Wheaton Academy boys volleyball coach DA Nichols shuffled his lineup for Friday's nonconference match with Geneva and might have found a combination that will stick.
Kenneth Mill, a middle hitter the past three years, moved to the outside. Daniel Gregersen, a veteran outside, took over at libero. Steven McDonell, a 6-foot-7 junior, is improving each match in the middle.
All the pieces came together to pull out a three-set win. After leading nearly the entire first game only to watch Geneva rally for a 25-23 win, the Warriors came back strong to win the final two sets, 25-17, 25-15.
Injuries and sicknesses have been one reason Nichols has had to adjust his lineup. Wheaton Academy improved to 8-4 with the win while Geneva fell to 14-6.
"This is the one (lineup) I think we probably should go with," Nichols said. "If we can repeat it it might be the one."
Nichols also went to a 5-1 Friday with Kevin Esposito setting. Esposito's favorite targets were Tim Robbins with 11 kills, Jeremy Vischer 8, and Mill in his new spot on the outside with 10 kills.
"We need that outlet when we get in trouble," Nichols said of Mill who has improved his vertical jump to 36 inches. "You can see his vert. He's started adjusting to get his body squared around. He took some big swings and took a lot of shots."
Nichols said the Warriors will use five matches Saturday at the Addison Trail tournament to see if he's found a lineup to keep.
"He's a good athlete," Nichols said of Esposito. "Consistency is what we've been missing. Glad I pulled the trigger on it (the lineup changes)."
Geneva coach K.C. Johnsen said consistency also has been a problem for his team, and he saw both the good and bad from the Vikings throughout the match.
In a Game 1 that included 11 ties and 3 lead changes, the Vikings didn't go ahead until 19-18 when Nathan Jesko set Mason Stierwalt for a kill.
After Wheaton Academy went back up 22-21, the Warriors -- who had to that point not made a hitting error in the match -- missed on a shot and then could not handle a Geneva serve to fall behind 23-22. The Warriors also hit long again on game point.
Robbins said the team learned from a loss to Rolling Meadows how to better handle its emotions. It showed in the final two sets as Wheaton Academy did not let the frustration of letting the Game 1 lead slipping away get to them.
"We've dealt with emotions before," Robbins said. "But we are able to overcome that now and control our emotions and let our play talk. We've improved a lot. We let them (Rolling Meadows) get to our heads too much and it went downhill from there. We really learned from that."
After such a tight first set, the Warriors trailed just once in the final two. Tied 13-13 in Game 2, the Warriors went on a 12-4 run to end the game started on another big swing from Robbins.
Robbins, who also led both teams with 5 blocks, got plenty of help in the closing surge from Mill.
Geneva, on the other hand, went to Stierwalt a little more than Johnsen would prefer. The 6-foot-5 senior finished with a match-high 14 kills, but after getting 12 in the first two sets the Warriors held him to 2 in Game 3 as their block kept a close eye on the big hitter.
"Our biggest problem tonight was trying to force the ball to him," Johnsen said. "We have some other people who can score. I think we just thought Mason was going to score every time he got the ball. We'll grow out of that too. When you are forcing him the ball and he can't get a good swing, he's going to be in as much trouble as anyone else with a bad set."
Wheaton Academy jumped to a quick 10-4 lead in Game 3 and never let Geneva get closer. The match ended with Esposito setting Robbins in the middle for a thunderous kill.
While the Warriors head to Addison Trail Saturday, Geneva is off until Monday when it plays Streamwood in its second Upstate Eight Conference River match. The Vikings defeated Larkin in their only other River match.
"That's kind of how we've been playing," Johnsen said. "We're pretty good at times and we're a little too inconsistent at other times. When we're good we're good. When we're inconsistent it shows. That's something we have to improve. But give Wheaton some credit, maybe they made us inconsistent."