High School Sports

Two elite volleyball clubs merge, create metro-east outlet for players

Former Collinsville High and University of Illinois All-American Michelle Bartsch, shown here playing for Team USA, is one of numerous former Division I volleyball players who played with the Southwest Illinois Volleyball club team.
Former Collinsville High and University of Illinois All-American Michelle Bartsch, shown here playing for Team USA, is one of numerous former Division I volleyball players who played with the Southwest Illinois Volleyball club team.

A highly successful metro-east club volleyball program that has helped produce 79 Division I scholarship players and numerous others in the college ranks is merging with the High Performance club team from St. Louis.

What began as an offshoot of the Volleyball Training Network (VTN) club team began by Lisa Kowalski and later was overseen by current Mascoutah High coach Todd Gober and eventually Southwestern Illinois College coach Jeff Juenger as Southwest Illinois Volleyball Club has merged with High Performance.

The new club is High Performance Southern Illinois (HPSIL).

“Our main purpose is getting all the best coaches on this side of the river to train all the Illinois girls so they don’t have to leave and go to St. Louis,” said Belleville West assistant coach and former McKendree University player Abby Hanger, who will help run the club along with former McKendree University and Althoff High coach Lisa Orlet. “We’re wanting to keep them over here. They are the very best at training, they have the most teams and offer more than any other club in St. Louis.”

Hanger said the new club, based out of Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, will offer individual clinics for position training, an outdoor program and a strength and conditioning program.

That will combine with traditional age-group teams competing against some of the top programs in the Midwest and other areas of the country.

Our main purpose is getting all the best coaches on this side of the river to train all the Illinois girls so they don’t have to leave and go to St. Louis. We’re wanting to keep them over here.

HPSIL director Abby Hanger

Hanger is taking over for Juenger, who had been trying to find the right fit for an ultra-successful club he poured years of time and experience into.

“I found a few people to take the club over, but it did not last and it ended up back in my hands,” Juenger said. “After 20-plus years, it was time. I felt like I needed to find someone who was young, energetic, and passionate about the game.

“I looked to Abby because she fits that mold.”

For more information about the club or for tryout information, visit www.hpstl.org, email girlsillinois@hpstl.org or call 618-420-0600.

Hanger played in the SWI program, as did current Belleville West coach Lauren DeGirolamo (LSU), Althoff coach Sara Dietrich (Missouri State) and Mater Dei assistant coach Sam Bedard (Murray State).

The program was a metro-east pipeline to Division I volleyball for many years, especially since club volleyball is where many of the top players are drawing the attention of major college coaches. Among the top players it produced was former Collinsville High and University of Illinois All-American Michelle Bartsch, who also played for Team USA.

The 24-year-old Hanger played club volleyball, high school volleyball at Edwardsville and Belleville West and junior college volleyball before playing at McKendree.

“Abby will do a great job,” Juenger said. “She is very passionate about the game of volleyball. She has what it takes to run a successful club.”

The new club also has sought out the help and experience of metro-east high school coaches for additional training and knowledge. Fall pre-tryout clinics and open gyms for grade school and high school players are running now through mid-November.

Grade school tryouts(ages 11-14) are Oct. 28-29 and high school tryouts (ages 15-18) are Nov. 18-19 at Southwestern Illinois College.

“I’m very excited to work with Lisa and she’s basically mentoring me and helping me make all the decisions,” said Hanger, who played for Orlet at McKendree and also has coached club volleyball with the Crush and H2 programs in St. Louis the past four years. “There’s a huge need for this on the Illinois side of the river. We’re hoping to have between 10 to 15 teams the first year and build upon that.”

Juenger hopes the club will attract some of the top volleyball talent in Southern Illinois.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the girls on this side of the river to play for a bigger club that has a lot of exposure,” Juenger said. “Playing for a big club promotes growth in the player, smaller clubs usually don’t have the players to push each other to get better. Nothing better than the best kids from each of the area high schools competing with and against each other every single practice, every single tournament, to become a better player.

“That is what a big club is all about.”

Norm Sanders: 618-239-2454, @NormSanders

High Performance Southern Illinois Volleyball Club

based at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville

High School Pre-Fall Tryout Clinics

(ages 15-18)

Nov. 2, 7, 9, 14 and 16

High School Open Gyms

Nov. 6, Nov. 13

2016 High Performance Southern Illinois Tryouts

at Southwestern Illinois College

Grade School Girls Tryouts

11-under regional: 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. Oct. 29

12-under travel: 8-10 p.m. Oct. 28

13-under travel/regional: 8-10 a.m. Oct. 29

14-under travel: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 28

High School Girls Tryouts

15-under travel/regional: 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 19

16-under travel/regional: 8-10 a.m. Nov. 19

17-under travel: 7:30-9:30 p.m. Nov. 18

18-under travel: 5-7 p.m. Nov. 18

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