St. Charles North has a decidedly different look to its boys volleyball program this spring.
"It's a brand-new team," coach Todd Weimer said of heavy graduation losses to the reigning state trophy-winning squad. "We have 10 guys playing varsity for the first time."
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Tuesday evening in the North Stars' Upstate Eight Conference crossover match against Bartlett, St. Charles North needed a spark after dropping the first game.
But an aggressive serving mindset changed the course of the match as Drew Lanz had 3 aces in the rubber game to propel the North Stars to an 18-25, 25-17 and 25-15 victory in St. Charles.
The North Stars (7-7), third in state last year, improved to .500 with the victory.
Jeff Rollings' ace, one of eight on the night for St. Charles North, forced a decisive third set.
"I was just listening to what coach was telling me," Lanz said of his serving strategy. "We knew their weaknesses and took advantage of them. (Bartlett) had a couple of players who couldn't pass as well as the others."
Dominik Stanisz had a kill to deadlock the third game for Bartlett (6-5) at 6-6, but it was all St. Charles North the remainder of the third set.
Lanz had back-to-back aces as part of a 12-4 run -- capped by a Nic Cook kill and Bartlett net violation -- to give the North Stars an 18-10 cushion.
"Too many (St. Charles North) runs," Bartlett coach Bob Schwantz said. "We couldn't string more than 2 points together (the final 2 games). They did what a home team should do. They regrouped and came back and took the momentum back away from us."
Ben Connor had the last of his 6 kills to account for the North Stars' final 2 points.
Brendan Donlevy led the North Stars' offensive attack with 12 kills.
Cook had a match-high 13 digs to augment his 8 kills for St. Charles North.
"I'm proud of the guys," Weimer said. "They didn't get down on themselves after the first set. We still have a long ways to go."
The Hawks' Division-I-bound Mike Gulczynski appeared to be the star performer in the early portions of the match.
The Loyola-bound Gulczynski tied Donlevy for match honors in kills with 12, and his jump-serving acumen in the opening set was indispensable to the Hawks' first-set victory.
"We were kind of acclimated to that kind of serve (after a vigorous Monday practice)," Weimer said. "We kind of wanted to key on (Gulczynski). We knew he was good."
"Our passing was not up to par," Gulczynski said of the Hawks' travails over the final sets. "We just didn't connect. We didn't have our feet in the right spot (on serve-receive). As a team we fell apart."