A mostly new team and a strong returner all loaded with volleyball knowledge and experience should make these Cyclones the crew to watch this fall.

Coming into her third season coaching at Moraine Valley, Lauren Lorenz has made strides to build a strong volleyball program. This is the first year the team is comprised entirely of her recruits, which gives her plenty to be excited about.

“I am very optimistic about this group. We have a lot of solid athletes who have been around the game for a while in both club and high school,” she said.

With only one returning player, this will be a completely different squad. Last year’s leaders and key players—Kelly Lind, Heather Fane and Jessica Gavras—have moved on, so the Cyclones will look toward the lone returner, Elizabeth Coffey (Peotone). She has come into this season with a positive attitude and a strong sense of leadership. Throughout last season, she grew and developed (finishing with a No. 34 national ranking for blocks per set at 1.2), earning nods to the All-Region team, and is on track to do the same this year. Coffey will be a key component for the Cyclones on and off the court.

The incoming players include Emily Stepanek (Sandburg), a libero and defensive specialist who played with the Ultimate Volleyball Club; Julia Elsouso (Richards), a right side hitter from Club One Volleyball; Amanda Bulow, an outside hitter, and her sister Taylor Bulow, setter, both from Oak Lawn High School and the Celtic Force Volleyball Club; Noelle Knezz (Lincoln-Way West), a setter and right side hitter from the Ultimate Volleyball Club; Abbi Fletcher (Richards), an outside hitter from 1st Alliance Volleyball Club; Lauren Gausselin (Sandburg), a libero and defensive specialist from Michio Chicago Volleyball; Karly Anderson (Oak Forest), a middle/outside hitter from Celtic Force Volleyball Club; and Maddie Fogarty (Queen of Peace), a libero and defensive specialist from Chicago Juniors Volleyball Club.

Because most of the team is new, everyone has the opportunity to jump in and make an impact. Each player has to work hard to earn a spot, Lorenz said. And the stakes are high. Lorenz wants her team to finish at the top of the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference and Region IV. Fortunately, everyone is on the same page with the same mindset.

“With continued commitment and effort, we should be successful. We have a real opportunity to do well this season. The players came in with a strong athletic base and a solid knowledge of the game, which should help us win some of those tougher matches that we have struggled with in the past,” Lorenz said.

Last season saw big strides by the Cyclones, who finished 14-13 overall and 3-2 in the Skyway. This year, Lorenz wants her team to continually improve their mental aspect of the game, and they should given the number of games they have scheduled. She’ll rely on certain athletes but is optimistic for the overall results.

“I put a lot of pressure on my setters (Noelle and Taylor) to run a smart, effective offense and trust my hitters to outsmart the other side’s defense,” Lorenz said. “Volleyball IQ comes with experience, so that is something I am hoping to see develop. Wins and losses aside, I am really hoping to see this group grow together as a team and become successful through their commitment and teamwork.”

Lorenz is joined again this season by assistant Coach Carly Trinley. The Cyclones’ home opener is Thursday, Aug. 23 at 6 p.m. against Triton College.