Naperville Central overcame a slow start against Metea Valley during Friday's Tiger Classic boys volleyball tournament at Wheaton Warrenville South.
After dropping the first game the Redwings put things together offensively en route to a 23-25, 25-20, 25-20 win over the Mustangs.
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Combined with that win and a victory against Glenbrook North earlier in the day, the Redwings finished pool play with a 2-0 record and advanced to Saturday's gold division bracket.
"Our goal today was to get into the gold division, but we're still having trouble coming out flat," Naperville Central coach Roger Strausberger said. "We give the other team 2 or 3 points at a time and then we get down on ourselves."
Naperville Central combined for 36 kills, 10 from Jon Chiczewski and 6 from Jack Burton, including the match point off a set assist by Dan Trembacki.
"Jack is one of our go-to hitters, so we look for him to carry our team," Strausberger said. "We were kind of sloppy tonight, but we hope to pick things back up tomorrow."
Metea Valley led by as many as seven in Game 1 after a kill by Andrew Miller put the Mustangs up 14-7.
Naperville Central's Parker Duwelius eventually tied the score at 21, sending an attack attempt into the corner, but Metea Valley held off the run and won on an over serve that the Redwings never returned.
"I told the guys that whoever played harder was going to win," Strausberger said. "Metea (Valley) came out and played harder in the first game. We tend to play to the level of our talent, which makes our games close and we have a hard time putting teams away."
Neuqua Valley middle hitter Enrique Lopez tallied his last kill midway through the second game that cut the Mustangs' deficit to 10-8, but he had to leave with an ankle injury a short time later and did not return.
"Our middle hitter went down and that kind of handcuffed us to where we could go with the ball," Metea Valley coach John Aister said. "We don't really have a backup middle (hitter). Krishna (Vannemreddy) did a nice job filling in, but without our starting middle it was a tough night for us."
Down 9-8 in the third game, Naperville Central went on an 8-3 run that included two kills by Chiczewski, and one each from Burton, Kacper Mazurek and Tanner Beck, followed by an ace from Burton that led to a Metea Valley timeout.
The Redwings maintained at least a two-point cushion the rest of the way before Burton's aforementioned match point kill.