Wednesday was a very special night for Hersey defensive specialist Jorge Castro.
Not only did the senior help lead his team to a regional title victory over Prospect, he also received one of the most prestigious sports awards given out by the school.
Moments after the Huskies secured a 25-19, 22-25, 25-22 victory over the host Knights, Castro was given the Kwon-Hampton scholarship, which is awarded annually.
"There were a lot of great guys up for this honor," said the senior. "I'm very proud."
Castro was 6-for-6 from the service line, while classmate Matt Torvik, a setter, had a career night for the Mid-Suburban East champ Huskies. Torvik finished with 13 kills on 22-of-24 hitting, 2 aces, and 17 assists.
"He was phenomenal," said Prospect coach Mike Riedy of Torvik. "I'd have to give him the game ball tonight."
Next up for the Huskies is a spot in Friday's New Trier sectional semifinals against Loyola at 7:30 p.m.
Hersey was on fire in Set 1 from the service line, jump-serving its way to 5 aces to take the lead in the match.
Then Prospect tied the match up in Set 2 behind strong serve-receive from Alex Blethen (32-of-36) and the hitting of Grant Andler. Andler finished with 19 kills after producing a whopping 24 kills Tuesday night in the regional semifinal against Niles Notre Dame.
"We tried to game plan around him," said Hersey senior Jordan Saeed of Andler. "He's almost unstoppable, and we didn't want to let him be the one to beat us."
Prospect took an early 3-point lead in the deciding game but Torvik pounded 3 straight kills to give Hersey some breathing room at 15-8.
The Knights closed to within 23-21 after Dane Schweinzger put down a ball in the middle, but points from Torvik and then 6-7 middle Mike Fuerst closed out the match.
"I'm so proud of our guys tonight," said Riedy. "We were well prepared for this match and they executed a great game plan. Unfortunately some unforced errors at crucial moments hurt us."
Eryk Krzyzak finished with 12 digs for Prospect, while Bart Migus added 10 kills for Hersey.
"There were some nervous times tonight," said Castro after receiving his scholarship, which is given in honor of Sung Kwon and John Hampton, two Hersey grads and volleyball players who were tragically killed in a car accident in 2000.
"I knew we'd pull it out, though," added Castro. "Prospect is a great team, and even though we'd already beaten them three times this season we didn't take them lightly."
Libero Fotis Christacos added 15 digs for the Huskies.
"This was a difficult match," said Saeed, "especially considering they (Prospect) had the support of their home crowd, which was very loud."
"We know them very well," added Hersey coach Nancy Lill, "so it was a situation where we just had to find a chink in their armor. Prospect has improved throughout the season and they played a great match."
Though happy with the win, Lill found a few moments to reflect on the outstanding lives of Kwon and Hampton, who both played volleyball for the Huskies under the guidance of the long-time coach.
"They were great players," said Lill, "and great kids."