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updated: 4/6/2013 10:12 PM

New looks suits Warren

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By Bill Pemstein
Daily Herald Correspondent

It doesn't make a lot of sense, but hey, if the players believe it, maybe there really is some meaning behind it.

Warren's boys volleyball team headed to its own Blue Devil Invite in sort of a funk. They limped in with back-to-back losses to Vernon Hills and Deerfield.

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Then the new jerseys arrived on campus.

And down went Mt. Carmel, Niles North and Whitney Young in pool play. The fourth straight victory came over a good Maine South squad.

The fifth match of the day for Warren pitted the Blue Devils against once-beaten Niles West. At stake was the championship on Saturday.

A block kill from 6-foot-6 senior Matt Massong gave Warren (6-3) a 23-21 lead in the second set. It wasn't enough. Niles West won the Warren Invite with a tight 25-23, 25-23 win over the Blue Devils.

Warren coach Yun Chen noted his players might think the new jerseys changed their luck. However, a few lineup changes also might have made a difference in the fine showing.

Warren has a solid setter in 5-foot-11 Arvind Kouta, and he has plenty of weapons to choose from when it comes to setting destinations. That includes Vuk Jakovljevic (6-5), Max Bongratz (6-4), Massong, and hard-hitting Bryant Holland.

"We played well today,'' Chen said. "We served well."

Kouta pointed to the win over Maine South as one of the highlights of the day.

"They were a really good team,'' Kouta said.

Kouta is running a 5-1 and again has some strong players to hand the ball to.

"We really back each other up well,'' he said.

Champion Niles West is coached by Drew Roach. He, too, handed a compliment to Kouta.

"I was impressed with their setter,'' Roach said. "And their middles are so good. I don't think we ever stopped them. We were lucky to come out on top."

It was really splitting hairs in the title match. It was that close.

On a Bongratz kill in set one, it was 16-16. Warren seemed to take over the second set. On back to back kills from Brian Erickson and Holland, the Warren lead was 9-5.

In the title loss, Jakovljevic notched 11 kills. Holland had 6 kills. With 5 kills each came Bongratz and Erickson.

Chen knows he has a setter to watch in Kouta.

"We are running a 5-1 and he can run it,'' Chen said. "He's still learning to lead this team. He also has a lot of weapons."

Carmel went 2-3 on the day, notching wins over Hoffman Estates and Oak Forest.

"We are young and made a lot of youthful mistakes,'' said Carmel coach Kevin Nylen. "We kind of lost of our mojo. But we got better as the day went on."

Nylen saluted the play of Matt Campbell, Derek Clement and Zach Rappe.

The same story could be told at Mundelein as the Mustangs (7-6) were winless in pool play. And then coach George Dressen's club topped Grant (25-11, 25-14) and Mt. Carmel (25-20, 25-22).

"We played better in the afternoon,'' Dressen said. "Now we need to create some momentum heading into our match with Vernon Hills on Wednesday."

Blake Burton led the Mustangs with 35 kills in the tournament.

Prospect finished in ninth place. The Knights came from behind to register a win over Niles North. Carmel was awarded 11th place.

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