GLEN ELLYN – With injuries a factor during qualifying, the Hitmen Volleyball Club (HVC) 15 Black team went into the recent Boys Junior National Championship tournament in Houston seeded No. 32 out of 35 teams.
But once there, the 12-player squad made quite a name for themselves, finishing as the top team in Illinois and 10th overall. Playing a total of 13 matches, the Hitmen defeated teams from Wisconsin, California, New York, Pennsylvania and Hawaii.
"The boys worked hard and they got players back healthy," Hitmen Volleyball Club owner and director Mike Liedtke said. "They moved up every single day even though they had the toughest road out of anybody. They played top teams every single day."
Team members Sean Farmer, Ethan Marchetti, Grant Tecson, Kevin Tarczon, Anthony Schlesser, Cam Lilly, Robbie Murphy and Johnny Winkler all will be sophomores at Glenbard West High School in the fall. Adam Branch (Downers Grove South), Tommy LaMantia (St. Francis), Nick Schellinger (Lake Park) and Brian Knoll (incoming freshman at Wheaton Warrenville South) round out the roster. The team is coached by Christina Schock and is based out of Ackerman Park in Glen Ellyn.
The 15-black squad is one of 12 boys teams the HVC has. Liedtke, a Downers Grove native who played four years of volleyball at Downers Grove North, started the club three years ago and has watched it grow from four teams and under 50 players to close to 130 athletes this year (counting both the junior high and high school teams).
"I was working for a different club," Liedtke said. "I had always wanted to start my own club and I said, now is the time to do it. It's done great so far."
Along with Glen Ellyn, Wheaton and Downers Grove, the Hitmen also have players from Addison, Carol Stream, Elmhurst, Glendale Heights, Lisle, Lombard, Oak Brook, Villa Park and Westmont playing within the program.
In fact, from the top four teams at the IHSA state finals this spring – Lincoln-Way East, Warren, Glenbard West and Lake Park – 17 of the players have been a part of the Hitmen program, according to Liedtke.
"One of the biggest things we try to do is build up the rapport and comfort level between the players and coaches," Liedtke said. "If you know the players on a personal level and show that you care for them, they will want to work hard for you. We want them to try to reach their full potential.
The Hitmen are also starting up a girls program in the fall. They currently hold a lot of practices at the Ackerman Sports & Fitness Center in Glen Ellyn but are looking at possible expansion in the area.
About Hitmen Volleyball Club
Year founded: 2011
Number of teams: 8