Payton Kuepers

Payton Kuepers during Lakeside Lutheran’s Division 2 sectional final loss to McFarland last season. Kuepers — a senior — was a second-team Capitol North selection for the 36-7 Warriors last season.

Lake Mills

Last season’s recap: The L-Cats collected a 29-6 record and ended their season in Division 2 regional final against Lake Country Lutheran. Lake Mills finished second in the Capitol North Conference with an 8-2 record.

Coach’s resume: Courtney Brock will be at the helm for her eighth season.

Top returners: The L-Cats return six players from last season’s 29-win team. Returners include Katie Palmer, Ava Belling, Katie Borchert, Katelyn Kitsembel, Olivia Karlen and Sydney Lewellin. Lewellin, a junior this season, was a first-team Capitol North selection last year.

She totaled a team-high 810 assists, averaging 9.4 per set, served a team-high 65 aces and had 196 digs. She also had 80 kills.

“This group is coming back strong,” Brock said. “They are leaders on the court and they bring power behind their skills.”

Departing players: While the L-Cats bring back some key players, they also lose a few. Lake Mills graduated seven seniors from last year’s team.

“So far I have seen each of my returning players step up and push this program,” Brock said. “I anticipate that my hitters Katie Palmer, Katie Borchert and Ava Belling will step up and take control at the net. Sydney will continue to run our offense on the floor and my defenders Olivia and Katelyn will continue to be relentless in the back row.”

Season thoughts: “We are really looking forward to kicking off this season,” Brock said. “While we graduated a really great group of athletes. Our returning players are coming back stronger than ever and we have been some upcoming players with a lot of drive and skill we can build on.”

Lakeside Lutheran

Last season’s recap: The Warriors fell in a five-set Division 2 sectional final against McFarland. Lakeside finished a perfect 10-0 in Capitol North play.

Coach’s resume: Jenny Krauklis returns as the Warriors head coach after taking Lakeside Lutheran to a 36-7 record last season.

Top returners: Kylee Gnabasik was named to the Capitol North’s first team last season as a junior libero. Fellow 2021 senior Payton Kuepers was a second-team conference selection last season as an outside hitter.

Senior middle Sydney Langille and junior middle Ella DeNoyer were both honorble mentions in the Capitol North last season.

Departing players: While the Warriors return plenty of talented players, they graduated maybe its top player in outside hitter Ella Collins. She was selected as the Player of the Year in the Captiol North in 2019. Collins — an Eastern Illinois volleyball commit — had a league-high 419 kills and a hitting percentage of .369, averaging 3.74 kills per set. She also had 41 total blocks, served 33 aces and dug out 208 shots. Lakeside Lutheran also graduated setter Karli Johnson, who joined Collins on the conference’s first team.

Season thoughts: The Warriors were a few points away to advancing to the state tournament. Lakeside lost some big-time players, but return plenty of talented individuals.

Johnson Creek

Last season’s recap: Johnson Creek won the Trailways South crown last season with a 24-7 record. The Bluejays swept its Division 3 regional quarterfinal and semifinal matches but fell in the regional finals to end their season.

Coach’s resume: Kassidy Wright enters her second season with Johnson Creek after a successful first year.

Top returners: The Bluejays returner outside hitter Maiya Benner, middle blocker Kaiyli Thompson, and setter Lexi Swanson. Thompson was a first-team conference member last season as a junior, while Swanson was a second-teamer as a sophomore in 2019.

Benner — a senior — was an honorable mention in the Trailways South.

Departing players: Johnson Creek graduated five players from its conference championship team. However, among those five, only one was a starter.

Season thoughts: “I am eager to begin the 2020 volleyball season,” Wright said. “We have a great group of talented athletes who are ready to play some volleyball. I am excited to see what we can accomplish this year.”

Palmyra-Eagle

Last season’s recap: The Panthers lost to Johnson Creek in a Division 3 regional quarterfinal to end their 2019 season. Palmyra-Eagle finished the season 6-26.

Coach’s resume: Karlin West enters year one with Palmyra-Eagle.

Top returners: The Panthers bring back senior Allyson Frederick, who West described as a leader on and off the court.

“She has attended every open gym and put forth so much work trying to improve from where she was before,” West said. “Her dedication to the sport has shined even before the start of our official season.”

Palmyra-Eagle brings back senior Abigail Richardson, who also runs cross country.

“She has been very focused and determined at our open gyms,” West said.

“I am excited to see her full potential in the front row trying something new this year.”

Sophomore Molly Nettesheim also returns as one of Palmyra-Eagle’s key players.

“Molly is not afraid to throw a body to the ground in efforts to keep the ball in play,” West said. “She has so much hustle and determination as a sophomore I cannot wait to see how this season goes for her.”

Departing players: The Panthers lose Trailways South first-teamer Lillian Hammond. Hannah Steinbach and Erica Kommer each earned honorable mention honors for Palmyra-Eagle as seniors in 2019.

West expects Richardson — who was libero last season — to step in as a big hitter for the Panthers. Alexandra Koss and Kyler Koutsky are getting the call up from JV to varsity this season to help fill loss production.

Season thoughts: “I am excited about this season and hoping to use this first year as a buildup year,” West said. “The girls seem up to the challenge and eager to start playing.”

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