Zalewski, Stevenson keep on winning
You have to forgive Stevenson sophomore Eric Zalewski. He was quite busy over the weekend enjoying Stevenson's state championship in boys basketball.
No, he wasn't the star of that special team but he clearly had a great seat on the bench in Peoria.
Zalewski, a late-season call-up during the basketball season, is also a member of the Stevenson volleyball squad.
"He's had 90 minutes of practice," Stevenson coach Eric Goolish said of his setter.
Evidently still riding the wave of that title-winning hoops team, Zalewski provided the match-ending kill on opening night of the volleyball season Tuesday. The left-hander fired off a thundering hit to end a back-and-fourth match between the Patriots and visiting Glenbrook South. Stevenson edged the Titans 23-25, 25-23, 26-24.
"I was playing close to the net," Zalewski said. "I got a good pass to work with."
After the squads split the first two sets, Glenbrook South got off to a quick start and opened up 10-4 and 16-11 leads in the decisive third set.
However, the Pats didn't fade away. Helped along by 6-foot-8 sophomore Grant Maleski (13 kills), Stevenson closed the gap and tied it at 24-24.
"Our team had laser focus," Goolish said. "We really had no business coming back in that set. We really stuck together."
Stevenson held just one lead (6-5) in Set 1, when Zalewski and Justin Leonard (4 blocks) combined to register a point. The Pats pulled within 20-19 when Zalewski notched an ace, but the Titans pulled out the set.
Again, the Pats fell behind in Set 2. Glenbrook South led 8-5 before Jeffrey Wang began serving for Stevenson. On another kill from Maleski, this set was knotted at 9-9. On a block by Jesse Kessner (6 kills), the Pats looked in control at 21-16. Maleski's kill set up the final set.
"We do a lot of mental training," Goolish said. "We think of positive thoughts. I was really proud of this team tonight."
Glenbrook South's Jack Leonard seemed ready to take over the match in Set 3. He had 4 kills in one serving, as the Titans opened that 10-4 advantage.
Even when Kessner notched a serving ace, the Pats still trailed 17-13. As the match tightened, Stevenson had trouble serving. Kessner stopped that and delivered two straight points to knot this set up at 24-24.
Zalewski didn't pick up setting until he reached high school. Yes, he's still very much connected to that state title basketball team.
"That was a lot of fun," he said. "It's the best experience I've had. But I like this volleyball team, too. We have a great group of guys."
Zalewski had 18 assists in his first volleyball match of the season. Goolish is glad Zalewski is playing two sports.
"Having a left-handed setter is useful," Goolish said.