It was opening night and there were a lot of new varsity faces, but it was the same old rivalry.
Naperville North headed across town to take on Neuqua Valley in the boys volleyball opener for eachschool and the Huskies, despite letting Game 1 slip away, managed to come away with a 24-26, 25-18, 25-19 victory on Wednesday.
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The opener was sloppy at times but tight throughout as neither team led by more than two points at any point and Naperville North actually led 22-20 before the Wildcats rallied to claim the opener, with Kyle Zacock and Matt Siebach combining for a block kill on game point.
But the Huskies, who lost 11 seniors from last year's squad, built nice leads in each of the next two games and hung on for the three-game victory.
"The first set was kind of a hard loss, being up and then losing it. But we rallied together and we definitely had momentum on our side coming out of the second set," Naperville North setter Kevin Romy said. "The big lead in the third set really helped us."
Romy, just one of four seniors on the Naperville North roster, had 7 kills, 7 assists and 4 blocks in the season-opening match. He teamed with 6-foot-5 Kevin Figge on a big block that gave the Huskies a 10-4 lead in the decisive third game.
Naperville North led that third game from start to finish, but the Wildcats did make a late run to close to within 3 points on three occasions before the visitors closed out the game and the match by scoring the final three points of the night.
"It's tough because it's Neuqua and all these kids know each other," Huskies coach Nathan Bornancin said. "It was really nice to see our seniors step up at the end when we needed them to and to have some juniors step up with some big kills at the end."
Senior outside hitter Jack Hafen paced Naperville North with 11 kills, including his final one that gave the team a 23-19 lead. From there Figge followed with a kill after a dig by Philip Olszewski and Figge then added a kill past the Neuqua block for match point.
"It feels real good," Romy said after the win.
"We're a pretty young team, but it's looking pretty good so far."
The Wildcats, like the Huskies, were hit hard by graduation after they reached the sectional finals in 2013. But junior outside hitter Austin Neace, who saw some varsity action last year, looks primed for a breakout campaign this spring. He led everyone with 13 kills.
"It's no secret he's going to get the ball. The other team knows he's going to get the ball, but he's good enough, a dynamic enough player … he's going to get his kills," Neuqua Valley coach Erich Mendoza said.
Aaron Lauth had 23 assists and Devin Furio 15 digs for the Wildcats, while Jack Rothmund had 18 assists for Naperville North and teammate Will Littell paced the defense with 11 digs.