Fall sports are front and Central

Red Devil football, girls swimming and girls volleyball teams power ahead

For the final installment in our preview series of Hinsdale Central's fall sports squads, we put the spotlight on the football, girls swimming and girls volleyball programs.

After finishing runner-up at state last year, the Red Devil swimmers and divers are eying the top prize. The gridiron gang is focused on building upon a stellar 2021 season with a deep run in the 2022 playoffs, while girls volleyball looks ready to move to the next level. Here's what the teams' head coaches have to say.


First game: Aug. 26 @ Naperville Central (V lost 9-24)

Last year: 9-2, lost in second round of state playoffs

Head coach: Brian Griffin

Seasons as head coach: four

No. varsity members: 68

Strengths: I've got a great group of seniors who are committed to getting better and being team-oriented. The kids are really doing a great job working together and making each other better. The guys who had experience have shown that experience and they've stepped up and filled the roles.

Areas for growth: We knew we'd have some youth along the offensive line, and that's a work in progress. We're seeing the newcomers continue to grow in those roles in a productive way. We see the potential that we have, but then you have to put it all together and be more consistent in our execution. We were using two (quarterbacks) but now we're at one QB. We lost two experienced kids to injury this past week, so that's another piece of adversity to overcome.

Who to watch: Our senior co-captains, Joe Boggs, Billy Cernugel, Kevin Connors and Sean Lynch, have really done a great job of leading and showing their experience as returning starters and bringing the rest of the team along with them.

Goals: To make the playoffs, win the conference championship and win the state championship. Making the playoffs is goal No. 1. Everyone in our conference has gotten better and everybody is good, It's going to be tough road, and we're playing good teams every week. We need to execute at a high level. I'm really proud of the way the kids keep working hard, and I think we're going to see the fruits of it. We need to have consistency of execution. Right now we do it sometimes and not do it other times, and that's something we need to see improvement on.

Girls swimming

First meet: Aug. 27 Kendall Pickering Invite (V placed 2nd)

Last year: sectional champions, tied for 2nd place at state meet

Head coach: Bob Barber

Seasons as head coach: 23

No. varsity members: 26

Strengths: A major strength of this year's team is having six returning state qualifiers, four of whom were finalists. Our senior class has left quite an impression rewriting the program's record board. We are probably at our best when it comes to sprint freestyle, and our relays also are very strong. We are well balanced among all the events.

Areas for growth: You're always looking to improve, and I'm trying to find a way to push them to their limit to be as good as possible and provide the younger team members opportunities to show how good they can be.

Who to watch: Senior Kit Schneider was the 2021 state champion in the 50-yard freestyle and was a key player in our second-place finish last year. Senior Carrie Kramer is a returning state finalist in the 200-yard medley relay, the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard breaststroke. Junior Burley Bokos (returning state finalist in the 500-yard freestyle) I would consider as my most versatile swimmer because she's capable of jumping on any of the relays. Senior Olivia Suliga and junior sprint freestyler Kelechi Ojiako will also be key contributors.

Goals: We've taken on a new initiative to do a lot of shoulder exercises before we even started swimming to build strength. We've kind of gotten away from quantity swimming and are focusing on quality swimming, on swimming fast and staying fast the entire time. The new aquatic center has allowed for more individual time with equipment and training because you're not in a rush to get out of the way for the next group.

Girls volleyball

First game: Aug. 24 vs. Bolingbrook (V won 11-25, 25-14, 25-15)

Last year: lost in regional semifinals

Head coach: Kelly Stapleton

Seasons as head coach: two

No. varsity members: 13

Strengths: We're returning quite a few kids with varsity experience. We have eight seniors, and all eight of them have a role on the court in some way. They girls know that we're a good volleyball team. We don't have one superstar that's better than everyone else that other teams can focus on.

Areas for growth: Just continue to build confidence and a little bit of resiliency. When one person struggles, other players sometimes have the mentality that they're going to struggle, too. We really need to develop our resiliency in those situations. When we play the top teams, we kind of get in our way in those matches. We need to feel like we belong among the top teams.

Who to watch: Senior Erica Kalman and junior Elizabeth Sessa are our outside hitters and, with sophomore libero Ava Young - who is one of the top recruits in the country - are probably our top three kids. Senior middle India Jones-Shah is back after injury, and senior Kaitlyn Thick is committed to Tulane and is on the right side this year. We have one newcomer, junior middle Grace Scott. She's been doing a nice job.

Goals: The team obviously wants to win state, and definitely get back to sectionals. It's been about 10 years since we've been in a sectional championship match.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean