VOLLEYBALL: Meet the 2019 Daily Journal All-Area team

Mallory Januski of Bradley-Bourbonnais attempts a kill against Manteno earlier this season. Januski was one of three Boilers and seven players from this match against Manteno to earn Daily Journal All-Area honors.

Margaret Landis |

Senior | Beecher

Landis reached the 800 career dig mark in this year’s regional title match against Herscher, evidence of the back row capabilities the Bobcats’ senior libero has shown during her high school career. A three-year contributor, Landis stepped up her play to an even higher level this year, finishing in the top 10 in the River Valley Conference in assists (eighth), aces (fifth) and digs (second), and was an All-RVC selection, as well as making multiple all-tournament teams.Kaylie Sippel | Senior | Beecher

Sippel and Landis have been all over Beecher athletics since their freshmen years, and Sippel may go down as one of the area’s most recognized three-sport athletes by the time the year is over. Her do-it-all play on the court — the senior recorded 186 kills, 40 aces, 27 blocks and 293 assists — is representative of her multi-sport play. The 2018 RVC Player of the Year and three-time first-team all-conference selection is a two-time all-area selection in volleyball, with another nod in softball and multiple honorable mentions across softball and basketball.Molly Kurtz | Senior | Bishop McNamara

Kurtz has been a vital piece of the Irish offense for the past three years and was selected to the Metro Suburban All-Conference team each of the past two. Her all-area selection is also her second in a row and it’s easy to see why — her 208 kills led the Irish and were good for seventh in the area, while she also finished second on the Irish with 47 aces, 281 digs and 17 blocks. Kurtz will continue her volleyball career next year at Elmhurst College.Elle Nugent | Senior | Bishop McNamara

Alongside Kurtz, Nugent gave the Irish a fearsome one-two punch offensively, as the latter finished with 206 kills, two shy of the former. Nugent also recorded 256 digs to show some versatility of her game, a game that earned her first-team all-conference honors. As good as she was on the volleyball court this season, soccer is where the Irish senior truly excels. Nugent helped lead the Irish to their best season on the pitch in school history last year and plans on playing soccer at Illinois Wesleyan University.Reece Brown | Senior | Bradley-Bourbonnais

The Boilers boasted one of the area’s most ferocious offensive attacks this season, and whether it was Mallory Januski, Avery Kemp or Courtney Hunter finishing things off with the kill, Brown was almost always the one to set them up. Her 721 assists were second in the area and helped earn the senior setter All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Red Division honors, as well as all-tournament honors at the Moldenhauer Classic and Joliet Central Tournament.Mallory Januski |Senior |Bradley-Bourbonnais

Januski wasn’t just one of the best volleyball players in the area, not just one of the best fall athletes in the area, but one of the best fall athletes in Chicagoland, as evidenced by her SWSC Red Division Athlete of the Year award. Januski was one of just two players to reach the 300 kill mark, finishing second in the area with 307, and her 90 blocks were second in the area. She will take her talents across the state border and play at Valparaiso University next fall.

Avery Kemp | Junior | Bradley-Bourbonnais

The first junior on this year’s team, Kemp certainly played with maturity and skill beyond her years as part of the fearsome front row the Boilers had this season. With 241 kills, the lengthy junior tied for fourth in that department, while her 69 blocks were also among the area’s best, helping Januski form a block that opposing teams couldn’t help but hit right into. With an all-conference and all-area team under her belt, Kemp has a season left to continue improving.

Abbie Cullick | Senior | Coal City

Coal City volleyball coach Pam McMurtrey called Cullick an important player and leader for the Coalers this season and the senior libero has the numbers to back up her coach’s statement. An Illinois Central Eight All-Conference selection, Cullick led the Coalers with 263 digs and handled 359 service receptions, setting the tone for a Coal City team that finished third in the ICE behind perennial powers Herscher and Manteno.

Carson Halpin | Senior | Gardner-South Wilmington

Halpin was a four-year contributor for the Panthers, saving her best effort for her fourth and final year this fall. Her 254 kills were third in the area and second in the River Valley Conference, while she also added 238 digs. Those numbers gave Halpin her second-straight year of finding all-conference and all-area spots. A regional champion as a freshman in 2016, Halpin is just one part of a senior class that has had its share of prep success.

Kaitlynn Kavanaugh | Senior | Gardner-South Wilmington

Another vital piece of the Panthers’ senior class, Kavanaugh has become a fixture in front of River Valley Conference nets. The middle blocker posted insane numbers this year, leading the RVC and finishing third in the area with 82 total blocks, while her 181 kills were second to Halpin on the Panthers. A three-year captain and four-year starter, Kavanaugh ended her prep career with back-to-back all-conference nod.

Allie McGuirt | Senior | Grace Christian

The Crusaders had a strong showing at the National Association of Christian Athletes Tournament in Dayton, Ohio this season, finishing eighth out of 48 teams, and McGuirt was arguably the biggest reason why. The senior racked up 205 kills on the year and more impressively was the only area player to record over 100 blocks, finishing the year with 103. She also chipped in 52 digs, 29 aces and 46 assists from the front row.

