Beecher (22-8, 12-0 River Valley Conference)
Players to watch: Danielle Snuckel, 5-7 Jr. OH; Vanna Lowe, 5-7 Sr. S; Taylor Crowley, 5-6 Jr. OH.
Outlook: Gone from last year's conference champs, who fell in a regional title game to Bishop McNamara, are five starters and the starting libero. Snuckel and Crowley lead a young core.
Quote: "We have a lot of work to do, be we have a lot of potential to be a good team this year. (The players) work very hard as a team and stick together. I think they will be able to do big things this year." -- coach Jessica Linn
Bloom Twp. (17-18-1, 10-0 Southland)
Players to watch: Morgan Zimmerman, 5-8 Sr. H; Tiffany Evancho, 5-6 Sr. S.
Outlook: The Blazing Trojans are coming off their seventh straight conference title. Four among those have been managed without a league loss. The challenge may be bigger this season, as Bloom has graduated 10 seniors, including five starters, from last year's roster. But, the sophomores also went a perfect 10-0 in the Southland.
Quote: "We will be 'rebuilding' this year. Although we will be a young varsity team, our upcoming juniors have already shown as much dedication, maturity and desire as any seasoned varsity squad I have coached in the past… so I am confident they will contribute to our team's success this season." -- coach Jeanette Neubauer
Crete-Monee (10-13, 4-6 Southland)
Players to watch: Bayle Bennett, 5-9 So. OH; Mackenzie Kacich, 5-6 Sr. OH; Abby King, 5-5 Jr. L.
Outlook: The Warriors return nine players with varsity experience, only three of whom are seniors. Four are sophomores. They'll also have a freshman on the varsity. So call it a rebuilding year, with a twist.
Quote: "They're impressing me. We're athletic. We'll work hard. I'm looking for good things the next few years with this program." -- coach Kristina Jones
Illiana Christian (21-17, 7-5 Metro Suburban)
Players to watch: Rachel Herrera, 5-5 Jr L; Jamie Petrarca, 6-1, M; Sydnee VanBeek, 6-0 So., OH/M; Becca DeVries, 5-7 Sr, OH.
Outlook: The Vikings fell in a sectional title game to Chicago Christian. It was the fourth straight sectional title game visit for Illiana since it made the jump to Class 3A. Those deep postseason runs aren't surprising, given Illiana is always well-prepped for the playoffs by play in the tough Metro Suburban. Herrera, an all-area libero last year, leads a talented Vikings back row. Ball control won't be an issue.
Quote: "I graduated four girls. Tina Massey was an outside who made all-tournament at two tournaments and was named all-conference. Kyle VanRoekel was a middle who made all-conference. Also graduated was RS Tessa VantHoff and DS Taylor Buchmeier." -- coach Nikki Van Dyke
Illinois Lutheran (11-17-1, 6-6 River Valley)
Players to watch: Paige Seehausen, 5-8 1/2, Sr., OH; Carly Seehausen, 5-8 S/OH; Angela Schrementi, 5-6, S/L.
Outlook: Both Seehausens were all-conference last season, and helped the Chargers to a regional title game. In all, six Chargers on this year's roster started games last year. Grant Park and Beecher are the favorites in a balanced conference.
Quote: "What we lack in size, hopefully we'll make up with a better team effort. … With a good mix of talented seniors and some athletic underclassmen, I'm looking forward to a great year." -- coach Rob Matthias
Homewood-Flossmoor (24-16, 8-10 South Suburban Red)
Players to watch: Skylar Hildebrand, 5-5, Sr., L; Lexi Jung, 5-8, Sr., OH; Kat Whited, 5-3, Sr. DS.
Outlook: Gone from last year's squad are three starters with a combined 10 varsity seasons under their belts, so the Vikings will be a new-look crew. Jung will try to fill the shoes of four-year starting OH Kaitlyn Shereyk as H-F attempts to improve on a fifth-place conference finish. Hildebrand, a two-year starter, was an all-area pick last year.
Quote: "I expect this season to be extremely competitive just like every other year. the SWSC is a competitive conference from top to bottom. I expect us to compete with everyone and I am excited about this season." -- coach Tony Kruse
Marian Catholic (28-9, 7-2 East Suburban Catholic Conference)
Players to watch: Amber Clay, 5-11, Sr., OH; Kendyl Todd, 5-10, Sr., MH.
Outlook: The Spartans were second in their conference last season and lost in three games in a 4A regional final after finishing fourth in the state in Class 3A in 2011. Clay and Todd both started on that 2011 squad and again in 2012, and will be surrounded by inexperience.
