The Barrington boys volleyball team has been taking its game to another level lately.
The Broncos have scored some big wins in the last couple of weeks, including a 2-set victory over Glenbard West, the state's No. 1-ranked team and the three-time defending state champion.
Barrington kept the line moving Wednesday night, defeating Hersey 25-15, 25-17 on its home court to win the Mid-Suburban League championship.
The MSL West champion Broncos played one of their best all-around matches of the season against MSL East-winning Huskies, and senior outside hitter Michael O'toole said it's all about proving the doubters wrong.
"We've been working all season for this," said O'toole. "Everyone kept saying that this might not be Barrington's year. We came out tonight with the intensity we needed and played well.
"I think we've matured a lot this season. We had a lot of guys who came into the season with no varsity experience and they've been doing a great job. We're coming together at the right time."
Setter Jakub Migus had 12 assists, 10 digs and 3 blocks for Hersey, but coach Nancy Lill didn't think the result was representative of what her team can produce.
"Really frustrating," said Lill of the loss. "It was close early on, we were right there, but we made so many unforced errors.
"We were just not ourselves. Our setting was off, our serve receive was way out of system, and when we did get things going it seemed like our timing was off. We made it easy on Barrington the way we played, but you have to give them (the Broncos) credit. They came at us and were strong and aggressive."
Both teams came into the match with 10-0 records in their respective divisions, and for awhile it looked like the first set would be nip-and-tuck all the way through.
But with the score 11-10 Broncos, Barrington went on a 5-point run behind the hitting of O'toole and the serving of Chris Babicz to take a 16-10 lead.
Barrington extended the advantage and took a 1-set lead when O'toole hit 2 final kills from the back row.
"I think we finally settled in (and the end of the first set)," said O'toole. "Probably nerves got to us a little bit. This is definitely the biggest match we've played all year."
Hersey had the advantage early in the second set as 6-foot-7 senior middle Joe Nugent had a kill at the net, then Migus followed up with another.
Nugent hit an ace midway through to help Hersey's cause, and it looked like the Huskies had taken back the momentum.
But Barrington promptly went on a 6-1 run to grab control of the match, highlighted by blocks from Gabe Hartke and Petar Lumovic.
The Broncos kept the pressure on and another block, this time from junior Ricky Gibson, brought the West champs to match point at 24-16.
Then after Hersey got a sideout, a dig from Barrington senior libero Hari Ramakrishnan, a set by Evan Carroll, and a final kill from O'toole closed out the match.
"This was a special moment for all of us," said Ramakrishnan. "We're just a very cohesive group on the court. We're really come together and we're so happy about that.
"We had our game plan coming in, but ultimately it came down to just leaving everything we had on the court."
Jake Mailloux of Hersey, who was announced before the match as the MSL East player of the year, finished with 5 kills.
O'toole, the MSL West player of the year, has been performing spectacularly of late, as evidenced Wednesday by his 17 kills and 6 digs.
"Michael has had this in him all year," said Broncos coach Rob Ridenour, "but I think in the first month of the season he might have been trying a little too hard, knowing that in his senior year he was going to have to do a lot. He's just settled in lately and become the player we've seen in practice all year. He's been himself and has really brought it the last month."
Hartke pitched in with the Broncos with 7 kills, Carroll and Lumovic each recorded 2 blocks, and Kyle Vasquez led the defensive effort with 11 digs.
"Our guys have really bought in defensively this year and have become a great defensive team," added Ridenour. "That's going to be really important for us in the playoffs."