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Preps coordinator COLIN LIKAS takes a broader look at the area’s volleyball scene heading into the 2019 season:

Coach Speak

Q&A with St. Joseph-Ogden's Abby McDonald

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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette St. Joseph-Ogden's head coach Abby McDonald in a prep volleyball game at STM on Thursday, Sept. 20 2018.Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette ¿ St. Joseph-Ogden's head coach Abby McDonald in a prep volleyball game at STM on Thursday, Sept. 20 2018.

What will last year’s run to a Class 2A sectional final do for this year’s team?

McDonald: The experience of playing at that level will be beneficial for our entire program. Those athletes that were part of the varsity team last season gained experience, as well as how to better handle a match of that caliber for the future. Our entire program now has the drive to continue to make a run in the postseason.

Who are some of your athletes we should be on the lookout for?

McDonald: Our entire senior class has one of the highest volleyball IQs I have ever had the privilege of coaching. They are extremely talented and have a great work ethic and drive to be successful. We also add junior Payton Vallee and sophomore Kennedi Burnett to the roster. They both have experience at the varsity level and will add to our large senior class as offensive and defensive threats.

What are the biggest challenges facing this year’s Spartans team?

McDonald: Our biggest challenge as a program is to utilize the large number of talented athletes that we have. Our program roster has 50 extremely talented athletes. We are excited about the number of athletes that are dedicating themselves to our program and the goals they have set for themselves. Our varsity roster has a lot of experience and talent on it as well. Growing and developing over the course of the season and focusing on improving in each and every opportunity we are given is going to be our focus and challenge this season.

Top 50 players to watch

NAME YR. POS. SCHOOL

Kanay Benschneider Sr. MH Centennial

Katelyn Berry Sr. OH St. Joseph-Ogden

Emily Bigger Sr. S St. Joseph-Ogden

Emma Bleecher Soph. OH Unity

Kyleigh Block Jr. S/OH Villa Grove

Kynzee Boastick Sr. S Urbana

Elise Bossenbroek Sr. MH/RS Champaign Central

Emma Bogen Sr. M/RS Schlarman

Tori Burke Sr. MH Clinton

Madie Burwell Jr. OH/MH Villa Grove

Haley Chaney Jr. L/MH Chrisman

Mira Chopra Jr. MH Champaign Central

Emma Clapp Sr. L BHRA

Cece Damilano Sr. S/RS Schlarman

Karli Dean Sr. MH Tuscola

Katie Dean Soph. OH Tuscola

Kayin Garner Sr. S Mahomet-Seymour

Lily Glanzer Sr. OH Unity

JerraLee Goad Jr. L Sullivan

Ella Godsell Sr. DS/L/OH Unity

Aliya Holloman Sr. MB/RS Heritage

Kaylenn Hunt Jr. MH Tri-County

Shelby Johnson Jr. OH Iroquois West

Kelly Jones Sr. OH Ridgeview

Lyla Kauffman Sr. S/RS Arthur Christian School

Caroline Kerr Soph. S St. Thomas More

Leah Luchinski Jr. S Centennial

Hannah Lunger Jr. S/RS Chrisman

Ella Mann Jr. S/RS/DS Cerro Gordo/Bement

Anna McClure Soph. OH St. Thomas More

Emily Meidel Sr. MB BHRALauren Minick Sr. OH Mahomet-Seymour

Addison Oyer Soph. OH Paxton-Buckley-Loda

Carly Pence Jr. MH Cissna Park

Haley Reynolds Sr. OH DeLand-Weldon

Kalen Roy Sr. S Monticello

Raevyn Russell Sr. RS Urbana

Abbie Schmidt Sr. S Paxton-Buckley-Loda

Lexi Sherrick Sr. L Rantoul

Morgan Shreves Jr. L LeRoy

Olivia Sorensen Sr. S/DS Heritage

Taylor Stal Sr. OH Georgetown-RF

Sarah Story Sr. OH/MB BHRA

Shelby Strack Sr. OH Cerro Gordo/Bement

Madelyn Tipsword Sr. MH Argenta-Oreana

Allie Trame Sr. MB St. Thomas More

Kaylee Warren Sr. S Milford

Addison Wichus Sr. DS Monticello

Ava Yoder Soph. MB Arthur Christian School

Katelyn Young Sr. MB Oakwood

Three tournaments to watch

Timberwolf Tip-Off, Aug. 26-29 & 31, at Cissna Park High

The first big local showcase for the 2019 season is filled with recently-strong small-school programs, including the hosts, Armstrong-Potomac, Oakwood and Watseka.

Bulldog Invitational, Sept. 14, at Mahomet-Seymour High

This offers an opportunity for Bulldogs fans to see their squad in intensive action under new coach Stan Bergman, in addition to opposing athletes from St. Joseph-Ogden and beyond.

Morgan Buerkett Invitational, Oct. 19, at St. Thomas More High

Every year, the Sabers host a powerhouse meet-up that, even at their strongest, they aren’t guaranteed to win. But it still offers a fine showing of area talent.

News-Gazette

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).