A superb effort Wednesday night from an unlikely source helped lead Mid-Suburban West champion Palatine to a boys volleyball conference championship.
Unheralded Pirates senior middle/right-side Jerry Sommerfeld had possibly his most outstanding effort of the season to propel his team to an impressive 25-20, 25-16 MSL title game victory over host Rolling Meadows, the East champs.
"He's not one of the glory guys," said Palatine coach Frank Stark, "but he's a hard worker and has made himself into a great player. Jerry's got a fantastic attitude and he gets a lot of touches on the ball, and he elevated his game tonight."
"He's got an extremely high volleyball IQ, and when he sets up to hit the ball in practice the rest of the guys yell 'textbook' because he hits it so perfectly."
Sommerfeld's 3 kills and 2 clutch blocks helped the Pirates rally from 3 points down in both sets to win.
"I felt it tonight," said the senior. "I had my legs under me, and the whole team was energized. It's great to see how all the hard work we've put in has paid off."
Brett Frey, who recorded 18 assists for Meadows, said there was no question as to why the Mustangs lost.
"We couldn't stop their pin hitters," said Frey. "We knew they weren't going to go to the middle, but we still couldn't block them."
Meadows led 14-11 in the first set when a kill by Palatine senior Danny Matijevic, a Mustangs hitting error and an ace from senior Brian Keough helped the visitors forge a tie.
The Pirates (23-6) took control late on one of Sommerfeld's key blocks and won game one when Meadows had trouble handling a David Clark serve.
"We sped up our offense," said Matijevic on the reason the Pirates were able to turn the tide. "We were facing a lot of single blocks and we knew we could get past them.
"This is such an unbelievable feeling. We're a hard-working team and we're fighters, so even if we get down big, we know have the ability to come back."
Rolling Meadows (26-7) led by 3 points again in set two as MSL East player of the year Kevin Murphy (2 aces) came alive. But an ace by Pirates junior setter Kyle Obernesser (co-West player of the year) forged a tie, and Palatine took off from there.
A block kill by Keough closed out the championship victory, the Pirates' first MSL crown since 2004.
"This is a fantastic feeling, one of the best feelings ever," said Obernesser. "It was an outstanding team effort. We were down in both games, but it was our coach (Frank Stark) who gave us the confidence to come back. He told us to just go out there and play the way we knew we could play."
"I've said it before and I'll say it again," said a choked-up Stark. "This is a great group of guys and I couldn't be prouder of them."
Libero Christian Frahm led a strong defensive effort for the visitors with 13 digs, Obernesser had 18 assists on 43-of-44 setting, while the Mustangs' Murphy, a senior, led his team with 4 kills.
"We were out of rhythym all night," said Meadows coach Tim Piatek. "We didn't even come close to playing as well as we know how to play."