(Last year's record in parentheses)
Players to watch: Amari Griffin, Sr. MH; Heather Buchmeier, Jr. OH; Rachel Lee, Sr. Libero; Savannah Soppett, Jr. MH.
Outlook: The Bobcats graduated seven seniors, who will be replaced by a strong junior class. Coach Jessica Linn believes frontline players should be more consistent than last year. Griffin, who had more than 100 blocks last year, anchors the defense.
Quote: "I've got a feeling we could win conference this year, and I think we'll be more competitive in the AA playoffs this year, too." !~ Linn
BLOOM TWP. (20-12)
Players to watch: Amber Fryer, Sr., OH, Akelah Muhammad, Richelle Schoon, Sr. Setter, Bria Gaines, Jr. MH.
Outlook: The Blazing Trojans hope to capture their sixth straight conference title behind the power of Fryer, who led the area in kills in 2010. The team will rely on experience as it tries to fend off improving Kankakee and Crete-Monee squads.
Quote: "It's just an easier season when you don't have to go into a season wondering where to put people, flipping them around and putting them at new positions. This year, everybody will play where they did last year."-- coach Jason Norberg
Players to watch: Ashley Sczmerik, Sr. Libero; Maya Topps, Sr. OH; Britany Frey, Sr. OH.
Outlook: The Warriors lost one starter from last year's team, which defeated Southland Athletic Conference champ Bloom Twp. late in the season. Sczmerik returns for her fourth year as a varsity player, and will help set the table for a pair of powerful hitters in Topps and Frey. Only nine players on the preseason squad, but most of those have ample varsity experience.
Quote: "With some of our players in their third year, we hope to compete with Bloom, who is obviously the top team in the conference." !~ coach Kristina Zintak
Players to watch: Kaitlyn Shereyk, Jr. OH; Nikki Herkert, Sr. S; Skylar Hildebrand, So. DS.
Outlook: The Vikings lost seven to graduation, but return their top players in kills (Shereyk) and in assists (Herkert) from 2010. The squad is smaller than usual, with no one taller than 5-foot-10. Coach Tony Kruse believes the squad will be solid defensively, led by Hildebrand.
Quote: "Kaitlyn has really had a good summer and improved her game, so we are looking for her to lead the team, even as a junior." !~ Kruse.
ILLIANA CHRISTIAN (29-5)
Players to watch: Jaclene Bonnema, Sr. MH/RS; Caroline Toren, Sr. Setter; Julia Novotny, Sr. DS/Libero; Tonilee Meter, Sr. DS/Libero
Outlook: The Vikings return seven players from last year's team that won the Metro Suburban Conference and reached the sectional finals. This season, coach Nikki Van Dyke said the emphasis will be on an aggressive defense which will augment a solid front court led by Bonnema. Toren provides leadership as the team's returning setter.
Quote: "I'm excited, not just for the talent we have, but for having a group of girls that bring great energy on the court." !~ Van Dyke
ILLINOIS LUTHERAN (9-9)
Players to watch: Erica Dinnocenzo, Sr. OH; Tori Schrementi, Sr. OH; Hanna Apt, Sr. Setter; Kathy Wilkening, Jr. MH.
Outlook: First-year coach Rob Mathias has inherited one of the tallest squads in the area, with Dinnocenzo, Schrementi and Wilkening each standing taller than 6-foot. The Chargers will look to a variety of players to handle the setting duties, starting with senior Apt. Illinois Lutheran opens the season against crosstown rival Crete-Monee, a match the Chargers won last year.
Quote: "I've got a lot of good senior players and we should contend for conference this year and hopefully go farther in the playoffs." !~ Mathias
LUTHER EAST (18-5)
Players to watch: Jasmine Bass, So. Setter, Michelle Reardon, So. Setter, Brianna Jackson, Fr. Libero.
