1. Lincoln-Way East: State quarterfinalists last season, the Griffins look like the deepest team in the state after absorbing a top program in Lincoln-Way North. Jake Snyder (St. Ambrose) will spread the wealth among Ian Piet, Matt Shemanski, Mike Herlihy and Jason Szara. Piet, a junior outside, could ascend into the state's elite.
2. Brother Rice: Middle hitter Joe Kenzinger (Lewis) and outside hitter Jimmy Baker, the 2015 Catholic League Player of the Year, give coach Dan Dwyer a legitimate state title contender. Baker is back after missing most of last season with an ankle injury. Patrick Hollander and Ryan Banky return as starters.
3. Lincoln-Way West: Hugh Flores is a six-rotation player, while 6-foot-6 Max Rosenfeld offers a big swing at the net. Ben Pluskota is one of five sophomores for coach Jodi Frigo to watch.
4. Lincoln-Way Central: Look for Willy Kickert, Mason Davis and Matt Von Holst to lead the attack. Aidan McGuire and Eric Phalen will pass for new head coach Mary Brown, but Mike Kulinski, now a freshman at MIT, will be missed at setter.
5. Marist: The RedHawks graduated a lot, but captain Jack Berglind returns after establishing the school record in digs (583) last season. Toss in outside hitters Colin Meyer and Chris Omiecinski, and Marist should have a stout defense. Sophomore Marty Jepsen gives coach Jordan Vidovic yet another option.
6. Lockport: Do-everything junior Anthony Pfeiffer returns for a team that finished 24-12 last season and graduated just two players. Coach Nick Mraz expects a quick-hitting attack led by outside hitter Kyle Dixon.
7. Sandburg: There's no replacing Ohio State freshman Jake Hanes, the 2016 Daily Southtown Player of the Year, but if anyone can hold a team together, it's Ball State-bound Colin Ensalaco. The future libero will play outside hitter for coach David Vales, who replaces Sean Airola.
8. Andrew: Led by dynamic senior Joe Jendra, the T-Bolts could be dangerous if last season's inconsistencies are eliminated. Coach Sean Carls returns five other starters, including libero Jack Pranckus.
9. St. Rita: Brendan Murney is one of the top middle hitters in the area. Toss in the varsity experience of Sean Coghlan and Liam Kelly, and the Mustangs have potential to make waves under coach Brian Hagen.
10. Homewood-Flossmoor: Expect a staunch presence at the net from Troy Kates (Dominican) and Josh Richardson (Augustana). Setter Ryan Fitzgerald also returns for Vikings coach Bob St. Leger, who last year led them to their first regional title since 1994.
Top 25 Players