The Illinois high school volleyball season is already under way. Here is a capsule look at area teams in the Northwest Upstate Illini Conference:
Coach — Ashley Sites (2nd year)
2018 record — 16-10-2
Key returners — Brooksey Hudspeth (sr., OH), Paige Middendorf (sr., MH), Hannah Colin (sr., OPP)
Promising newcomers — Sharon Mai (jr., MH), Kate Sullivan (jr., OPP/S), Anna Berryman (soph., MH/OH)
Outlook — The Warriors experienced an incredible turnaround in Ashley Sites’ first season as coach, doubling their win total and competing in most matches. There’s enough experience at the top of the lineup to suggest that East Dubuque continue its upward trend. Paige Middendorf has all the makings of a quality middle and has been shutting down top hitters in the conference throughout her high school volleyball career.
Coach — Dennis Wills (19th year)
2018 record — 36-6
Key returners — Sami Wasmund (sr., MH), Mackenzie Muehleip (sr., MH), Makenna Curran (sr., OH), Gracie Wubben (sr., S)
Promising newcomers — Lizzy Eaton (sr., DS), Maddie Miller (sr., OH), Grace Wilhelm (jr., DS), Maggie Furlong (soph., OH), Abby Soppe (jr., S)
Outlook — Coming off the best season in Pirates history, which ended with a run all the way to the Illinois Class 2A state semifinals, Galena looks to be a force to be reckoned with on paper. The Pirates have one of the best middle tandems in the Tri-States with Sami Wasmund and Mackenzie Muehleip patrolling the net as two-way offensive and defensive weapons. During Galena’s latest reign, coach Dennis Wills has replenished voids created by graduation with well-coached young talent, and there’s no reason to think this year will be any different.
Coach — Corey Albrecht
2018 record — 10-18-1
Key returners — Kate Walters (sr., L), Sarah Pratt (jr., OH), Emma Kloss (jr., OH), Julia Finazzo (jr., MH), Livia Haas (jr., S), Abby Richmond (sr., MH), Madison Stulc (sr., S), Destiny Schwartz (sr., MH)
Outlook — Several of the Wildcats’ top players from a season ago are gone. Julia Finazzo looks to carry the torch as River Ridge’s go-to offensive threat, and she has the athleticism to do it.
Coach — Nicole Busch (6th year)
2018 record — 8-29
Key returners — Claire Wienen (sr., OH), Jenna Korte (sr., MH), Jamie Frey (sr., DS), Taylor Korte (jr., S)
Promising newcomers — Ari Nottrott (jr., OH), Georgia Vandigo (jr., OH), Maddie Pingel (jr., DS), Malenie Knuth (jr., MH), Josie Korte (soph., MH)
Outlook — Claire Wienen and Jenna Korte lead a Hornets group that looks to make strides in what coach Nicole Busch called the toughest conference in northwest Illinois.
Coach — Alli McCallips (1st year)
2018 record — 25-12-1
Key returners — Katie Wright (sr., OH), Elizabeth Eisfeller (sr., OH), Kenze Haas (soph., MH/S)
Promising newcomers — Brynn Haas (soph., OPP/MH)
Outlook — The younger sister of 2018 American Rivers Conference Player of the Year Kara Wright (an outside at the University of Dubuque), Katie Wright looks to tear things up her senior season the way her older sibling did.
Coach — Sadie McGowan
2018 record — 3-10
Key returners — Brianna Anderson (sr.), Allison Heller (sr.)
Promising newcomers — Liv Thruman (fr.), Elaina Martin (fr.)
Outlook — A steady mix of youth and experience make up this Warriors roster. Coach Sadie McGowan will be looking for that combination to gel.