Quote: "Last year, we were unbalanced offensively. People who follow Marian volleyball are already calling these the Clay-Todd years. … Our strength this year will be that we will add three or four more hitters to the mix and will be a lot more balanced. Our challenges will be overall team ball control and defense, since that is what we mostly lost to graduation." -- coach Ryan Summers
St. Francis de Sales (9-9, 2-3 GCAC White)
Players to watch: Keaera Cunningham, 5-9 Sr. OH/M; Jensen Hunt 5-6 Sr. S/OH; Stephanie Galan, 5-5 Sr. S/OH; Erica Galan, 5-2 So. S; Bianca Garcia, 5-3 So. L.
Outlook: Arlene Ramos enters her 10th season at the Pioneers' helm, carrying a roster of 15, including 10 varsity returnees. The Pioneers fell in a regional title game last season, and Ramos expects to get at least that far. She's turning over control of the offense to a sophomore setter in Erica Galan, whose sister, Stephanie is moving to outside hitter to make room.
Quote: "I'm hoping to turn around some unfortunate losses from last year and put them in the win column. I think we will." - Ramos
Seton Academy (5-22, 4-5 GCAC White)
Players to watch: Amber Abogunrin, 5-6 Sr. H; Ashley Stewart, 6-2 Fr. H.
Outlook: Coach Pamela McElroy is counting on "a good number of talented freshmen," including the 6-2 Stewart, to offset the loss of several key players from last year's squad.
Quote: "Even though we had to fill out our team with younger players, we are confident that their determination, focus and positive attitudes will prove to produce a successful season." -- McElroy
Thornridge (0-7 SouthWest Suburban Blue)
Players to watch: May Garret, 5-8 So. S.
Outlook: The Falcons are looking to fill the leadership void left by the graduation of captain and libero Nikita Fields. First-year coach Nikita Davis has a sophomore- and junior-laden squad and will have a tough time moving up in the rough-and-tumble SWSC Blue.
Quote: "Our biggest challenge this year will be to have our girls on (the same page). Our girls have never played with each other, but once they get used to playing together our team will be successful." -- coach Christina Davis
Thornton (8-22, 2-5 SouthWest Suburban Blue)
Players to watch: Kierra Reed, 5-8 Sr. OH; Asia Terhune, 5-3 Jr. L.
Outlook: The Wildcats have five returning seniors. Their last winning season came in 2007, Erin Wright's second at the helm. Now in her eighth season, Wright's expectations aren't quite that high, but the Wildcats' defense should keep them in some games that were blowouts a year ago.
Quote: "It's tough in the SouthWest Suburban, but I like the girls I have. And they like each other. We're going to be competitive." -- Wright
T.F. North (12-19, 3-12 South Suburban Blue)
Players to watch: Esther Fagbemi, 5-10 Sr. MH; Tyra Johnson, 5-10 Jr. MH.
Outlook: The Meteors won a first-round regional game last season, but gone from that team is the setter and leading outside hitter. As North tries to improve on a sixth-place finish in conference, veteran coach Peg Haney will be leaning on Fagbemi and Johnson until an inexperienced junior class acclimates to the varsity level.
Quote: "I have a group of girls that have a very good work ethic. We should have a lot of fun and be very competitive." -- Haney
T.F. South (24-8, 9-2 South Suburban Blue)
Players to watch: Ashtyn Kapovich, 5-3 Sr. L; Leah Lagestee, 5-11 Sr. MH; Abbe Mullen, 5-5 Sr. S; Crystal Lee, 5-8 Jr. OH; Brianna Lilly, 6-0 Jr. MH; Jenna Pasko, 5-6, Jr. OH.
Outlook: The Rebels return nine rotation regulars from last season, when they finished second to Lemont in the South Suburban Blue. Though they lost their regional opener last season, in three games to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Rebels have been a postseason force to be reckoned with in the not-too-distant past, winning five regional titles in a six-year span from 1999-2004. Kapovich and Lee (first team) and Leah Lagestee (honorable mention) are returning Times all-area players.
Quote: "I am very optimistic about this season since I have 9 returning starters from last year. … I would like to do better in conference than last year and also do better in the state tournament. I think if the girls continue to work and play hard anything is possible." -- coach Kim Sands
Thornwood (12-21, 2-5 SouthWest Suburban Blue)
Players to watch: Madison Schweitzer, 5-8 So. S; Kearsten Schweitzer, 5-8 So. OH; Brieanna Holmes, 5-7 Sr. OH.
Outlook: Lisa Zuccolo, a Thornwood graduate and the niece of last year's head coach, Nancy Lopez, is in charge this year after eight years on the staff. The family ties continue as letter-winner Madison Schweitzer is joined on the varsity by her fraternal twin, Kearsten. The Thunderbirds are rebuilding, having lost six senior regulars from last year's squad.
Quote: "This group of girls does not have a lot of court experience, but they are hard workers on and off the court and are eager to learn." -- Zuccolo
-- Compiled by Phil Arvia