Fenwick girls volleyball senior Maeve Welsh (foreground) prepares to receive the ball as classmate Erin East (white shirt) looks on. Welsh and East are two key returnees from last year's Friars' squad that won a Class 3A regional title. (Carol Dunning/Contributor)

With six returning players, the Fenwick High School girls volleyball team looks to build off of a 2021 campaign, which saw the Friars finish with a 21-13 record and an IHSA Class 3A regional title.

In her 11th season, head coach Kathleen O’Laughlin likes what she has seen from her team during practice.

“This is a great group of kids that works very hard and has a lot of varsity experience,” she said. “They have great energy and a real love for the game.”

Fenwick’s top returnees are senior outside hitter Erin East (87 kills, 38 blocks in 2021); senior outside hitter Shannon O’Laughlin (117 kills, 212 digs); senior outside hitter Felicia Saunders (59 blocks, 16 aces); and senior setter Maeve Welsh (124 digs, 203 assists, 26 aces). 

“We have a lot of seniors, so that is always a strength,” Kathleen O’Laughlin said. “We have some very versatile hitters who can attack from multiple positions.”

Top newcomers for the Friars are freshman middle blocker Marcelina Kozaczka and junior defensive specialist Hazel Davis. 

The Friars are participating in the Lyons Township Quad and the Lake Park Tournament, and there are also some intriguing non-conference matchups with Whitney Young and York, as well as home matches with local rival Trinity (Sept. 21) and Oak Park and River Forest (Oct. 3). 

In the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division, Fenwick will try to topple league favorites Montini and Mother McAuley.

Blazers look to rebuild after strong 2021

The Trinity High School volleyball team had a very good 2021 campaign, going 25-12 with a GCAC White Division championship and an IHSA Class 3A regional title, losing in the sectional semifinals to eventual Class 3A state champion Nazareth Academy.

But with four starters lost due to graduation, the Blazers have plenty of retooling to do this fall.

“We’re a young and inexperienced team,” said Trinity coach Ken Uhlir, now in his ninth season. “We’re going through the normal growing pains but practices have been solid.”

Trinity’s returning starters are senior middle hitter Maddie Breunig (225 kills, .262 hitting percentage) and junior outside hitter Erin Weger (148 kills, .240). Other notable returnees are senior middle hitter C.J. Casey and junior outside hitter Erin Whiteside.

Three newcomers, sophomore setter Flynn Puttin, sophomore libero Lilli Puttin and sophomore outside hitter Claire Rambasek, look to make an impact on the Blazers.

“Flynn and Lilli are twins and the daughters of our junior varsity/assistant varsity coach Molly Puttin,” Uhlir said. “They’ve been playing for my club since third grade. They’re pretty great kids to be around.”

The GCAC White has a new look this year as Rosary High School joins the conference, which also includes DePaul Prep, Resurrection and St. Laurence. Uhlir believes the title race is wide-open with each of the five schools capable of winning it. Trinity will immediately find out where it stands when it hosts the season opener against St. Laurence August 24.

The GCAC White matches are just part of what is a rigorous schedule for the Blazers. They will participate in top in-season tournaments at De La Salle, Wheaton Academy and Willowbrook and face high-quality schools in local rival Fenwick, Glenbard South and Nazareth during non-conference play. But Uhlir feels with a little bit of development, Trinity can be competitive.

“Our defense will keep us in matches; we will be scrappy,” he said. “If we have success on the offensive side, we will compete well.”

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