2017-18 Season Outlook

Entering its third season as a varsity program, the men’s volleyball team is starting to come into their own. They have a core group of student-athletes who have been with the program for the past two seasons and understand what is needed to develop as a successful team. They also have added new players that bring additional talent. With that said the program is still young and will experience some growing pains as their roster develops.  The team will also have to adjust to a new coach as Rob Prohaska stepped from the assistant role to interim head coach in late fall.

“Each year we continue to build and develop into a strong program,” said Coach Prohaska. “I am excited about what this year will bring and look forward to working with the team.”

Overall, the team is looking to build on their previous two seasons and to make an improvement in their 10-14 overall finish from a year ago. They are especially determined to improve their conference record which ended at 1-9 last year. They are aiming to finish in the top half of the seven-team conference standings and to be in a position to advance to the conference tournament.

In order to achieve their goals the team continues to add talent that will bolster the roster. This year’s squad consists of 16 players of which 12 were in the program a year ago and four are new to the team. The new players fill some key positions and will strengthen some of the gaps.

Also with the goal of becoming a stronger team and program, the Trolls are actively creating a culture of teamwork and community within their roster.  They have come together in a number of team activities and service projects that have helped them to bond as a team and to understand each other as individuals. A number of the players also went on a team mission trip to the Dominican Republic that helped to unify them.

“We continue to work on and off the court to develop the team members as athletes and as young men,” commented Prohaska. “We are intentional about learning to work together and develop a sense of team and family.”

A handful of the players on the roster are entering their third season with the program and they will provide leadership and stability. These upper-classmen will fill important roles on the court and will continue to develop their talent. Along with those players are seven sophomores who were with the program last year. A few of the sophomores played significant roles a year ago and will only be more competitive this season. The others gained experience and will continue to find their place as well as challenge for time on the court. In addition to the returners the team has added three new freshmen and a junior transfer student. The newcomers have the possibility to stepping into key positions and adding strength to the line-up.

Overall the team will be strong at the net defensively with its ability to block. They bring back experience in the middle and the Trolls will use those players to provide a strong blocking presence. Those middles will also be utilized to make more of an impact in the attack. In the outside hitting positions the team will make some adjusts and move some players to new positions to determine what combination works best. Helping coordinating that attack the Trolls have added depth in the setting position and have three players with experience in that role. In back row play the team will have to make some changes to shore up the defense.

In the middle of the front line are two returning players that will be key in blocking as well as hitting. Sophomore Jonathan Poortinga (Downers Grove, Illinois) was a starter last year and gained valuable experience.  He led the team with 0.86 blocks per set and will be looked to this year to disrupt the opponent’s attack. In addition the team will look to him to be more of an offensive threat as he averaged 1.52 kills per set a year ago. Joining him in the middle is senior Zach Fitch (Chino, California). He posted 0.70 blocks per set last season and added 1.16 kills per set. Adding depth to the position is freshman Dan Ryan (Oak Forest, Illinois), who earned all-conference honors in high school.

Two of the outside hitting positions will be occupied by returning juniors Eddie Binion (Woodridge, Illinois) and Ben Tocila (Palos Hills, Illinois). Both of these players have experience and will provide leadership. Binion has made great strides from a season ago in which he averaged 1.18 kills per game. He will most likely play the right side. Tocila has been a starter for the past two seasons and gives the team stability. He is an all-around player that will help the team offensively and defensively.

Vying for the other outside hitting positions will be a number of returners and newcomers. Of the returners are sophomore Caleb Leake (Flossmoor, Illinois) and sophomore Danny Kott (Elgin, Illinois). In addition, sophomore Matthew Butnariu (Chicago, Illinois), who red-shirted last season, will be in that mix. Incoming freshman Djordje Novakovic (Subotica, Serbia) is new to the program, but is an experienced player. He is a strong hitter that will help the team offensively, but also be an important factor in the defensive play at the net as well.

The attacking presence will start from the hands of a number of setters. Sophomore Danny Lawrence (Frankfort, Illinois) was on the court last season in which he started in 17 matches. He will see the floor again this year as a setter or, when not in that role, as a right side hitter. He offers the team some flexibility in the system they use. Senior Austin Tafoya (La Mirada, California) also has experience in the starting line-up as a setter and provides depth to the position. Also providing talent in the position is junior Mike Quiroz (West Chicago, Illinois), a transfer who played one season at Lakeland College in Wisconsin. He has the knowledge and skill to step into a starting role.

Junior Mike Karl (Lockport, Illinois) will once again play a defensive specialist position and be the stabilizing factor in the back row. He played back row in his freshman year and averaged 3.06 digs per set. Last season he played all the way around as an outside hitter and posted 2.26 kills and 2.13 digs per set.  Sophomore Adam Garcia (Bellaire, Texas) is another defensive specialist. He is also a setter and can fill into that position if needed. Sophomore Ryan Bakke (New Lenox, Illinois) can play the back row as well as a hitting position. A year ago he stepped in at the service line and delivered a total of 12 ace serves.  Adding depth to the defensive is freshman Micah Vanderbilt (South Elgin, Illinois), who can play libero.

The Trolls begin their 26-match schedule on January 20 in a triangular at Maranatha Baptist University. During the season they will play in 12 conference matches as they face each of the other CCAC teams twice. That CCAC schedule begins on January 23 at Cardinal Stritch University and will conclude in the conference tournament on April 6-7.  The Trolls’ non-conference schedule includes some established programs as well as some new emerging programs. In addition to the opening Maranatha Baptist Triangular the team will play in three other three-team events, including their own triangular on February 3. The schedule includes a number of NCAA Division III teams as well as a Div. II program. The Trolls also face a number of opponents they have not played before such as Maranatha Baptist, Augustana College, Greenville University, Judson University, Dordt College, Webber University, and Quincy University.