Gregg Lugo came up big for the Hoffman Estates boys volleyball team Tuesday night at Conant.
The hard-hitting senior outside had 11 kills – 3 of them down the stretch in game 3 – as the Hawks overcame a strong effort by the never-say-die Cougars to win 25-19, 20-25, 25-18 in the Mid-Suburban West.
"We didn't come out with the energy we needed to tonight, and we had some communications problems," said Lugo as Hoffman Estates had to rally late to win. "It was rough early, but we were able to push through and play our game."
"Every conference match is important," added Lugo. "The great thing is that we were able to finish."
Matt Stacy added a couple of well timed aces for Hoffman, while Conant was led by senior defensive specialist Mark Tomuta, who recorded 21 digs.
"I thought our guys gave a great effort tonight," said Cougars coach Steve Peter. "When we had it going our outside and middles were getting kills, and defensively this was our best match of the year."
Hoffman went on an 8-point Game 1 run behind Connor Rodheim at the service line to win the first set handily, then Conant took a 19-14 lead in set two when Hoffman coach Dan Hutton called time out.
"He (Hutton) just told us to kick it into gear," said Lugo. "We're a better team than we were showing at that point."
Hutton's advice paid dividends as the Hawks ran off 5 straight points to tie the set -- but two clutch block kills by Conant sophomore middle Nikola Todorov helped the Cougars tie the match at a game apiece.
Then the teams traded points in the deciding set, with Hoffman grabbing the early lead but Conant closing to 18-17 after a service ace from Connor Lejman.
"We came out and had it going in the second game," said Cougars senior outside hitter Patryk Openchowski. "We played well in the third game too but we just couldn't finish out."
With the Hawks (8-9, 3-3) clinging to the 1-point lead, Lugo gave his team some breathing room with 2 straight kills of the block.
After a couple hitting errors by Conant, Lugo closed things out with a final spike.
"We've been working extremely hard in practice," said Hutton, "and as we showed tonight, we're a much better team when we're generating our own points instead of waiting for teams to give us points."
Lugo added 15 digs for the visitors, Lejman served up 4 aces for Conant while teammate Jae Pyun hit 10 kills and Openchowski swatted 9.
Openchowski said that although the Cougars were disappointed with the loss, they're also excited for the rest of the season.
"When we play well like we did tonight, it fires us up," said the senior. "Going up against Hoffman is always a battle, but we've got to push though and find a way to win games like this."
Hersey d. Wheeling: The MSL East-leading Huskies stayed unbeaten in the division with a 25-14, 25-12 victory on the road.
Hersey had a balanced attack featuring Bart Migus (8 kills), Matt Torvik (6) and Mike Fuerst (4). Fotis Christacos had 10 digs and Kevin Messer had 7, while Torvik (9 assists) and Peter Wesolowski (10) shared setting duties for the Huskes, who improved to 6-0 in the MSL East.
Barrington d. Palatine: The visiting Broncos stayed unbeaten in MSL West play with a 25-17, 25-22 victory at Palatine.
Connor Wright (11 kills), Justin Glader (6) and Colin Castagna (4) led the Broncos' attack, while Noah Ricchetti had 21 assists and Adam Glader had a team-high 7 digs.
Kyle Obernesser had 6 digs and Tyler Kendzior had 4 for Palatine.
Buffalo Grove d. Rolling Meadows: The visiting Bison (15-9, 4-2) met the challenge at Rolling Meadows with Nikita Bulauski (10 kills), Athan Cruz (7 kills) and Kevin Shanahan (6 kills) leadin the attack. Setter Zack Schnittker had 24 assists along with 3 kills and a block, and Tullio Ruscitti had a team-best 16 digs.
Tom Srnak led Rolling Meadows (4-9, 1-5) with 7 kills, while Jose Cruz had 12 digs and Tommy Murphy served a pair of aces.
Fremd d. Schaumburg: Austin Park had 16 digs, Sharief Scott had 12 and Patrick Kurka had 11 to help Fremd outlast Schaumburg 25-21, 25-27, 25-23 in MSL West play. Scott (8 kills) and Park (11) also led the attack from the Vikings (7-15, 3-3), and Tim Vandon proudced 7 block kills.
St. Viator d. Nazareth: The Lions improved to 13-5 overall after prevailing against Nazareth 22-25, 26-24, 25-14.
The Lions (1-1 East Suburban Catholic) had four players with 8 or more kills. Ethan Wolf served 4 aces, and Mark Tun came up with 24 digs.
Deerfield d. Maine West: Deerfield topped the Warriors 25-9, 25-15 in Central Suburban North play as Peter Tedeschi (5 kills) led the attack for the Warriors (4-13, 0-4).