Michael Burns

The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys volleyball team is willing to put forth the effort for a more successful season. 

The Bulldogs are off to a 4-2 start, beating Morton 25-14, 29-27 in the March 23 opener and winning three of five matches at the Joliet West Invitational on March 25-26. They beat Joliet Catholic, Jones and Joliet Central all in three sets.

“Our team strengths this season will be cohesiveness and hard work,” RBHS coach Dan Bonarigo said. “Our goals are to outwork our opponents and compete above our skill level by playing tough defense and a smart conservative offensive approach.”

The Bulldogs have three returning starters from their 2021 lineup that was 7-11 overall and 3-3 in the Metro Suburban Conference. RBHS lost to Oak Lawn in three sets in the IHSA regional semifinal round last spring. 

Michael Burns, a 6-foot-2 senior captain, moves from middle hitter to opposite outside hitter. Other returnees are senior outside hitter Kenny Fedorski and 5-11 senior setter Landon Harazin. Burns and Harazin are team captains.

Even limited to half of the matches in the COVID-affected 2021 season, Burns was second on the Bulldogs with 72 kills and had a team-best 20 total blocks. This season already, Burns has 69 of the Bulldogs’ 150 kills.

Harazin had a team-high 16 service aces and was second with 76 digs and 22 assists. Fedorski was second with 167 serve receptions and third with 59 kills, 74 digs and 10 service aces. 

Harazin and Fedorski lead this season’s team in assists (73) and digs (37), respectively. Fedorski has 52 assists.

Other returning varsity letter winners are senior libero Ryan Buckley (11 digs in 2021), junior outside hitter Iggy Bielobradek (25 kills, 8 blocks) and senior middle hitter Danyll Konstantynenko (15 kills, 6 blocks). 

Key newcomers are senior Stephen Berger, junior Sebastian Ciszewski and senior Angel Herrera as middle hitters, junior outside hitter/libero Ricardo Ulloa, senior outside hitter Gabe Ventura, junior outside/opposite hitter Thomas Dixon and junior setter Nate Padilla.

After six matches, Ulloa has a team-high 12 aces and 91 serve receptions along with 32 digs and Herrera has a team-high 11 total blocks. Bielobradek is second in kills (26) with already more than 2021, followed by Fedorski (17) and Berger (11).

LTHS looks to seniors for leadership

The Lions return a solid core from last season’s lineup that finished 11-14 and 3-3 in the West Suburban Conference’s Silver Division. 

The Lions lost to Brother Rice in three sets in the IHSA sectional semifinals last year. LTHS defeated Reavis for its second consecutive regional title.

The offense is experienced with four key senior returnees — 6-foot-7 middle hitter George Taylor, 6-5 Joe Watkins and 6-1 Markas Venclovas as outside hitters and 6-3 middle/opposite hitter Sam Levinson. Venclovas received last season’s Coaches Award.

Top newcomers include 6-2 junior setter Connor Kachmarik, junior middle hitter Leo Wiemelt and 6-5 sophomore outside hitter Luka Kostic.

“We are excited to have a strong group of seniors and underclassmen to be competitive against any team,” LTHS coach Brad Skendzel said.

The Lions (1-1) beat Wheaton Warrenville South 25-13, 25-21 on March 24 and lost to rival Hinsdale Central 26-24, 25-22 on March 22.