Hersey senior setter Matt Cayton and his teammates played their hearts out Tuesday night against seventh-seeded Maine East at the Glenbrook South boys volleyball regional.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, though, their hopes for an upset came to a heartbreaking end.
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Cayton, a four-year starter and Hersey's all-time assist leader, played one of the most outstanding matches of his career by setting 101-of-101 with 35 assists.
But 10th-seeded Hersey couldn't hold a late lead and fell to the Blue Demons 29-27, 21-25, 25-23 at the Titan Dome in Glenview.
Cayton added 3 kills and 5 block kills to his match totals in an all-out effort to advance to the regional final, but it wasn't to be.
"We've had some great setters at Hersey over the years," said Huskies coach Nancy Lill, "but I think Matt has to be at the top of the list."
Freshman outside hitter Bart Migus led Hersey in hitting with 12 kills, but a few mistakes cost the Huskies at the end.
"We're a very young team," said Lill, "and we've got a lot of kids who haven't been in an elimination situation like this before.
"Tonight's match was a reflection of our entire season -- we played great at times, but then we made some unforced errors that we couldn't overcome."
Hersey led 24-21 in the first game but Maine East fought off 5 set points to take the lead.
Then the Huskies rebounded in game two.
"It was coach Lill's talk (between games) that inspired us," said Cayton. "She told us we had to pick the energy level up."
Hersey led the deciding game most of the way but a late run by Maine East saw them take a 24-21 advantage.
The Huskies fought back behind a kill from junior Kevin Schroeder (11 kills, 29-of-32 hitting) and a hit out of bounds by the Demons to close within 1, but then James Swoboda of Maine East ended a long rally by hitting the game winner off a Hersey block attempt.
Hersey Sophomore Fotis Christacos was oustanding on defense with 19 digs, while Migus added 15.
After the match, a disappointed Cayton reflected on his standout career.
"I'm really going to miss these guys," said the senior, who will enroll in the fall at the University of Arizona to study finance. "It's starting to dawn on me that I've played my last competitive volleyball match.
"It's been a fun season. We really wanted to move on in the playoffs, but we just fell a little short."