Boys volleyball: York outlasts Conant to reach state for first time in 25 years

Logan Rice and Jack Bute helped York break down the door Tuesday night in Roselle.

Rice had five kills and Bute four kills in the third game as York outlasted Conant 25-18, 20-25, 25-19 in the boys volleyball sectional final at Lake Park.

York (35-4) will be making its first state finals appearance since 1999. The Dukes, who won their 18th consecutive match and set a school record for wins, will meet Lincoln-Way West in the state quarterfinals at Hoffman Estates at 2 p.m. Friday.

Not only has it been 25 years since the Dukes made the state finals, the last two seasons have been filled with roadblocks. In each of the last two seasons, despite being one of the top seeds, York has been upset along the way.

“What a match,” York coach Ken Dowdy said. “First time in 25 years. We spent two days working to shut down their outsides. And we got several, several blocks by our right sides.”

York pulled away in the first set to post a 25-18 victory. The Dukes scored the final five points to win the set.

Both teams played exceptionally and moved the ball well. Conant had five different players posting a kill while York had an uncanny seven different players as Rice had six kills and Bute and Jack Brown five each.

Conant, which had its 19 match win streak end, battled back hard in the second set. Led by Nick Gutka, who had five of his 15 kills in the second set, along with Maciej, who had four kills, Alex Urbanczyk, who had three kills, and Michael Recko, who had two kills, the Cougars refused to go away.

The Cougars trailed 12-10 when they began to battle their way back. They ran off the next four points on their way to a 7-1 run to make it 17-13.

York was able to get the set to 21-19. But, Conant scored four more points to send the match to its third set.

In the final set, its was tied at 5-5 when York made its move. The Dukes went back to their strategy in the first set by blocking the outside hitting of Conant. That enabled York to outscore Conant 15-7 to open up a 20-12 lead.

Connt tried to fight back and closed to 23-19 on a kill by Gutka. But Bute got a kill on the outside and Jack Zitek closed out the match with an ace as the Dukes finally broke down the door.

“We had a real good plan of attack today,” Bute said. “I know our block was fantastic. We were able to shut down their main guys. It feels fantastic to be going to state. To be here after failing the last two years, it is just a great feeling.”

Rice, who was also all over the front row, said he didn’t want his team’s season to end before they could reach their goal of going to state.

“We had that last game mentality,” Rice said. “We knew we had to play hard. It was a team win. It feels amazing. They fought hard but I knew we had the advantages of the block.”

Brown also had 11 kills for York while Hunter Stepmich had five kills, Luke Shorter three kills, Stan Peck two kills and Zach Brown one kill.

“I told our guys we were going to face some adversity as we got closer to state,” Dowdy said. “After set two, I told them we have seen this before and they responded. We got a little bit of a lead and then extended it.”

Conant (36-3) got 9 kills from Recko, five from Kopacz, four from Bryce Grogan, three from Urnczk and one from Joshua Yang.

Conant coach Drewann Riebel, who directed her team to a school-record 36 wins, said she was proud of how hard her team fought.

“The third game we started out a little rough,” Riebel said. “But I m proud of this group. This game does not define who these guys are. They have had a heck of a year. It is because of who they are as people. They worked so hard. They deserved everything they earned this year. We were just a little short.”

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