With the boys volleyball season set to begin, Hinsdale Central will do so with a lower level coach guiding a new-look team. Hinsdale South returns several starters from a team that struggled last year, but is looking to reverse that trend.
Nickname: Red Devils
Coach: Alan McCloud
Top returners: Danny Flynn sr. OH David Whinery sr. OH Steven Yarbrough sr. OH
Promising newcomers: Grant Kelly jr. MH Kurt McConnell so. MH Kian Peterson so. S Devin Steuck jr. S
What to watch: There's a new look on the bench as lower-level coach Alan McCloud steps in on an interim basis for Kelly Watson, who is out on maternity leave. The new look on the bench mirrors a new look on the floor.
"We have just a few seniors that were on the team last year and this year's team is more juniors and sophomores, so it's going to be a pretty new team," McCloud said.
Senior outside hitters Danny Flynn and David Whinery bring back the most experience for the Red Devils. Classmates John Hardek, Sean O'Neill and Steven Yarbrough were with the varsity team last year but did not see as much playing time as Flynn and Whinery. Senior Rigas Pappas is back playing volleyball after sitting out the last two years.
"We're looking for Danny and David to step up and be leaders on and off the floor because of their experience," McCloud said.
Devin Steuck and Kian Peterson will handle the setting duties according to McCloud, and the Red Devils might use one or the other, or both.
"They're looking pretty good so far," the coach said. "It's such a crucial position and because neither one has set at the varsity level before, it's kind of a trial by fire. They've set at the lower levels, but now they're going to be asked to run more complex stuff."
Elsewhere, new faces will move into new places. Hardek set a little bit last year but could slide over as a right side hitter. Grant Kelly and Kurt McConnell are 6-foot-4 middle hitters, though roles could change for any player as the season unfolds.
"Because so many people are new to the varsity level and guys don't necessarily have that experience, things are pretty open right now," McCloud said. "We're not sure right now if we're going to have a rotation of six or seven guys or nine or 10 guys, but we know it's going to take a team effort for us to be successful. Not many positions are set, so we're looking for the guys to push each other."
Coach: Billson Rasavongxay
2012 record: 7-28
Top returners: Shaun Dulleck jr. OH Robbie Mead sr. OH Sean Miller sr. MH Dylan Sarocco jr. S
Promising newcomers: Jake Dorrance jr. MH Austin Mantey so. MH
What to watch: The Hornets took their lumps last year. Part of it was playing a tough schedule, and part of it was playing a young squad with two sophomore starters and two junior starters. The 2012 season wasn't much fun because of it, but 2013 is shaping up to be much better.
"Dylan (Sarocco), Shaun (Dulleck) and Sean (Miller) were varsity starters last year, and Robbie Mead has been a varsity starter for three years," coach Billson Rasavongxay said. "So we're returning four varsity starters. Last year was tough because we had such a young team in terms of varsity experience."
Rasavongxay said that Mead will be a major component to what the Hornets do. He also said he knows other teams know that Mead is South's go-to player, but opponents who key too much on taking Mead out of the match will be taking a risk.
"We're going to move him around as much as possible, and he's still good enough to affect the game," the coach said.
Teams paying too much attention to Mead will encounter Dulleck and Miller, as well as middles Jake Dorrance and Austin Mantey, ready to swing away. And there should be plenty of balls to go around with Sarocco setting in a 6-2 attack that will have two setters on the floor at the same time.
"Our offensive system is flexible and I think we're going to be able to exploit some of our other strengths on offense," Rasavongxay said.
South will start the season against defending West Suburban Silver champ Glenbard West. The Hornets will also compete in tournaments at Glenbard East, Wheaton Warrenville South and Richards, all steps toward achieving one of Rasavongxay's primary goals.
"My ultimate goal is to compete for conference and get a regional title," he said. "I know Downers Grove South is stacked in conference, and we're usually in one of the toughest sectionals in the state, but I think those are realistic goals for us."