Devils ready to meet their matches

Central coaches discuss schools' badminton, boys gymnastics and volleyball teams

Hinsdale Central's 2024 spring sports action continues this week with a look at the perennially competitive girls badminton squad and the reloading boys gymnastics and volleyball programs.

Last week's opener in our four-part season preview series featured girls and boys track, and boys and girls water polo. Next week swings into baseball, softball and boys tennis.

Girls badminton

First match: March 12 @ LT Quad (V places XX)

Last year: conference & sectional champion, 6th at state

Head coach: Katie Maley

Seasons as head coach: 14

Varsity team members: 12

Team strengths: Both of my doubles teams are returning, so that makes my life a lot easier. They got great experience at the state tournament last year, and I'm looking for great things from both of the doubles teams. I know that they have the mental toughness going into our big Saturday tournaments.

Areas for growth: We're looking to rebuild the singles positions. I do not yet know who my No. 2 is. I will be working hard at practice to figure that out.

Who to watch: My senior doubles team of Yanning Jiao and Rachele Kameli. They medaled last year at the state tournament. My junior doubles team of Hannah Fang and Tiffany Tu also are back. Freshman Sara Han is hoping to carry on the Han tradition that her older sisters established, and she's just as strong as her sisters were.

Season outlook: I'm really hoping that my both doubles teams will medal this year. I'm really confident that my seniors will step up, and I'm confident that my juniors will as well. I'm just really hoping that we can place fifth or better in the state tournament. It'd be great to get some hardware, whether that's individually or as a team. Our conference is good, always, but that helps us improve because we're regularly playing really highly skilled teams.

Boys gymnastics

First match: March 1 @ Wanner Invite (V placed 4th)

Last year: 3rd in conference, 3rd in sectional

Head coach: CJ Johnson

Seasons as head coach: 6

Varsity team members: 16

Team strengths: We have veterans Marc Cihlar and Nikolas Theotikos back along with junior Kyle Ashby, and we really do have a good group of freshmen, too. The kids that we have right now are working really hard. It's a fun teaching place right now with the young guys.

Areas for growth: We are shorthanded, but it's important to keep working well in the gym. We came right out of the gun (in our first meets) doing all of our big stuff but weren't always ready. We've cut back a little bit and let the kids keep training to build their confidence. Perhaps they're going to pick it up as the season goes on.

Who to watch: Along with Marc, Nikolas and Kyle, sophomore Brady McDaniel is going to help us be better. Freshmen Lance Irvin Delapena and Logan DeLeon are developing, and we can go a long way with

these young guys.

Season outlook: My take on it right now is that the conference title could be close between Downers North and LT. I really believe that we're going to come close to pushing those top teams. I've got to make sure that the boys are excited about themselves and the sport. Injuries are part of it, but you got to work through it to a point. The attitude of the kids is outstanding. It's fantastic to see the growth, no matter how small it is. The kids want to do the best that they can do for the program.

Boys volleyball

First match: March 19 @ Lincoln-Way East

Last year: 25-14, regional champion, lost in sectional semifinal

Head coach: Tom Gilbert

Seasons as head coach: 3

Varsity team

members: 13

Team strengths: This is year three for me, so now a lot of the kids now know what my expectations are with the program, which is nice. We're young, but because they're young, they're very eager to learn. I've got four seniors total, and my setter, a junior, has been on varsity since he was a freshman. We've got a lot of good raw talent.

Areas for growth: I've been blessed to have two very talented teams the past two years. This will be the first one for some of guys who were on varsity before to see what it's like to really come from the ground up. It's a rebuild, at the end of the day. I'm hoping to see my young players wanting to go out and compete. When you have a young team, the varsity level can get intimidating fast. The skills are going to come. I'm not expecting us to be as talented as we have in the past due to lack of experience, but I think the difference will be having that excitement in the players to truly want to win.

Who to watch: Team captains are senior outside hitter Matt Ruth, senior middle hitter Damian Hogervorst and junior setter Harry Hughes. Sophomores Ken Reodica and John Lynch are competing to be my starting libero. Sophomore outside hitter Micah Drescher has very strong legs and has always been athletic, and sophomore outside hitter Everett Haworth has got an amazing vertical.

Season outlook: Glenbard West has almost all of their starters returning from their state championship team last year. And they beat LT in the final. I think Downers Grove North has the potential to go down state. Most of these kids play with each other (in clubs), so it's fun to see them playing against their teammates and see who kind of comes out on top.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean