A little match experience? Who needs that?
Not Glenbard North. A scheduling mix-up forced the Panthers' only game before Saturday's West Aurora Tournament to be called off.
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That meant Dedra DeBenedetti's club would be making their season debut at the tournament. The Panthers started with wins over Oswego and Bolingbrook in pool play, defeated Schaumburg in the semifinals and fought back for a 3-set win over Joliet West in the championship match to take the 12-team tournament title.
DeBenedetti was a little concerned with her team not getting any game action before Saturday but the Panthers proved ready to go.
"Great way to start the season and a good way to see the things we need to work on," DeBenedetti said. "First one to gauge the things you are always working on. I knew it would be a quick turnaround. Even in the third set we were down and I'm just real proud."
DeBenedetti credited setter Pasquale Fiduccia for his steady play throughout Saturday's action. Joey Mendez "put some balls away" at key times, and Tee White, a call-up from the JV team, provided several crucial blocks, according to the coach.
Glenbard North (4-0) dropped the first set 25-17 to Joliet West before responding with 25-21 and 25-19 wins.
"They had the momentum and the drive and we kept chipping away," DeBenedetti said. "We changed the momentum and I'm incredibly proud of them."
The Panthers, who finished third in the tournament last year and second two years ago, put match point away on a kill from Fiduccia after Frankie Petock played a ball out of the net into a perfect set.
"Joliet West was athletic and had a fast tempo," DeBenedetti said. "Our passing started to pick up, and they started to make more errors."
Schaumburg bounced back from the loss to Glenbard North in the semifinals to beat St. Charles North (3-3) in the third-place match.
The North Stars defeated Oswego East and split with West Aurora in pool play, then lost 24-26, 25-22, 25-16 to Joliet West in the semifinals.
Missing setter Jeff Rollins, who is also a talented musician currently in Germany playing the violin, the North Stars made a few too many mistakes.
"(Rollins) runs the offense well, you can just tell, this is the first varsity volleyball tournament for all these guys," North Stars coach Todd Weimer said. "We're so inexperienced.
"We had a couple good positive things come out of today. We tried some different things. We got some different guys playing time. I told them let's make sure we learn from this early in the season and get better throughout the rest of the season."
In the Silver Division, St. Viator came from behind in both Game 1 and Game 3 to beat West Aurora 26-24, 15-25, 26-24 and win the Silver title -- which was essentially the fifth-place game.
"It's a little disappointing," Viator coach Chris Boylan said. "We were hoping to be in Gold. After the morning we came back and fought our butts off. They didn't quit, they didn't get down on themselves. They fought hard and beat a good West Aurora team."
St. Viator (3-2) fell into the Silver division after losing 25-19, 25-22 to Schaumburg.
Against the Blackhawks, St. Viator trailed 24-22 in Game 1 and won the final four points. In Game 3 the Blackhawks led 22-20 but St. Viator again surged when it mattered most.
"It's only our fifth match and we've had a lot of pressure, a lot of those type of games already this year where we're down and have to fight back or have a lead and we lose it and we have to fight back again. A lot of resilience with these kids."
Boylan credited a couple sophomores including James Woods for playing well and serving tough in tight situations.
The Lions were led once again by senior Ethan Wolf with 8 aces, 37 kills and 26 digs.
"He's our go-to guy," Boylan said. "He's one of the best players in the area. He can do everything."
West Aurora had a player finish the tournament with the same number of kills as Wolf. Sophomore Justin Reynolds had a 37 kills and passed a 2.24.
Reynolds had an impressive service run in Game 1 with his jump serve. He's part of a young core for the Blackhawks that has plenty of potential this spring and beyond.
"Overall I'm happy with the day," West Aurora coach Tolis Koskinaris said. "(St. Viator) was a little more polished than we were. We've got the power there's no doubt about it. We just have to go through the growing pains until these guys get a little more experience."
The only senior in West Aurora's lineup, Lucas Kilmer, also had a solid day with 20 kills and 13 blocks. Sophomore libero Luke Werrline had 36 digs and passed a 2.45.
Koskinaris thought his team played their best in pool play splitting two games with St. Charles North. The Blackhawks beat Geneva 10-25, 25-22, 25-17 in the semifinals of the Silver division.
"There's no doubt about it we're going to be able to compete at a very high level," Koskinaris said. "Every match we're learning, we're improving. The guys have a great attitude. Most of this stuff is like being a dad to them now (being such a young team)."
Geneva bounced back from the loss to West Aurora by beating Oswego for seventh place.
The Vikings also split in pool play to finish the day at 2-2 and move to 4-4 overall -- which sums up the kind of up-and-down year it has been so far.
"We were just inconsistent," Geneva coach KC Johnsen said. "At times we looked good against some pretty quality opponents. A little inconsistency cost us."
Senior Chris Parrilli joined Geneva's lineup for the first time Saturday. The Vikings have a busy week coming up with three more matches before a weekend tournament.
"We've got some young guys," Johnsen said. "We've just got to get some rhythm and get going. It's a big chunk of games (this week). Hopefully they'll find it. They are working hard and they are pretty athletic."