Although the Riverside-Brookfield and Lyons Township high school girls volleyball teams have already dealt with obstacles like inexperience and injuries before this season even started, both squads are confident and eager to take on the rigors of the regular season.
Bulldogs’ mix of players bodes well for season
The Bulldogs finished 9-3 in the Metro Suburban Conference last season. Senior outside hitter Monica Kasper and senior middle hitter Amanda Lelivelt return to lead a skilled but relatively inexperienced team this fall.
“We have a good mixture of girls this year,” Kasper said. “We just have to be vocal and help lead the girls and encourage them. We need to tell them what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong.”
The Bulldogs lost their season opener against Nazareth, but look to bounce back and utilize their young talent.
“We’re going to be a good team defensively,” Lelivelt said. “We’re young but I think we’re going to pull it out and become stronger as the season goes along.”
Sophomores Olivia Gyssler, Nicolle Labelle, and Selene Anaya join the varsity this season in their quest for a conference title. Kasper knows how important it is to be a leader for the newcomers as they look to make an immediate impact.
“I want to be someone that the girls can look up to as a captain,” Kasper said. “I also want to better the program by encouraging them to be here all the time and do their best, and work hard to reach their goals.”
Despite key injuries, Lions remain confident
Lyons Township girls volleyball head coach Joann Pyritz is looking for her squad to bounce back from a disappointing 2012 regional playoff loss to Fenwick. It won’t be an easy task for the normally loaded Lions due to several key injuries. Junior setter Hannah Juley will miss a significant amount of time with a foot injury and junior middle hitter Catherine King is out for the season after tearing her ACL over the summer.
“We have a lot of players that have to play a lot of different positions,” Pyritz said. “Without our two significant starters, everybody has to step up and take the role. We don’t know who our set starters and subs are going to be, but it helps motivate our players to be at their best so they can earn a spot.”
Juniors Ariah Palter and Cori Hansen are among the top returners for the Lions, and the anticipated impact of sophomores Madison Babich, Marina Gonzalez, and Shalyn Brady should also help lessen the considerable loss of Juley and King. Junior outside hitter Celine Jones also joins the varsity this year, a transfer student from Nazareth who should make an impact once she becomes eligible to play.
Pyritz believes the key to competing in the tough West Suburban (Silver) Conference will be each player stepping up and learning her role on the team.
“Everybody is going to have to be able to perform in different roles,” she said. “To replace [Juley and King] is no small task, so we’re going to have to have a great deal of consistency about us. We play a tough schedule in a tough conference, so we have to be on our game and be our best and most consistent by the time the season comes to a close.”