Abundance of talent on all-area team
Updated: June 3, 2011 6:42PM
There is enough talent on the Sun-Times 2011 Boys All-Area Volleyball team, led by Player of the Year Eric Luhrsen of Wheaton Warrenville South, to make even the greediest college recruiter blush.
Among the talented players who grace the team is Marist’s Garrett Dempsey, a two-time unanimous East Suburban Catholic Conference player of the year and state champion in 2010. The UC-San Diego recruit will finish his career with more than 2,600 assists.
“Garrett has meant more to our program then any player I have ever coached,” Marist’s Bob St. Leger said. “His work ethic, leadership and skill make him one of the best setters the state has ever seen.”
Matt Logue was the “old man” for Barrington. One of only two seniors to see the court, Logue led the Lake County and Mid-Suburban West champions with 308 kills and 47 aces and was among the team leaders in blocks (38) and digs (201).
“Perhaps Matt’s biggest contribution was instilling a high expectation of performance and success in our program,” Barrington’s Rob Ridenour said. “He has really helped our younger players achieve a higher level, and that will be his legacy on this program.”
Coaches often say you cannot win if you cannot pass. Kevin McGinnis can pass, and Glenbard West is winning a lot. A three-year starter and captain, McGinnis had 404 digs, 294 service points, 20 kills, 28 aces and 55 assists during the regular season.
“His teammates trust him, he is a play-maker and a top-notch student-athlete,” Glenbard West’s Christine Giunta-Mayer said. “Kevin has always been the energy on the court, the charge on the floor that wins games and the athlete that overachieves and never gives up on anyone.”
St. Francis returned only one starter from last year’s sectional finalist, and still won more than 20 matches in 2011. That one player was Jack Mordell, who led the Spartans with 393 kills, 148 digs, 41 blocks and 584 assists.
“Jack was a leader on a team that had only him as a returning starter,” St. Francis’ Mike Lynch said. “We played a really tough schedule and were the No. 4 seed in the toughest sectional in the state. Much of that was due to Jack.”
One word best describes Vernon Hills setter Justin Opitz — winner. The Cougars are 93-17 with Opitz at the helm and won eight of 12 tournaments during his three-year tenure. This season, Opitz had 727 assists during the regular season to pass 2,000 for his career.
“His decision-making is the difference for us,” Vernon Hills’ Chris Curry said. “He just picks the right hitter/blocker match-up almost every time. He could have had even more assists, but we’ve gone to three sets only three times and we’ve let his backup set against really weak teams.”
Downers Grove North’s Greg Petty can make even the strongest team look weak. The 6-6 Lewis-bound outside hitter had a monster year leading the Trojans in every statistical category except assists with 294 kills, 51 blocks and 64 aces during the regular season.
“Greg is the total package,” Downers North’s Mark Wasik said. “We have played a great variety of talented teams, and I haven’t seen a more dominant player than Greg. He hits with power and control and has the ability to hit a variety of shots even on less-than-ideal sets.”
WW South setter Dave Priest did not just have one hitter to keep happy. He had several. Just going by the numbers — 879 assists, 37 aces, 36 solo blocks, five players with 100-plus kills — there were a lot of smiles on his side of the net.
“It is always said that anyone can set a team with as many hitters as we have, but it is harder to set a team with multiple weapons and keep them all happy and engaged in the match,” WW South’s Bill Schreier said. “David did a fabulous job.”
They should just name the Mid-Suburban League championship trophy after Buffalo Grove’s Chris Shanahan. After all, he won three of them. During the regular season, Shanahan compiled some ridiculous stats including 405 kills, 271 digs, 121 blocks and 57 aces.
“Chris is one of the most talented players I have ever coached,” Buffalo Grove’s Matt Aiello said. “He has made a concerted effort to lead his team, not just based off his talent and ability on the court, but also through his actions in practice and expectations for himself and others.”
Piling up big numbers isn’t easy on a team as talented and balanced as Sandburg. But Bill Siroky does more than just compile numbers — 363 kills, 171 blocks and 23 aces the last two seasons — he amasses admirers and garners respect from teammates and opponents.
“Bill’s passion for the game of volleyball is a characteristic that every player in our program strives for,” Sandburg’s Sean Airola said. “His knowledge and ability give him the tools to be on the most dominating middles in the state.”
Neuqua Valley got within one game of returning to the state tournament until faltering at the hands of Edwardsville. Jon Storm did all he could with 17 kills in his final match. During the regular season, the 6-4 outside compiled 287 kills, 34 aces, 73 digs and 34 blocks.
“Jon has been a solid all-around player for us for the last two years,” Neuqua Valley’s Erich Mendoza said. “When we need a kill in a critical point in the match, he has been our go-to-guy. Jon not only excelled in his attacking, but in his passing, defense and serving as well.”
Naperville North fell upon hard times after winning its first tournament of the season due to injuries and other factors. But one constant was Shane Witmer and his 357 regular-season kills. Now, the Ball State-bound senior has led the revitalized Huskies to the state tournament.
“Big-time players step up in big-time matches,” Naperville North’s Nate Bornancin said. “Shane has stepped up for us this entire season and throughout his three years on varsity. He will leave Naperville North as the all-time career leader in kills.”