Playing without two injured middle hitters, St. Charles North's boys volleyball team was looking for someone to fill the position Tuesday night.
Enter Johnny Davern.
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The junior recorded 6 of his season-high 11 kills in the decisive third game during the North Stars' 25-20, 22-25, 25-20 Upstate Eight Conference River Division triumph over cross-town rival St. Charles East (12-11, 1-1).
"Johnny is a setter and right-side (hitter)," said North Stars coach Todd Weimer. "He has played a little bit in the middle but we needed somebody to step up and he said, 'I'll step up.' He hasn't been getting a ton of playing time but he was clutch tonight."
Davern was just happy to contribute to a much-needed victory.
"We needed to push hard," said Davern. "East is our rival and we really wanted to beat them."
St. Charles North (11-12, 2-0) overcame 6 service errors to take the opening game as Nic Cook and Jeff Rollins combined for 9 kills and an ace.
In Game 2, the Saints leaned heavily upon senior outside hitter Luke Spicer.
The Dominican University-bound Spicer answered the call, recording 11 of his match-high 18 kills, including a powerful put-away on game point to force the rubber game.
"I didn't want to give up in what could be my last time playing North," said Spicer. "I've played them in football. I've played them with volleyball. I didn't want anything to be left out there."
Cook (14 kills, 13 digs, 2 aces) nearly matched Spicer point for point in Game 2 as he racked up 8 kills.
"It's always an awesome rivalry," said Cook. "Spicer and I have played against each other for four or five years in club. He's definitely a great player."
It became little secret who the Saints were going to turn to in Game 3.
"We kind of knew that he would be getting a lot of the sets," Weimer said of Spicer. "But I felt comfortable. I never had to hit the panic button. I really felt like we were in the driver's seat even in that second set."
St. Charles North ran off 6 consecutive points to grab a 16-8 lead in the decisive game and opened a 24-16 advantage before the Saints made things interesting.
St. Charles East fought off 4 match points behind kills from R.J. Yoder (7 kills) and Kriss Brunovskis (4 kills) to pull within 24-20 before Davern's tip kill sealed the deal for the North Stars.
"This win puts us in a good position in our conference," said Weimer, whose team is now 14-2 in conference matches since he took over as head coach. "We've still got Geneva, Larkin and Streamwood left but this was a big win."
The North Stars also received contributions from Brendan Donlevy (8 kills, 14 digs), libero Trevor Gonzaga (11 digs), Jack Bujko (4 kills, 5 blocks), Ben Connor (14 assists) and Rollins (27 assists, 5 kills, 4 blocks).
"It's still a work in progress," said Weimer. "We've been constantly switching liberos, middles, outsides and setters so hopefully now we can stay with this, stay in the groove and stay healthy."
Despite playing in hostile territory, Cook felt a little more at ease with a boisterous cheering section that included a group of 12-year-old girls from the Kane County Juniors club team that he helps coach.
"They picked the game to come out to and they just happened to pick this one," said Cook. "They're a loud bunch. It was a lot of fun."
There was plenty of mutual respect displayed by both sides.
"Nic is a great guy and a great player," said Spicer. "They had a great team last year and they have another good team this year. It's a phenomenal program and a great rivalry."