Hadleigh Loitz | Senior | Grant Park

Loitz’s position on the floor is technically the setter, but there wasn’t much the senior didn’t do for the Dragons. She finished with 73 aces (first in the River Valley Conference) and 451 assists (second in the conference), both top 10 in the area, while supplementing those numbers with 283 digs, 77 kills and 40 blocks. Loitz was a three-year starter for the Dragons and two-time selection on the All-RVC and all-area teams while quarterbacking coach Nina Zalewski’s 5-1 set.

Rylee Panozzo | Senior | Grant Park

With Loitz set the Dragons up offensively, it was Panozzo who led the charge defensively, finishing second to Kavanaugh for the RVC block lead, finishing with 76 on the year. As a three-year starter, Panozzo totaled 145 blocks on her career, with all but 11 of them coming the past two years. Whether serving as middle hitter, right side hitter or right back defense, the Kankakee Community College commit could be counted on to make plays wherever she was.

Claudia Huston | Senior | Herscher

The Tigers’ all-time kills leader with 703, Huston ends her prep career as one of the most accomplished players in school history, and maybe even beyond. Ever since bursting on the scene as team MVP and an all-area selection her sophomore year, Huston’s heavy right arm has been too hot for opposing teams to handle as she makes her third all-area appearance. Whether it was from her outside hitter position, where she finished tied for fifth in the area with 241 kills, or the service line, where she led the area with 83 aces, the All-ICE selection was always scoring for a Tigers team that reached the IHSA Class 2A Sweet Sixteen.

Maddy Offerman | Junior | Herscher

Offerman has been a vital contributor since her freshman season, but the junior year leap was real for one of the Tigers’ most dependable players. At 6-foot-2, Offerman used her height at the net to notch 72 blocks, top 10 in the area, and power home 202 thundering kills. As yet another All-ICE selection for the Tigers, the change of pace Offerman and her size provided off the bench for the sectional finalists was not often duplicated by other teams across the state.

Mady Rogers | Senior | Herscher

Despite her 5-foot-6 frame, Rogers was one of the most emphatic outside hitters the area saw in 2019, finishing with 202 kills on her way to all-conference honors by playing a game that led to coach Joel Huizenga to describe her as “a tough little hitter who is our leader on serve receive.” On the Tigers’ magical run to the Sweet Sixteen, the Tigers’ 2019 MVP often found herself making big plays in the biggest moments, as evidenced by her .429 hitting percentage in the Tigers’ sectional championship loss to St. Joseph-Ogden.

Olivia Ruder | Senior | Herscher

Ruder was the third figure in the three-headed senior trio that demolished area competition and statewide competition alike. A year after winning the team MVP award, Ruder came right back to work and was arguably the top overall libero in the area this season. While her 353 digs placed her on the back end of the area’s top 10, that number is even more impressive when considering the Tigers were winning 2-0 matches and allowing less than 30 points most nights. The heart and soul behind the Tigers’ postseason push, Ruder earned her second all-area nod and all-conference selection.

Hailey Lamie | Junior | Kankakee

The All-Southland Athletic Conference selection was as efficient as can be behind the service line, finishing the year with a 94 percent serve percentage. Paired with 342 assists on the year, those numbers helped Lamie become the only setter in the Southland to be unanimously selected to the all-conference team. She ran the show from that setter position in the Kays’ 5-1 scheme that led them to a conference title and 24-11 record.

Makayla Mondy | Senior | Kankakee

Mondy had high hopes for herself after earning an all-conference nod last year, and she lived up to those expectations by earning the honor again in 2019. Her 46 blocks and 106 kills both led the team and her two-year run as one of the Southland’s most talented middles was evidenced by her reaching the 100 career block mark. Coach Dennis Pommier called Mondy the emotional leader of the Kays, a team that enjoyed a lengthy 20-match winning streak.

Reese Bachus | Junior | Manteno

The Panthers made a serious second-half push to split the Illinois Central Eight with Herscher, with Bachus serving as a catalyst of that run. Bachus was the only player in the area to reach both 200 kills and 300 digs, finishing with 227 kills and 310 digs. The junior outside hitter was also lethal from the service line, racking up 62 aces. Her stellar play earned an all-conference selection, as well as all-tournament honors at the Manteno Early Bird Classic and Manteno Invite.

Elena Gomez | Junior | Manteno

Along with Bachus, Gomez was a varsity contributor for the second season as just a junior, and like Bachus, Gomez stepped up time after time. She didn’t top any statistical categories, but was consistent across the board with 189 kills, 49 blocks, 58 aces and 90 digs from the front row. That consistent play earned Gomez a spot on the ICE All-Conference team, as well as all-tournament selections at the Manteno Early Bird Classic, Manteno Invite, Moldenhauer Classic and Mahomet-Seymour Invitational.

Sariah Schulteis | Senior | Manteno

The unquestioned senior leader for a junior-heavy Panthers team with first-year coach Jocelyn Ferris, Schulteis was the calming presence in Manteno this season. The Panthers’ defensive MVP compiled 426 digs, often prolonging plays for her teammates to finish off, finishing third in the area in the category. She only got credit for 47 aces on the year, but her distinct serving style forced opponents into tough plays on the occasion the ball didn’t find the floor first.

