With conference season beginning this week, we try our hand at predicting the conference standings.
The CSL South is one of the deeper conferences in the state of Illinois. Last season, Niles West made it all the way downstate to take home fourth place in division 4A. But do they return enough to finally take the conference reigns away from New Trier and fight off up and coming teams like Evanston?
1. New Trier
Volleyball is a crazy game and there are by no means any guarantees. Teams can easily have an off day passing, or not be able to the floor on their attacks. Despite all of this, New Trier is far and away the best team in the conference.
The depth that the Trevians possess is incredible. They have five legitimate front row options, and possess an incredible serve receive to go along with it. Their entire front line is 5’11” or taller which includes 6′ setter Payton Hielscher.
New Trier has not lost dropped a set all season, let alone a match and comfortably handled Loyola twice already this season. The scariest part about the Trevians? Their only senior starter is libero Julia Maisel.
Not only can New Trier win conference this year, but it would not be surprising to see them make a run downstate.
2. Niles West
The defending fourth place finishers in 4A may have lost their all-conference starting setter Eliena Balourdos and ouside hitter Kaila Johanson to graduation, but they do return their kills leader in Natalia Pehar and their leading blocker Nicole Zelazko.
Niles West has also added freshman outide hitter Elianna Scalero, who so far this season has looked like a seasoned veteran in the front and back row.
If Pehar catches fire, then the Wolves could be the team to take down New Trier, but with all the new faces, they are not quite there just yet.
Evanston maybe the most improved team in the CSL South this season. The Wildkits hung around with Loyola already this season and won the Libertyville invitational and the third place pool in the New Trier tournament.
With a lot of games under their belt already this season, Evanston will look to start out the conference season strong, bolstered by their tall front line.
It’s unfortunate that they have to play in the same conference as Niles West and New Trier, but as shown in their Loyola match, they can compete with anyone if they are on top of their game.
4. Glenbrook South
Glenbrook South probably lost more than anybody to graduation. Last years starting outsides Satah Wojick and Julia Rytel have since departed with Wojick headed to Miami of Ohio to continue her career.
Despite the losses in personel, GBS will still be a tough matchup with opponents. The Titans 6-2 offense gives them a variety of different attacking options and both of their senior setters, Megan Quill and Kiley Hanson are excellent at spreading out the attack.
The Titans drop a little bit this season due to a much improved Evanston squad and the losses to graduation, but again, their diverse attack could see them take a few upset wins.
5. Maine South
Not to take anything away from Maine South, but the CSL South is just an unforgiving volleyball conference.
Maine South are pretty good defensively and they do have a lot of young talent, especially in junior setter Katie Carmichael and junior libero Madisen Werdell.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, they don’t have quite enough firepower this year to challenge New Trier and Niles West at the top of the conference, though there is plenty to be excited about in the coming seasons.
6. Niles North
The transition from the CSL North to the CSL South has not been kind to the Niles North volleyball program.
After not winning a match during conference play last year, it looks as though this season will be much of the same for the Vikings.
If there is one silver lining for Niles North, it is that they have already doubled their win total from last year. Unfortunately that will not do them much good in the gauntlet that is the CSL South.