Outlook: The Eagles return only one upperclassman from last year's team. Backcourt play will serve as the cornerstone from which coach Michelle Van Dommelan hopes to build a winning team this season.
Quote: "We are a very young team, and it will be a learning season for us." !~ Van Dommelan
MARIAN CATHOLIC (10-24)
Players to watch: Amber Clay, So. OH; Colleen Rynne, Jr. S; Iteaana McKenzie, Sr OH/DS; Kendyl Todd, So. MH.
Outlook: The Spartans are a young squad, with McKenzie the only senior on the team. The team features decent size upfront, led by 6-2 Jasmine King, who transferred from De La Salle. Ryan Summers, in his first year coaching at Marian, believes freshman right side player Kelsey Clark will be one of the best in the area before she graduates.
Quote: "Coming in, I didn't expect a whole lot because I knew they had an off year last year, but it has been a perfect storm of young talent and experience that should help to make us very competitive this year." !~ Summers
ST. FRANCIS DE SALES (13-15)
Players to watch: Melissa Carrillo, Sr. OH/MH; Amber Malkowski, Jr. OH; Arin Thomas, So. MH; Stephanie Galan, So. Setter.
Outlook: The Pioneers graduated all but one player from last year's team. Coach Arlene Ramos hoped to build the offense around Carrillo and Malkowski, but those plans are on hold as Malkowski broke her wrist and Ramos said the outside hitter probably won't be able to return until mid-season. Ramos hopes junior and sophomore class can make key contributions.
Quote: "We are starting from scratch, but we will be a scrappy team and should be able to compete." !~ Ramos
T.F. NORTH (9-17)
Players to watch: Higinia Vazquez, Sr., S; Jocelyn Gil, Sr. DS; Kinnedra Johnson, Sr. OH; Devin Luster, Sr. MH.
Outlook: Coach Peg Haney has experience from a quartet of seniors and a solid core of juniors upon which to build this year's team. Juniors that Haney expects to make contributions this year include outside hitters Strawberry Wright and Dau/Riaunna Bruce, as well as Diana Maldonaldo at libero.
Quote: "Gone is our height from last year, but we feel that we have a more balanced team this season. !~ Haney
T.F. SOUTH (20-9)
Players to watch: Elise Seufert, Sr., S/DS, Nicole Gill, Sr., OH, Danijela Jerkan, Sr. MH, Ashtyn Kapovich, Jr. S/DS, Jill Rodriguez, Sr. S
Outlook: The Rebels lost eight seniors to graduation, and will rebuild around three-year starter Seufert. Gill is expected to be the finisher off passes from an experienced backcourt that includes Danijela Jerkan and Jill Rodriguez. The Rebels have a deep squad this year, and are expected to battle Lemont and Oak Forest for South Suburban Blue supremacy.
Quote: "I think we are going to be very competitive this year. We are solid with our defense, and we will have some new hitters who hopefully can come through in pressure situations." !~ coach Kim Sands
Players to watch: Jeannika Jones, Sr., DS; Alicia Parver, Sr. OH; Faith Foulks, Sr. OH.
Outlook: The Falcons are rebuilding from their 12th player on up to their coach this year. First-year coach Lovetta Fulgham said her team may lack experience and height, but should make up for that with strong defense.
Quote: "A lot of our players have shown great enthusiasm in practice, and are eager to get out there and play this year." !~ Fulgham
Players to watch: Melva Smith, Jr. OH; Deja Willingham, Jr. RS; Aaliyah Wricks, Jr. OH.
Outlook: Nine juniors will lead the Thunderbirds this year, led by Smith, a 6-2 hitter whom coach Nancy Lopez said will earn some respect and has come into her own in the offseason. Team speed and chemistry will be a plus for program on an uptick.
Quote: "We are very young and very athletic. This is the best group of players I've had in a long time." !~ Lopez.
Compiled by Vince Vosti, Times Correspondent. The following schools did not provide information: Seton Academy, Thornton, Washington.