Every season opener has a different feel to it.
In the case of St. Charles North's boys volleyball team, that different feel includes several varsity newcomers hoping to blend in with veterans Nic Cook and Jack Bujko.
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Cook, now the starting libero, and middle hitter Bujko saw some playing time last season when the North Stars recorded a school-best 32-7 record and eventual third-place state finish.
St. Charles North (1-0) began its season on a positive note with a 25-19, 25-20 nonconference victory over Leyden (0-2) Wednesday night in St. Charles.
"We've got new faces all over the board," said North Stars coach Todd Weimer, whose squad lost 12 seniors to graduation from a year ago. "I've got two returning players with Jack (Bujko) and Nic (Cook). We have two varsity basketball players in Johnny Davern and Tyler DeMoss. We have two sophomores up on varsity and two football players.
"It is definitely a different dynamic of a team but the kids are working hard. It's just exciting to see these guys come together especially in our first match of the season."
Outside hitter Ben Connor delivered 4 kills and middle hitter DeMoss added 3 kills as the North Stars overcame 4 service errors and gradually pulled away for the Game 1 win.
"There were a lot of nerves but we tried to work through it," said Weimer. "Between games we talked about trying to keep limiting the simple errors."
Leyden, led by seniors Eric Delao (5 kills) and Jacob Lazzarotto (5 kills), grabbed a 7-4 lead in the second game before the North Stars fought back.
A pair of middle kills from Bujko (5 kills, 3 blocks) put the North Stars on top 14-13 and served as a harbinger of things to come.
After the Eagles trimmed the deficit to 18-17, the North Stars reeled off 4 consecutive points capped by explosive back-to-back middle kills from Bujko.
"It's one of the greatest feelings to hit the ball hard like that," said Bujko, who sat out this past club season with a back injury. "I had spondylolisthesis (forward displacement of the fourth and fifth vertebrae). It felt really great to go the get the kinks out."
Cook, who finished second on the team in aces last season (26), added 2 aces and 10 digs while setter Jeff Rollins (1 ace, 2 kills, 10 digs, 15 assists) and junior Brendan Donlevy (3 kills) supported the attack for the North Stars.
"Obviously we were successful last season," said Weimer. "We had 12 seniors graduate. We don't talk a lot about that. These guys -- they want to continue the tradition. Sure, we graduated a lot of talent but that doesn't matter. It's a new season. It's a new group of guys and nobody is telling us that we can't do it again."
Omar Castro and Delao each added a pair of aces for the Eagles, who were without the services of starting libero Robert Simian (illness).
"We've got a lot of new faces on this team," said Leyden third-year coach Matt Figiel. "Two of our guys in serve receive had never been in a serve receive rotation before so we're learning."