quick in moving to the ball and loves to get to the tough shots. Her ability to work with the players around her makes her the consummate team player.”
Katie Urchell does not have overwhelming statistics. At 5-8, she does not physically intimidate foes. All Urchell does is help her team win. This fall, her 268 digs, 146 kills, 35 aces, 258 service points and 305 serve receptions helped lead Providence to a title share of arguably the toughest conference in the state -- the East Suburban Catholic Conference – which produced six regional championship teams.
“I cannot say enough about Katie Urchell,” coach Rachel Ellingson said. “Katie has been a staple in the program for four years. She is a fourth-year varsity starter who continued to improve year after year. On the court, her calm, cool demeanor made her one of the most consistent players we have ever had. Off the court, she is a great student and leader in the Providence community. She will be greatly missed.”