Only nine points into the Naperville North boys volleyball team's regional opener Monday, libero Will Littell and Phil Olszewski went for a dig and collided.
Littell aggravated a right wrist injury as he struck Olszewski in the face but remained in the match. Olszewski went to the bench with a bloody nose.
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"That definitely just kind of messed things up a little bit. It got us a little flustered," Littell said. "It's just a process to get back to how we're used to playing after that. Once we got past that, and we started connecting passes and finding our hitters, it just went uphill from there."
After the Huskies' rough start Littell was among those who helped them finish strong and defeat Proviso West 25-17, 25-16 in the Hinsdale South Regional quarterfinals.
Naperville North (16-20), the No. 13 seed in the Hinsdale Central Sectional, plays No. 4 Lyons Township (27-6) at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The Huskies led 16-12 in the first set, but Naperville North coach Nate Bornancin called a timeout after the No. 20 Panthers (12-14) closed to 18-17. The Huskies got a sideout and Littell then served out the set with six straight points, which included an ace and three kills from Jake Hafen.
"I thought Jake played fantastic today," Bornancin said. "I called that timeout and we finished them off, which was great so they responded well to that. I liked our response in Game 2 as well."
Hafen finished with 12 kills and 10 digs. Kent Lang, Frank Dore and Kevin Romy also benefited from setters Romy and Jack Rothmund.
Despite the collision Littell had one of his best matches defensively, collecting 19 digs. While Littell sometimes wears a bandana during matches, all Huskies played with stars and stripes bandanas in honor of Memorial Day.
"I'm used to getting around 11 digs a match," Littell said. "Being able to get that many, especially after an injury, it's really nice to be able to do that. It's fun, too. I like being able to dig those balls."
"He was flying around out there. That was great to see," Bornancin said.
Olszewski returned at the outset of the second set and served three straight points for a 4-0 lead. The Panthers closed to 10-9 but never tied or led.
"They just had to clean me up. I just wanted a little mental break, and I was ready to go back in there that second game," Olszewski said. "(The collision) got in my head a little bit, but after that first pass in the second game, I felt like I was right back in it."
Also for the second game, the Huskies' Michael Jennings entered on the right side and Lang moved to the middle, collecting five kills. Bornancin complimented his setters for also finding their other middles (Dore and Andy Leon) in the match.
The Huskies had a height advantage, but the Panthers hung tough. They dug well and kept mistakes at a minimum, missing just one serve, and finished with 13 kills and 9 attack errors.
"Proviso West was quick. They got up a lot of stuff. I thought their setter was extremely talented finding his pins," Bornancin said. "We missed (nine) serves and we hit some balls out of bounds that we shouldn't be doing."
The Huskies beat LT 27-25, 25-20 April 25 at the Downers Grove South Invite. Bornancin knows that Tuesday's rematch will be a challenge.
"Absolutely, we have to play better (than today) if we want to stand a chance against LT," Bornancin said. "We played probably one of our best matches of the season against them, and it was close. I think they can play a lot better than what they showed. They're a very good team. They're very big, too, a very big block."