Junior outside hitter Jack Burton lifted his offensive game to help the Naperville Central boys volleyball team remain undefeated throughout the ninth annual Benet Invitational.
When senior Jon Chiczewski rejoined the lineup during Saturday's championship match, Burton and the Redhawks looked even better.
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"I think (we) work extremely well together and we get each other's personalities, just flow on the court really well," Burton said. "Without him there it was just a little bit different. I had to adjust to it."
The Redhawks started slow, but they finished with a near-perfect third set to outlast the host Redwings 25-23, 23-25, 25-16 and win the eight-team tournament for the first time.
Naperville Central (26-3) had 11 kills and just one attack error in the third set. The Redwings (17-8) had 12 kills with 10 attack errors, and both teams missed three serves.
"I think we've been pretty consistent all season. I don't think our team gets too far down or too far up. We just kind of play at a steady level," Burton said.
"(That consistency) was big because they have a good block and we were hitting balls into the block and out of bounds. Once we started getting it in the court and put it on their side, we could let them take the errors and try to take the game back."
Burton had 16 kills in the final and was named Most Valuable Player on the 12–player all-tournament team after accumulating 51 kills for the four pool and two playoff matches. Senior all-tournament libero Raymond Chung had 10 digs to finish with 31.
"I felt obligated to kind of pick up the slack (without Chiczewski), kind of teach the other outside hitter how to play his position, how to get some kills," Burton said.
Chiczewski 11 kills were his only ones of the tournament. Dan Trembacki had 36 assists and Kevin Prazak added 4 digs.
Benet was led by Mark Schuessler, all-tournament selections Garrett Metzger and Ben Mazza and Jackson Van Eekeren.
St. Francis (24-5) defeated Glenbard West 13-25, 25-20, 25-16 for third place after the Hilltoppers (19-5) won their pool match Saturday. The Spartans' Jeff Jendryk and Robert Smith and the Hilltoppers' Paulie Bischoff and Kyler Kotsakis earned all-tournament honors.
The invite's top four finishers are expected to be among the top seeds for the Hinsdale Central sectional, which will be released this week.
"(This title) was a good win for us. It helps with our confidence going into sectionals," Naperville Central coach Roger Strausberger said. "We can look really good at times and other times we can struggle. It's a matter of keeping our confidence up and knowing that we've been in those situations before, and then to produce."
In the final pool match Saturday, Naperville Central defeated Benet 25-15, 25-18, but the Redwings entered the championship riding high after a 27-25, 25-22 semifinal victory over Glenbard West. The Redwings overcame deficits of 23-20 in the first set and 20-17 in the second.
"(Glenbard West) was our biggest victory at this point of the season," Benet coach Amy Van Eekeren said. "You always want to come out the victor, but to come out of this tough a tournament and play some great volleyball, I'm really proud of the leaps that we made."
Chiczewski has been battling shin splints. He helped the Redhawks beat Lake Park Thursday to move into a first-place tie in the DuPage Valley Conference. He sat out pool play Friday while Tyler Stefani rose to the occasion in his place.
After appearing briefly in the semifinals against St. Francis, Chiczewski got the call as Benet took a 19-12 lead in the first set. He had 3 kills the rest of the set, including game point following Kacper Mazurek's kill that broke a 23-23 tie.
"If we didn't need (Chiczewski) and Tyler was playing well so well, I wasn't going to mess with the group and give him a rest until we needed him," Strausberger said.
Benet took a 16-9 lead in the second set and led the rest of the way, holding off the Redhawks all six times they came within a point.
After surrendering the first point of the third set, the Redhawks never trailed again. Behind Burton, Chiczewski and Chang, they quickly took command at 10-4.
"We started out very aggressive, just a lot of momentum, energy. I feel where we faltered was the beginning of game three, allowing a little bit of a lead," Van Eekeren said. "They were chipping away (through the match). They play great defense, have great ball control. As a result, they kind of frustrated us at times."
Waubonsie Valley (20-9) finished fifth with a 28-26, 25-13 victory over Plainfield Central (20-9) after going winless in pool play. Neuqua Valley (9-14) won the seventh-place match 25-20, 30-28 over Oswego (8-16). The Warriors' Michael Simmons and the Wildcats' Austin Neace were named all-tournament.