As a returning player for the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls volleyball team, senior middle hitter Addie Blomgren senses a change approaching this season.
“Being a senior is part of it, for sure. It feels like a different energy,” Blomgren said. “It feels more positive. I just feel a lot more energy for this season than last season.”
The Bulldogs hope to build upon the 2022 success they had under coach Caitlin Staib-Lipinski in her first season.
Senior setter/hitter Annabel Krueger and junior outside hitter Sofia Owens, who both earned All-Metro Suburban Conference Red Division honors, senior defensive specialist Kelley Tyler and sophomore setter Claire Cameron also return, but otherwise the roster is relatively new.
Other players are senior Emily Organ, juniors Aimee Di Battista, Elaina Harazin, Natalie Koltz, Avery O’Shaughnessy and Tatiana Sanchez, sophomore Lucy Boyle and freshman Mackenzie Sloger.
The season begins with the Plainfield North Invite on Aug. 25-26.
“It’s more of like a fresh team because seven of our seniors left. It’s almost a whole new team,” Owens said. “Definitely just winning conference [is the goal]. Last year, we just fell short by one game.”
The Bulldogs finished 13-20 in 2022, losing at Whitney Young 25-16, 25-19 in the Class 4A Young Regional semifinals.
They tied for first in the MSC Red with Bishop McNamara with 5-1 records, but the Irish were recognized as the champion by winning the head-to-head match. With all private schools leaving the MSC, this season’s conference consists of RBHS, Elmwood Park, Ridgewood and Westmont playing each other twice.
“We want to win conference and I still want to be the best serving team in the conference. Serving is the first line of attack,” Staib-Lipinski said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure we get further in the postseason.”
In her third varsity season, the 5-foot-11 Owens improved from 109 to a team-high 130 kills in 2022 and continued progressing offseason with 1st Alliance club action. Among MSC players, Owens ranked No. 5 in kills.
“The past two years I’ve always been close to being No. 1 in the conference in kills so this year I want to achieve that goal,” Owens said.
Krueger had a team-high 217 assists and Cameron 163 after joining the varsity in mid-season. That gives the Bulldogs options for a two-setter offense or using one as a hitter. Krueger collected 49 kills as a junior.
Krueger (32) and Owens (27) were among leaders in aces. Krueger also hopes to expand her leadership role after being a co-captain last season with graduated Kira Conroy.
“I definitely want to contribute to the team with assists and kills, any way that I can, and just be a well-rounded player,” Krueger said.
The 6-1 Blomgren (54) and Owens (50) finished 1-2 in total blocks. After off-season work with 1st Alliance, Blomgren looks to well surpass last season’s 46 kills.
Tyler (117 digs) and Krueger (112) are the top defensive returnees. The Bulldogs graduated their top three dig leaders, including Conroy, who had a single-season school record 386.
“I’m just going to do my best and put everything I have onto the floor and hopefully that’s enough for my team,” Tyler said.
Organ, a three-sport athlete who will play softball at Bradley, rejoins the program after a one-season absence. The large junior class mostly formed last season’s junior varsity.
Sanchez and Di Battista should contribute in the back row. The 5-10 Sloger is showing promise as an outside hitter. Her parents played collegiately.
“I do consider us a young team, even though we do have more upperclassmen,” Staib-Lipinski said. “I’m really hoping our senior class with Emily steps up, positive leadership, really shows [the varsity newcomers] this is how we do Bulldog varsity.”