Boys volleyball: Neuqua Valley falls in 3 sets at Plainfield North

Nothing came easy Monday for Plainfield North in a 22-25, 25-23, 25-20 nonconference win over Neuqua Valley.

Neuqua did not commit very many unforced errors, such as serving errors or hitting errors, and the Tigers (10-19) had to earn most of their points.

Fortunately for Plainfield North, they had Cole Clarke on its side. The Tigers’ 6-foot-6 captain did not come off the court and finished with a match-high 18 kills to go with his stellar defense at the net and in the back row.

“It seems like every match we play is like this,” Clarke said. “We would like to get out to some bigger leads, but most of the time, the match is close the whole way.

“We have been working on ending the other team’s runs and limiting them to two or three points at a time. We were able to do that for the most part and we had a few runs of our own that were bigger.”

Clarke was a key figure in the final run that put the Tigers in control in the third set. With his team leading 17-14, Clarke had two kills in a 3-1 spurt that gave them a 20-15 lead.

Neuqua rallied to get to within 23-20 on kills by Nicola Piater, Bowen Xue and Vishwak Naramreddy (team-high 9 kills), but North ended it with kills by Jerry Arrigo and Clarke. Arrigo finished with 10 kills and Chris Mactal added nine for the Tigers.

“It’s nice when the other hitters are doing well,” Clarke said. “That means that other teams can’t double-block me. Chris Mactal, Jerry Arrigo and Charlie Hurst all did really well tonight.

“Everyone played a clean match and we kept our errors to a minimum.”

The first set featured a tie at every score up to 14 until Neuqua (5-17) took control. Naramreddy got back-to-back kills and a pair of North hitting errors gave the Wildcats a 17-14 lead, which they didn’t relinquish the rest of the way. Noah Cullen had two kills down the stretch, while Naramreddy and Blake Thompson each had one.

“We played well in the first set,” Neuqua Valley coach Erich Mendoza said. “Give credit to Plainfield North. They made more plays than we did after that, and we didn’t have an answer for 15 [Clarke].”

The Wildcats led 12-10 in the second set before North got kills from Arrigo and Clarke to tie it. Nathan Chlebek followed with a kill before Clarke got another kill. A Wildcat hitting error and an ace by Jake Hill put the Tigers ahead 16-12, and they never trailed again in the set.

North jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the third set before Neuqua rallied to cut it to 12-11. The teams traded points until North had a 3-0 spurt on the strength of a kill by Arrigo and a kill and block by Mactal. North maintained the lead the rest of the way and picked up the win.

“It was nice to have the balance that we had tonight,” North coach Nick Ramos said. “At times we were a little sloppy, but it was nice to squeak away with a win. We still need to be better, but this is something to build on.

“Neuqua did a good job of making us earn our points, and our guys responded. Both of our setters [Hill and Phil Janiszewski] did a good job. Phil hasn’t had a lot of playing time, but he stepped in and played great tonight.”

Hill led the Tigers with 31 assists, while Janiszewski had 15 while playing in just the second and third sets.

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