Could Glenbard West be even better than last year's 40-2 state championship team?
That was the question many were asking after the Hilltoppers rolled through the Glenbard East Springfest boys volleyball tournament, including a 38-minute, 25-11, 25-16 romp over West Aurora in the championship game Saturday in Lombard.
"This team is really something else," said 6-foot-5 senior setter Paulie Bischoff. "Last year we were really strong in the middle. We are this year, too, but I think the biggest thing that pulls us through is our transition offense. We work on that so much.
"We get balls up and transition to the offense a lot," the Stanford recruit said. "Our serve-receive and passing are also very good."
It was hard to find fault with any aspect of Glenbard West's game Saturday. The Hilltoppers looked just as crisp in match No. 5 as they did rolling past Neuqua Valley, Lake Forest and Wheeling in pool play and Benet in the semifinals.
"It has a lot to do with mental toughness with this team," Bischoff said. "We've been really emphasizing that in practice every day. Also, early on in the year our service-receive was a lot weaker. We've been working on that more than our offense and defense.
"Serve-receive plays a huge role, especially coming in against a team like West Aurora," he added. "We need those pinpoint passes all the time. I give a lot of credit to the passers. They've been working their butts off all season. That's what's really pushed us through this whole tournament."
Junior libero Zach Norvid, who led Glenbard West (8-0) with 6 digs, said trust and senior leadership have been keys for the Hilltoppers' early success.
"These guys really let me do my job," said Norvid, who succeeded Ryan Condon in the off-color jersey. "The trust is strong between every single player. That really helps, especially with my position. The seniors are doing a great job leading, and the team chemistry is off the charts."
Johnny Winkler led Glenbard West with 5 kills and 5 digs against West Aurora. Bischoff added 12 assists and 3 aces, and Cameron Lilly and Will Church each had 3 kills.
Six-foot-7 junior and Loyola recruit Thomas Kovanic.led West Aurora (12-2) with 8 kills and an ace. Adam Fitzgerald added 10 assists and Justin Reynolds had 4 kills.
"We were just mentally done today (during the Glenbard West match)," West Aurora coach Tolis Koskinaris, whose team also fell to the Hilltoppers in the first match of the season. "I could see that look in their faces. If you're going to beat a team like that, that you need to be on top of your game."
West Aurora reached the championship match by defeating Glenbard East 25-19, 25-22 in the semifinals.
"I think we used a lot (of energy) against Glenbard East," Koskinaris said. "We just didn't have this one right in front of us right now. We have it further down the line. But 12-2 with two losses against Glenbard West, what else can you do?"
In the third-place match Benet (12-5) rallied to defeat Glenbard East 17-25, 25-22, 25-20.