Niles North was on a roll.
The Vikings had just rallied to stun St. Viator in the second game of Tuesday's boys volleball regional semifinal at Loyola to tie the match and send it into a third and deciding set.
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And while the energized Vikes sprinted out of their huddle early and onto the court ready for game three, the Lions and coach Chris Boylan stood on the sidelines, calmly talking things over.
"We were still confident," said St. Viator senior libero Anthony Giovenco. "We kind of lost our intensity in the second game but we knew we couldn't let up."
"The guys relaxed a little after set one," agreed Boylan. "But in the third set our seniors took over."
Led by Giovenco, who Boylan said gave a "virtually flawless" performance, the Lions controlled the final game in a 25-15, 18-25, 25-12 victory.
Viator moves on to play host Loyola at 7 p.m. tonight in the regional final.
"This is one of the best matches Anthony has played all year," added Boylan of Giovenco, who finished with 21 digs. "When he's aggressive going to the ball he passes it very well, and he was aggressive tonight."
With Giovenco playing steadily and senior setter Brennan Harrington (91-of-92, 43 assists) spreading the ball around to a variety of hitters, Viator easily took a 1-game lead.
Then a replay call by the officials with the score tied in game two seemed to rattle the Lions and North ran off 5 points in a row to tie things up.
"We were kind of taking it easy," said Giovenco, "and they went on a run."
St. Viator senior hitters Ben Wolf and Nick Frank took over in the deciding game as two quick early spikes by Wolf sparked the Lions.
With Ben Wolf (23-of-27, 15 kills), sophomore Ryan Schiller (11 kills) and Frank (10 kills) doing damage at the net and Ethan Wolf (14-of-14 serving) keeping the Vikings off-balance from the service line, the Lions overwhelmed Niles North to claim the victory.
Ethan Wolf excelled on defense as well with 9 digs.
"Our seniors really stepped up," said Boylan. "They graduated this weekend, so this (the volleyball playoffs) are what they have left of school and they're making the most of it."
• Maine West went down fighting in Tuesday night's boys volleyball regional semifinal against Loyola.
The Warriors, fresh off an impressive victory over Chicago Amundsen Monday in the quarters, kept both games close on the Ramblers home court before succumbing 25-14, 25-16 in Wilmette.
Host and third-seed Loyola used 6-point runs late in both sets to secure the victory over a Warriors team that played with an abundance of heart in the loss.
"This was a good way to finish," said Maine West senior D.J. O'Neill. "We would have liked to come back and keep it a little closer, but we never gave up."
The first set evolved into a slugfest between 6-foot-7 Loyola junior outside hitter David Wieczarek and Warriors senior hitter Tomasz Ksiazkiewicz, but the Ramblers got the upper hand thanks to 8 kills and ace in the game by Wieczarek.
"We played well," said O'Neill, "but we needed better passes to our setter. When we get the ball to our setter we know that the big man (Ksiazkiewicz) can put it down."
In the second set, O'Neill led a Warriors rally and his two consecutive blocks brought Maine West to within 1 point of the Ramblers.
The senior got a third block kill and teammate Liam Higgins, a junior, pitched in with an ace but then Loyola scored the next 6 points before the 14th-seeded Warriors could get a sideout.
Superior firepower at the end put the match away for Loyola.
"We fought the whole way," said O'Neill. "It was a good way to go out."