Karli Wenzel | Junior | Manteno

Wenzel was one of the smaller outside hitters in the area this season, measuring at just 5-foot-5, but her play and confidence came from someone closer to 6-foot-5. The all-conference selection smacked 167 kills and backed it up with 360 digs, showing versatility matched by few others in the area this season. Her athletic prowess earned her the team’s Most Athletic award, and joined by returning players like Bachus and Gomez, Wenzel and the Panthers could find themselves as serious threats in Class 2A next year.

Caley Mowrey | Sophomore | Milford

One of the youngest all-area selections this year, Mowrey played a game well beyond her years, leading the area with an unbelievable 372 kills and also finished in the top 10 with 79 kills. While the Vermilion Valley All-Conference team was not yet official at the time of print, the top vote-getter on the All-Iroquois County team will unquestionably be at the top of the team. Mowrey was the primary piece behind the Bearcats’ Class 1A Elite Eight run, and with two more years left, this year’s run may only temporarily be the best in school history.

Kaylee Warren | Senior | Milford

Warren broke her own single season school record for assists once again with 827, which led the area by a longshot and now gives her the top three single season assist performances in school history. Another surefire All-VVC selection and All-Iroquois County selection, Warren is a three-sport star that has routinely found herself thriving on the biggest stage of whatever sport she’s playing. With basketball and softball still to go this year, Warren is just getting started making her senior year a memorable one.

McKenna Evans | Senior | Peotone

Evans is to Peotone volleyball what Spongebob is to the Krusty Krab — the mainstay. In four years as a varsity starter, the Blue Devils’ setter didn’t miss a single match, which allowed her to finish her volleyball career with over 2,474 assists, 655 digs, 156 aces, 88 kills and 39 blocks, with 643 assists and 244 digs coming this season. The back-to-back all-conference selection was also named to the Mahomet-Seymour Invitational All-Tournament team and will now turn her attention to the basketball court, where she will also be a four-year player.

Malya Sayre | Sophomore | Peotone

Sayre is one of just three sophomores on the all-area team, but her lack of experience didn’t affect her 2019 campaign. Despite missing several games due to injury, the Blue Devils’ leading outside hitter still put up 221 kills, 121 digs and 28 aces. In just two seasons, Sayre has already earned two all-conference selections, two all-area selections and three all-tournament selections, and she still has her final two years to grow into one of the area’s most lethal outside weapons.

Sydney McTaggart | Sophomore | Watseka

Not many underclassmen can play a varsity libero position the way McTaggart did this fall. Her 575 digs on the season are a new team record, almost certain to be broken by herself at least once more. McTaggart was named a first-team All-Sangamon Valley Conference selection and All-Iroquois County selection as well, not to mention a handful of all-tournament teams. With the Warriors turning things over to a largely new core this year, McTaggart slid in as a co-captain before she could legally drive, and will spend the next two years leading the Warriors’ back row.

Special Mention

Arianna Avelar, Beecher; Rhiannon Saller, Beecher; Jacqueline Allaway, Bishop McNamara; Kylie Sullivan, Bishop McNamara; Courtney Hunter, Bradley-Bourbonnais; Hanna Offerman, Central; Riley Thompson, Central; McKenna Fitzpatrick, Coal City; Luci Hakey, Coal City; Madelyn Storm, Gardner-South Wilmington; Grace Gorman, Grant Park; Anna Cotter, Herscher; Jordan Pierce, Herscher; Aariasha Dabney, Kankakee; Dayli Dwyer, Manteno; Kenna Selk, Manteno; Sam Conley, Milford; Maya McEwen, Milford; Lily-Grace Stupegia, Peotone; Emily Greene, St. Anne; Kendall Yuknis, St. Anne; Sierra Hummel, Tri-Point; Raegann Kochel, Watseka; Kinzie Parsons, Watseka; Claire Rink, Wilmington.

Honorable Mention

Julianna Picicco, Beecher; Kara Kleinert, Bishop McNamara; Ashlyn Mitchell, Bishop McNamara; Gianna Basile, Bradley-Bourbonnais; Payton Kohl, Bradley-Bourbonnais; Kaylen Boudreau, Central; Hallie Wilken, Central; Mikayla Knake, Cissna Park; Megan Norris, Coal City; Emma Leady, Donovan; Abby Sanford, Grace Christian; Olivia Mendell, Herscher; Shelby Johnson, Iroquois West; Avery Jackson, Kankakee; Alex Rodriguez, Manteno; Jakki Mowrey, Milford; Lexy Puetz, Milford; Kaitlyn Piekarczyk, Momence; Ashleigh Coster, Reed-Custer; Jenna Tiancgo, Reed-Custer; Brandi Chase, St. Anne; Elise Bruner, Tri-Point; Leigh Cleggett, Trinity; Claire Curry, Watseka; Megan Mann, Wilmington.

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