Boys volleyball: Stevenson squeaks by Lake Zurich in NSC opener

The end of Wednesday night’s Lake Zurich-Stevenson boys volleyball match featured a tale of two kills.

Kill one: Stevenson senior middle hitter Kian Odongo authored it, an emphatic strike that dented home hardwood and rattled around a bank of bleachers like an oversized pinball.

It broke a 22-22 tie in the third set.

Kill two: Stevenson senior outside hitter Arthur Stoyanov executed it, this one a feathery tip winner that was a whisper compared to Odongo’s ear-splitting winner moments earlier.

It clinched the Patriots’ 25-23, 22-25, 25-23 victory.

“Both kills resulted in points,” Stevenson coach Eric Goolish said after the taut North Suburban Conference opener in Lincolnshire. “That’s something we’ve been telling our players, that not every kill has to be a powerful one.”

The back-and-forth, forth-and-back match had a bit of everything in addition to a wide variety of kills: spurts from both sides, ties galore, thrilling blocks, sweet sets, dandy digs.

“Close one,” Lake Zurich coach and former Buffalo Grove spiker Brett Stuart said after his towering club — six Bears are 6-foot-4 or taller — slipped to 3-2 overall, 0-1 in the NSC. “It’s always a highly competitive match, facing Stevenson. That’s a well-balanced, well-coached team. Always is. We fought back. We strung points together.

“We were right there.”

Stevenson (5-3, 1-0 in the NSC) shot out to a 6-1 lead in the first set but trailed 22-17. The resilient Patriots rolled from there, notching 8 of the last 9 points to secure set one. Patriots 6-0 junior outside hitter Tony Hwang (4 assist blocks, 3 solo blocks) popped for an inspiring block to give his crew a 23-22 lead.

Stevenson enjoyed another early advantage, 5-1, in the second set. But LZ heavy hitters Ethan Blakeslee, a 6-5 senior, and Gabe Schwartz, a 6-4 junior, played resounding ball late in the match’s second chapter. A Schwartz kill busted a 22-22 tie, and a Blakeslee kill put the Bears up 23-22.

Blakeslee and Schwartz finished with 8 kills apiece.

Stevenson’s Odongo (match highs of 11 kills and 7 assist blocks) put on a steady show of out-of-the-gym hops in the final set. He stands 6 feet but plays at a springy, 6-11 level, or so it must seem to opposing front-row athletes.

“I felt the energy from my teammates,” Odongo said of the immediate aftermath of his kill that could be heard in all of Lake County and parts of Cook County. “Bring the energy — that’s one of my roles this season.”

Stevenson senior setter Logan Kim (7 digs) lofted 17 assists, matching his uniform number. His counterpart, 6-8 junior Wyatt Jones, amassed 27 assists. The Patriots’ other setter, junior Atticus Gurel, had 11 assists.

Junior outside hitter Jason DeZutter hammered 5 kills for Stevenson. The Bears received 5 kills from junior middle Ashton Stage and 4 from senior middle Keyon Haynes.

Senior libero Anthony Kim paced LZ in digs with 8. Pats junior defensive specialist Evan Park contributed a pair of aces.

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