Taller than most of the hitters he sets, Wheaton North senior Hank Bowen looks like he should be a hitter, too.
But the 6-foot-5 Bowen says that setters benefit as much from height as hitters do.
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"It gives you an advantage, being a tall setter," Bowen said. "The timing in between sets, with our middles, it's always right out of my hands into theirs. And then dumping down as opposed to up and over. That's a big advantage, too."
Bowen certainly proved to be a tall task for Carmel on Friday night in the 24-team Blue Devil Invite at Warren High School.
He rolled up 27 assists setting up a cast of tall hitters, including 6-foot-7 middle hitter Graham Clark and 6-foot-3 opposite hitter Joe Mullinger. They had 8 kills apiece as Wheaton North swept the Corsairs, 25-16, 27-26.
"You don't see setters with that kind of size very often," Carmel coach Kevin Nylen said of Bowen. "He's a very good player and moves really well for his size."
Bowen got Wheaton North (5-4) moving quickly. The Falcons reeled off a 6-0 start in the first game that set the stage for a breezy victory. When Carmel called its first timeout, Wheaton North had a 12-3 lead, built on a couple of aces from Nick Johnson and kills from Clark and Mullinger.
"I was in a rhythm, we were getting good passes from our teammates, Hank was setting them my way and I was just doing my job," Mullinger said. "Hank is so strong and he can really move the ball. He also doesn't need a perfect pass to make a perfect set."
Bowen, who is also a tight end on the football team, started playing volleyball in junior high. He was one of the bigger players on that team, too. But it was obvious to his coaches even back then that he had good hands and a nice touch on the ball, so they made him a setter.
He's been setting on the varsity since his sophomore year.
"I come from the philosophy that the taller the setter, the better," Wheaton North coach John Noe said. "It's nice being able to run a 5-1 with that 6-foot-5 body at setter.
"The thing about Hank is that he does no club. He's just one of those raw athletes you don't see too often. His comfort level with his skills, his athleticism and his command over the court is everything you'd want in a setter. And his leadership skills really make the difference for us."
Wheaton North needed some strong leadership in the second game.
Carmel (2-4) put up much more of a fight and took a few leads. In fact, the Corsairs were up 26-25 with the serve but couldn't quite close out the win.
But for a team that plays two sophomores and has been riddled with injuries already, Nylen was still pleased with the effort.
"That was really good to see, us fighting in that second game," Nylen said. "We've been preaching consistency and trying to get better and taking care of the small things and trying to show some fight and we did that in the second game."
Derek Clement led the way for Carmel with some big kills in the second game. He finished with 7 kills on the match. He was making his season debut, having spent the first five weeks of the season sidelined with a fractured ankle that he suffered in gym class soccer.
Besides Clement, Carmel's starting setter Andrew Wloch has also missed some games. He is still out with an injury.
"I felt good tonight," Clement said. "I don't really try to think about (the ankle). My head's in the game. I feel rejuvenated and ready to play.
"I think sometimes we get down on ourselves, be we always have the integrity to dig out and get back in (the game) like we did tonight."
Both Wheaton North and Carmel lost their other game in pool play to Buffalo Grove. Today's action for each team begins at 2 p.m. at Warren.