The Riverside-Brookfield High School girls volleyball team finished with a 5-6 record, including a 4-1 mark good enough for second in the Metro Suburban Conference Red Division, during the spring.

This fall as the regular schedule returns, the Bulldogs hope to finish at the top of their division and improve on their overall record, said Mary Pakosta, entering her third season as the Bulldogs’ head coach.

“The girls are excited to be back,” she said. “It’s a bummer that they still have to wear masks, but they’re doing fine with them and not complaining.”

RBHS has three key returning players to serve as the foundation for this season, including senior outside hitter Colette Barnes, who had 46 kills and a .202 hitting percentage in the spring; junior middle hitter Reagan Mulcrone (33 kills, .237 hitting percentage); and senior setter Emeli Romo (team-high 147 assists).

Moreover, Pakosta is looking for junior outside hitter Sophia Cozzone to make an impact this fall.

“We will look for Sophia to contribute both offensively and defensively this season,” she said. “She learned a lot and made big improvements starting as a sophomore last season.”

Other Bulldogs to keep an eye on are junior outside hitter Elise Verdin and freshman middle hitter Sofia Owens.

The Bulldogs will compete in four invitationals this fall, along with facing quality non-conference opponents such as Hinsdale Central, Oak Park-River Forest, Rosary, Wheaton-St. Francis, and Willowbrook. Pakosta believes such a rigorous schedule will have RBHS ready for the postseason.

“We face some of the top teams in the state, which can be hard at the beginning of the season,” Pakosta said. “But it definitely gives us the experience.”

LTHS looks for conference crown

Last spring, the Lyons Township High School girls volleyball team finished atop the West Suburban Conference Silver Division with a 10-2 record. And with a good amount of experience returning, coach Jill Keeve is optimistic about her team’s outlook this fall.

“They’re so ready,” said Keeve. “With what they’ve been through for the last year and a half, they’re beyond excited to get on the court. We have our sights set high this season, and the girls are ready to work.”

LTHS returns four starters, including junior middle blocker Kamryn Lee-Caracci; senior middle blocker Tia Kostic; senior outside hitter Adriana Vassek; and sophomore setter Abby Markworth. 

The Lions are also expecting to get contributions from sophomore defensive specialist Kiley Mahoney, senior outside hitter Alana Palter, and junior outside hitter Grace Brennan.

LTHS opens the season Aug. 27 by hosting a tri-match with Fenwick and New Trier and will also compete in several invitationals this season, including those at Maine West, Mother McAuley and Rich Township. On top of that, there’s the West Suburban Conference Silver Division that always presents a difficult challenge. 

“It’s rough being in a conference such as the West Suburban Silver. But it helps you prepare for postseason play,” Keeve said. “Conference play will be fun this year.”

While a primary goal is to win the conference, which the Lions have done the last two seasons, the regular-season success hasn’t carried over to the state tournament, and that’s something Keeve wants to change. 

“We want to go on a strong playoff run,” she said. “In the past, we’ve had good athletes, but we haven’t been able to [go deep in the postseason]. We’re hoping to play into the early part of November, and the girls are on board for it.”