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Volleyball playoff previews: Tough draws for Naz, Morton

RB, LT looking for regional upsets

Published: Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 11:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:51 a.m. CDT
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(Bill Ackerman - backerman@shawmedia.com)
Nazareth's Emma Decker hits an attacking swing in a match against Marian Catholic on Thursday. Decker and the Roadrunners start postseason play Tuesday.
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(Matthew Piechalak - mpiechalak@shawmedia.com)
Lyons Township senior Alex Hojnar serves during a match at Willowbrook on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013.
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(Sarah Minor - sminor@shawmedia.com)
Olivia Gyssler of Riverside Brookfield serves the ball Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 during their match against Timothy Christian.

The volleyball postseason begins on Monday for all classes. Nazareth may have the best team in the area, but also has the toughest draw. Elsewhere, Riverside Brookfield and Lyons Township are hoping to pull off upsets to win a regional. Other area teams begin play next week with the hopes of starting a long postseason run to Redbird Arena in Normal, home to the state finals for all classes.

Lyons Township

Regional: St. Ignatius

Sectional: Morton

First match: 7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 29, vs. No. 11 Downers Grove South or No. 21 Simeon

Outlook: Hampered by injuries to four main contributors, the Lions have had an up and down regular season. Coach Joann Pyritz is hopeful that the returns of Hannah Juley and Jessi Skonning will boost the team’s playoff chances.

Both players returned over the weekend during the Maine West Pumpkin Tournament. The Lions were seeded eighth in the 24-team tournament and placed sixth.

Juley, a junior setter committed to Wisconsin, injured her foot during the first week of practice and made her season debut over the weekend. Skonning, a junior outside hitter, suffered a concussion during the season.

“We’ve had a little bit of a slow start this year, but we’ve had four injured players,” Pyritz said. “Everybody had to mix it around and play some different positions.”

Senior Alex Hojnar has stepped up as the team’s top offensive threat with all the injuries.

“Hojnar has done a nice job as a senior leader, in particular on the floor,” Pyritz said.

The revitalized Lions earned the No. 5 seed in the sectional and could see No. 4 St. Ignatius in a regional final.

Riverside Brookfield

Regional: Proviso West

Sectional: Morton

First match: 7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 29, vs. No. 7 Whitney Young

Outlook: Riverside Brookfield has some impressive wins this season, but has struggled to play that well on a consistent basis.

RB has two tournament titles on its resume, but finished 16th out of 24 teams at the Maine West Pumpkin Tournament over the weekend against a strong field.

The Bulldogs handed Metro Suburban Conference leader Timothy Christian its only conference loss, but entered Tuesday’s MSC finale against Ridgewood with a 6-5 league record. The up and down play earned the Bulldogs the No. 10 seed in the Class 4A Morton sectional. If they can get past No. 7 Whitney Young in a regional semifinal, No. 2 Downers Grove North would likely await in the final.

Seniors Amanda Lelivelt and Monica Kasper have led the attack and will be keys to RB’s playoff success.

Fenwick

Regional: St. Ignatius

Sectional: Morton

First match: 6 p.m. Mon., Oct. 28, vs. No. 20 Curie

Outlook: The Friars have struggled in the incredibly tough East Suburban Catholic Conference this fall. Fenwick entered Tuesday’s conference finale at Bishop McNamara with an 0-7 record in the ESCC.

The No. 13 seed Friars will play a regional quarterfinal against Curie on Monday. If Fenwick can extend its season with a win, No. 4 seed and regional host St. Ignatius would await in a regional semifinal the next day.

Senior middle hitter Samantha Pethokoukis, a Western Springs resident, is committed to Siena and will lead the Friars’ in the playoffs.

Morton

Regional: Hinsdale South

Sectional: Morton

First match: 7 p.m. Mon., Oct. 28, vs. No. 16 Jones

Outlook: The Mustangs entered Tuesday’s conference finale against Proviso East with an 0-5 record in the West Suburban Gold and could have a tough time stringing together wins in the playoffs.

If No. 17 seed Morton gets past No. 16 Jones from the Chicago Public League in the Class 4A regional quarterfinal, the Mustangs will then take on Glenbard South. The Raiders are the top seed in the sectional.

Morton last won a regional in 2004.

Nazareth

Regional: Timothy Christian

Sectional: Coal City

First match: 7 p.m. Tues., Oct. 29, vs. No. 3 Montini or No. 6 St. Joseph

Outlook: The Roadrunners have had a memorable regular season. They have already surpassed the 20-win mark and are in the top half of the ultra-competitive East Suburban Catholic Conference.

Despite that, Naz’s path in the playoffs is about as hard as it gets. The Roadrunners were drawn into arguably the toughest regional in the state. Naz was assigned to the Class 3A Coal City sectional and instead of seeding the entire sectional, the IHSA separated each regional for geographical reasons.

As a result, five 20-win teams are all in the Timothy Christian regional. Heading up the group is defending Class 3A champ St. Francis. Naz comes in as the No. 2 seed. No. 3 Montini already has over 25 wins and Wheaton Academy and Timothy Christian also have over 20 wins on the season.

Youngstown State commit Samantha Brown leads the team in kills and junior Julia Saunders has also been a dangerous weapon for the Roadrunners. Both will be counted on as Naz tries to get to the sectional.

St. Joseph

Regional: Timothy Christian

Sectional: Coal City

First match: 7 p.m. Mon., Oct. 28, vs. No. 3 Montini

Outlook: Like Nazareth, the Chargers are in the brutally tough Timothy Christian regional.

It’s not often a team with more than 25 wins in the regular season has to play a regional quarterfinal, but that’s the resume of St. Joseph’s opponent, Montini. St. Joseph holds the No. 6 seed in the six-team regional. The winner takes on No. 2 Nazareth, another talented team with more than 20 wins.

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