2018-19 Season Outlook

The men’s volleyball program is entering its fourth season and has players on the roster who have been with the team since the inaugural start-up season. The program, the team, and the players have grown in the past four seasons and are prepared to make a solid statement this year. In addition the program continues to attract new talent to add to the overall depth and strength of the team.

Head coach Rob Prohaska, who stepped in as head coach last year, led the Trolls to a 10-16 overall and a 4-8 conference record in the 2018 season. With a full year of developing the team under his system as well as recruiting new players, Prohaska is pleased with how the team looks this year and what they will accomplish.

“We return some strong players and leaders who will be the core of our team,” said Prohaska. “We also have incoming players that will make an immediate impact and will bring good things this year and in the future. We will be solid in every position and are finding the working combinations.”

The 2019 roster has 14 players of which 11 are returning players and three are incoming freshmen.  Five of those returners were in the starting line-up a year ago. In addition eight are upperclassmen, who not only provide experienced talent, but bring leadership and stability. Some of growing pains from being a young program are starting to disappear as the team matures into its own.  

Overall the team will be balanced in its attack. They have key players returning to every hitting position and should be able to utilize the entire front row. Helping in the attack are two experienced setters who were both in the line-up last year.

Defensively the Trolls will continue to be strong at the net. A year ago they led the conference in blocks with a 2.42 block average and they will be able to continue that blocking presence this year. In the back row there are a number of all-around players who can handle the passing. They will have to adjust to a new libero, but have the personnel capable of stepping into that role.

The team has leadership and experience in the outside hitting positions. Four-year player senior Eddie Binion (Woodridge, Illinois) was a starter last year and led the team with a 3.20 kill average. He was also active at the net with 55 total blocks. As an all-around player Binion calculates into the service reception and passing accuracy as well as serving efficiency. Another all-around player is senior Ben Tocila (Palos Hills, Illinois) who will be a four-year starter. As an outside hitter he averaged 2.07 kills per set last year. He is also valuable in the back row with a .961 service reception and a 1.36 dig per set average.

Also factoring into the starting line-up in the hitting positions will be sophomores Djordje Novakovic (Subotica, Serbia) and Dan Ryan (Oak Forest, Illinois). Novakovic was limited last season due to injury, but will make more of an impact this year. He has experience and will play a right side position. Ryan developed last year in which he played in nine matches. While mainly in the middle hitter position a year ago, he will transition an outside hitting spot where he can help the attack and the block.

Adding depth to the outside attack is junior Matthew Butnariu (Chicago, Illinois) who can hit from the left or right side and junior Danny Kott (Elgin, Illinois).

The middle attack will come from one returning and one new player. Junior Jonathan Poortinga (Downers Grove, Illinois) earned All-Conference Second Team honors a year ago as a leading attacker and blocker for the Trolls. He averaged 2.16 kills per set and led the team and conference with a .363 attacking percentage. More impressively he led the team and the NAIA with a 1.19 block per set average. The team will look to him to continue to be a middle of the net presence.  Opposite Poortinga will be freshman Jake Ostema (Orland Park, Illinois), who will find a place in the starting line-up. He comes to the team with good high school experience and his 6’8” frame will add to the team’s force at the net.

The attack will coordinated by a couple of veteran setters. Junior Danny Lawrence (Frankfort, Illinois) has started a setter for the past two years while also playing right side hitter for a portion of last season. In his two seasons he has a total of 704 assists. He helps out the team defensively with a 1.38 dig per set average last season and with a 0.80 block per set average. Senior Mike Quiroz (West Chicago, Illinois) is in his second season with the team and was a starting setter a year ago. He tallied 584 assists and also posted a 1.25 dig average and 20 ace serves.

The team has the least amount of experience in their defensive specialists, but does not lack talent in the position. Junior Ryan Bakke (New Lenox, Illinois) contributed from the service line a year ago and can step in to handle the passing responsibilities. Freshman Adam Becker (Denver, Colorado) will get the starting defensive position as the libero.   He has the quickness and passing ability to make a difference in the back row. Strengthening the defensive positions and filling in as needed are sophomore Micah Vanderbilt (South Elgin, Illinois) and freshman Isaiah Gifford (Virginia Beach, Virginia).  

The Trolls have a 23-match schedule that begins on January 18 in a home match with Goshen College. That match is one of 11 non-conference contests on the schedule for the season. Four of those non-league matches will take place in the NCCAA National Invitational that Trinity will host on January 25-26. The Trolls will also play two non-conference opponents in a Trinity/Saint Xavier Crossover on March 22-23. The conference schedule includes 12 contests and begins on January 22 with a home match against Cardinal Stritch University. Added to the CCAC teams this year is Viterbo University (La Crosse, Wisconsin) to bring the total number of teams to seven. The conference teams will compete for the right to advance to the CCAC Tournament at the end of the season on April 5-6.