His first kill of the night was a thing of beauty.
Mundelein senior outside hitter Ian Turkula just schooled his opponent on the other side of the net.
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Now, it wasn't a perfect night for Turkula, because his Mustangs (7-7) let once-beaten Vernon Hills off the hook and fell to the Cougars 19-25, 25-21, 25-12 on Wednesday night.
But Turkula really wasn't complaining about the loss that much.
"It was probably the most fun volleyball match I've ever played in,'' Turkula said.
He won't be in school on Thursday. That's because every two weeks he makes the trip to downtown Chicago for another treatment.
Turkula has brain cancer, and he's due for another dose of chemotherapy.
"It's like I get the flu for a couple of hours,'' he said. "I try and stay awake and watch movies or television."
It began with headaches last last spring. By late summer, he had his diagnosis.
"I had a lot of pressure,'' he said. "But I was very surprised by brain cancer."
Naturally his mother, Grazina, was along for the ride to Children's Hospital.
"He had some headaches and his ophthalmologist noticed some swelling,'' she said. "But we have wonderful doctors and Ian has some great friends on the team. They have taken the train to go to see him. His friends are looking out for him."
The good news here is Turkula's tumor is shrinking.
"It's making a difference,'' he said.
Grazina Turkula is also full of compliments for the school her son attends.
"The whole school is behind him,'' she said. "And that's helped with his attitude. His didn't have any hair at Christmas but it's grown back some."
The senior is deciding between Minnesota and Illinois for his college education.
On Playing for a Cure Night in Mundelein, a large crowd turned out to support the teams and Turkula.
"This night was designed to support Ian,'' said Mundelein coach George Dressen. "And that was accomplished. And bringing in Vernon Hills made it special, too."
The Cougars have joined forces with the Mustangs in the past.
"We did this two years ago,'' said Vernon Hills coach Chris Curry. "But now the kids were able to put a face on it. This young man is inspiring."
And perhaps inspired by the play of Turkula, who started the first two sets, the Mustangs (7-7) took set one and opened a 17-14 lead in set two.
"We had a chance at taking the match,'' Dressen said. "And then we had some breakdowns on serve receive. And before you knew it, the momentum had changed."
That momentum had a name: Max Spiglanin. Asked to play a different position most every night, the versatile Spiglanin led all hitters with 14 kills and 5 blocks.
"The kid never complains,'' Curry said.
The Cougars (8-1) are still missing a couple of major players in Michael Heinz and Evan Borden, who are sidelined with injuries. But with the offensive power of Spiglanin and some defensive help from Chris Edwards, Vernon Hills rallied back in set two. With setter Ryan Opitz (25 assists) serving, Spiglanin laced a pair of kills to pull the Cougars ahead.
Set three was close until Danny Rosenstock went to serve with Vernon Hills leading 13-8. Opitz had a pair of no-look kills as the Cougars surged to an 18-9 lead.
Mundelein's win in set one was helped along by the serving of David Everding. An ace led to 5 straight points as Mundelein opened an 18-14 lead.
The Mustangs were led on offense by the powerful Blake Burton (10 kills). Setter Victor Magana had 15 assists. Vernon Hills also had help from Edwards (10 digs), Tyler Small (6 kills, 3 blocks) and Lem Turner (5 kills, 3 blocks).
"I'm so glad George (Dressen) invited us to this,'' Curry said.