Vernon Hills junior Max Spiglanin isn't the tallest blocker around, but he sure does his job at the net.
A year ago, he hit the century mark in blocks and just missed a school record. Now playing on the right side, he's not sure he can get that high a number this season.
"I just read the hitters,'' Spiglanin said. "And go up and take away as much room as I can."
Spiglanin had his normal night with 5 kills and a team-high 5 blocks. And his kill ended set one on Wednesday night at home as Vernon Hills (1-1) prevailed 25-19 against visiting Glenbrook South.
And that was the extent of the good news for the Cougars. Glenbrook South emerged with a 19-25, 25-20, 25-22 win in its first match of the season.
"We have a positive attitude,'' said Glenbrook South slugger Anthony Lebryk. "We have high expectations for our team."
Glenbrook South head coach Tim Monahan also noted his Titans have quite the setter in senior Matt Kaiser. He was able to find some tough hitters in Jake Carr, Anthony Ivankovich and Will Kozloski.
"We have a really mature setter,'' Monahan said. "Tonight was a good measuring stick for us."
These two schools are clearly not neighbors. But Monahan noted he and Vernon Hills coach Chris Curry are not strangers.
"I've know Chris from coaching and officiating,'' he said. "So win or lose, we will have fun."
Maybe the first set wasn't a fair statement from the visiting team. The Titans served 6 balls into the net or over the line. Vernon Hills never trailed in the first set and on consecutive blocks from sophomore Lem Turner and setter Ryan Opitz (25 assists), the Cougars' lead was 21-16.
"Maybe some of kids thought we would win, too,'' Curry said. "We have four guys new to the varsity. Glenbrook South has a very good setter and it's hard to simulate that in practice."
Glenbrook South surged to a lead in the second set. But to the credit of the Cougars, Vernon Hills came back to forge a tie at 16-16. That's because Opitz went to serve with his club trailing 15-12. One serving ace, two Spiglanin blocks and a Michael Heinz block kill knotted the set up.
The Titans absorbed that surge and used kills from Lebryk and Carr and pulled out the second set. In the decisive third set, Glenbrook South opened up a 15-10 lead. Again the Cougars did not back down. Two more back-to-back blocks from Turner and Opitz pulled the Cougars closer. An Opitz dump shot knotted set three up at 20-20.
Glenbrook South closed this set off with kills from Kozloski and Ivankovich.
"We've come in the last few years and won all of early games,'' Spiglanin said. "We lacked intensity tonight and couldn't pull it out at the end."
Heinz led the Vernon Hills attack with 9 kills. Danny Rosenstock added 6 kills.
"We have to play smarter,'' Curry said. "We gave them four free balls. We looked like the Hawthorn Middle School team, and you can't do that."