Senior Maggie Kachmarik and her Lyons Township High School girls volleyball teammates tried something new this preseason.
The Lions collectively enjoyed a fun and productive time along with some conditioning on Aug. 11 at North Avenue Beach in Chicago.
“We got some volleyball ‘sisters’ within the program,” Kachmarik said. “We kind of got to know everybody so that was really good for the chemistry, too.”
The Lions graduated some familiar faces, but another solid core should help them continue riding the wave of success.
Five senior starters return, including two 2022 All-West Suburban Conference Silver Division selections – libero Kiley Mahoney and fourth-year starting setter Abby Markworth, already committed to George Washington University.
The season opener is Aug. 15, after the Landmark’s print deadline, at South Campus against Lockport. With the North Campus fieldhouse under construction, home matches currently are at South Campus or the North Campus’ Vaughan wrestling gym.
“We have a really good returning group and also with the juniors. We also have a freshman, which is really exciting, people that are willing to step up and fill those spots,” Markworth said. “We’re excited to go out and see how we’re able to compete.”
Grace Turner, Anabelle Montgomery and Kachmarik also were part of the starting rotation. Seniors Lydia Busker, Alita Folkening, Cat Niego, Sienna Olson, Abby Saunders and Laine Violante also are varsity returnees. Newcomers are senior Ava Buckendahl, juniors Kate Badrov, Reagan Farnan, Livia Metrik, Molly Ogden, Madeline Richard and Nina Wasz, and freshman Taylor Carroll.
“We’re very, very excited about this season,” LTHS coach Jill Bober said. “We still have those basic foundational people and we’re excited about those athletes to fill those gaps [from graduations].”
The 2022 Lions finished 30-8 and captured their second straight IHSA Class 4A regional before losing 21-25, 25-23, 25-12 to Marist in the LT Sectional semifinals. They hoped to defend their WSC Silver title, but lost the winner-take-all conference championship finale to Glenbard West at home on Senior Night.
“[Winning conference] is a program goal every single year but I’d say it’s a very reachable goal this year as well,” Bober said.
The 6-foot Markworth will be integral to a more balanced attack after LTHS graduated predominant hitters Kamryn Lee-Caracci (402 kills in 2022) and Grace Brennan (217).
Markworth has 1,750 career assists. She had 814 in 2022 with 78 kills, 188 digs and 49 total blocks.
“It’s going to be a lot different having a more diverse offense but also Grace is a big powerhouse in the middle, and I see myself working on the back-row attack early on,” Markworth said. “We have a really good defense again, which I’m super excited about, so I’m hoping we’ll be able to feed it to the middle a lot more.”
Mahoney (team-best 348 digs) and Kachmarik (212) anchored last year’s back row. Mahoney added a team-best 42 aces with Kachmarik (34) and Markworth (29) close behind. Violante and Farnan will be among other defensive contributors.
“Everyone’s gritty and fighting to the ball, which I think is one of the most important aspect of defense. And everybody’s loud, which I also think is important,” Mahoney said.
The 6-2 Turner should have a breakout season after collecting 161 kills with team bests of a .310 attack percentage and 79 total blocks with 15 solos. Other offensive contributors should include middle Folkening and Montgomery (76 kills, 33 total blocks), Olson and the 6-1 Carroll on the outside.
Carroll is the younger sister of 2023 LTHS graduate Connor Carroll from the state runner-up boys volleyball team in June.
“I’ve been working on [offense] throughout the club season and over the summer. Hopefully I’ll be more of a presence,” Turner said. “It’ll definitely be a season of growth, a season of developing and figuring out what our team will look like for the rest of the season. But we’re definitely excited about the prospects,” Bober said.