The Prospect boys volleyball team is playing with a renewed level of confidence and enthusiasm.
Funny how a winning streak will do that for a team.
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The Mid-Suburban East-leading Knights made a big statement Tuesday with a 25-21, 25-20 victory over perennial division power Buffalo Grove at the Jean Walker Field House.
Just as importantly, Prospect evened its overall record at 11-11 after suffering through a 7-game losing streak to begin the season.
"We told the guys yesterday how important it would be to keep their energy level up today," said Prospect coach Mike Riedy, who watched his Knights improve to 5-1 in the East and avenge an earlier loss to the Bison. "I felt like the mental game tonight would actually be the most important factor and they came out and did a fantastic job."
Prospect senior Mark Mir set the tone for the home team in a well-controlled effort with 19 assists, while senior Evan Bunnetto led the visiting Bison with 6 kills.
After the match, BG coach Matt Aiello was able to succinctly sum up the reasons for the loss.
"We made errors -- they didn't," said Aiello. "They played with a lot of heart, and we didn't play with heart.
"Right now we're not playing as a team, and that's not characteristic of Bison volleyball. We showed flashes tonight but for the most part the guys are playing as individuals."
Outside hitter Curtis Glennon had 5 of his 7 kills in the first set to spark the Knights to a 1-0 lead.
A Bunnetto spike inspired BG to grab a 15-14 second-set advantage, but thereafter it was all Prospect and junior right side hitter Grant Andler.
First, sophomore Eryk Krzyzak hit a well-placed tip to give Prospect a 20-17 lead, then a kill and two consecutive aces by Andler put the game out of reach.
A bump by Knights libero Ryan Maloney (13 digs), a perfect set from Jacob Schwister and a spike by Glennon closed out the match and gave Prospect its fifth straight East win.
Six-foot-6 junior hitter Nikita Bulauski had 4 kills and 4 blocks for BG (10-12, 3-3), while senior libero Michael Maley added 6 digs.
Krzyzak and Andler hit 7 kills apiece for Prospect, while Krzyzak was a rock on serve receive with a stellar 15-of-15.
Andler added 4 aces for the Knights.
"It's great to get a win," said Riedy, "but the problem is now that we're going to have a target on our back. Everyone's going to be gunning for the first-place team."
"We're supremely confident," added Glennon, a senior. "After BG beat us in the first game this year, we knew we were going to have to come out here tonight and give them a battle."
Elk Grove d. Wheeling: The Grens proved resilient in taking a 17-25, 25-15, 25-19 victory in MSL East play at Wheeling.
Jake Bracerson (8 kills) and Jake Gatziolis (6) led the attack for Elk Grove (15-8, 3-3), while Ray Kraus had 19 assists and Braceros delivered 20 digs.
Top producers for Wheeling (10-13, 1-5) were Zack Nauert (11 kills, 11 digs), Tim Lee (6 kills, 8 digs) and Eric Ruttenberg (27 assists).
St. Viator d. Nazareth: Ben Wolf pounded down 18 kills and Ethan Wolf had 6 as the Lions made short work of host Nazareth 25-16, 25-22 in East Suburban Catholic Conference play.
Brennan Harrington had 27 setting assists and Ben Wolf produced 15 digs as St. Viator improved to 14-4 overall and 2-0 in the ESCC.
Barrington d. Hoffman Estates: Charlie Spry had 9 digs and 7 kills and Peter Van Fossan had 9 kills and 2 blocks to help the Broncos pick up an MSL West victory 26-24, 25-22.
Jovi Pablo (5 kills) and Brandon Kwiatkowski (4) led the attack for host Hoffman Estates.