Boys volleyball: Zoellick, Libertyville loom large against Stevenson
Nick Zoellick probably wouldn't scare you if you ran into him at school.
Libertyville's 6-foot-2 senior can't compete with volleyball teammates Brendan Cook (6-4) and Shane Feiereisel (6-6) in the height department. However, that didn't stop Zoellick from playing big during the crucial moments of the Wildcats' battle with Stevenson on Wednesday night.
The home-standing Wildcats took the opening set, but the Patriots seemed poised to take the second set as they led 19-15 late. And then Zoellick got a hold of one and put a hurt on it. He added one of those "excuse me" hits as Libertyville made its comeback complete, prevailing 25-21, 25-21 to remain undefeated in the North Suburban Conference.
"Our setter, (Ryan Hirschel), set me and saw the line was open," Zoellick said after the Wildcats improved to 13-5 and 5-0 in the NSC. "I just ripped it. And it went down."
Libertyville coach Jenny Smith liked the way her team played. She also gave credit to the Patriots.
"We played error-free volleyball," Smith said. "But Stevenson got on a hot streak late in the first set, and it carried over to the second set."
Stevenson is still without the services of UCLA-signee Grant Maleski, who could be back within a week or so. Instead, the guests got plenty of help in the hitting department from Justin Leonard (14 kills).
Stevenson defensive specialist Peter Drozdzewicz took the loss hard. He knew his team should have pulled out set two.
"We just need to keep working," Drozdzewicz said. "We have to stop giving up 6 points in a row. We have to turn those negatives into positives."
Stevenson never led in the first set. Libertyville's promising sophomore, Jack Stevens, notched a couple of impressive kills and added an ace during his serving turn that helped build the Wildcats' lead to 13-8. The Patriots cut into their deficit late with a strong kill from Sudhish Gogula. Back-to-back kills from Hirschel (14 assists, 6 digs, 2 aces, 2 kills) put set one on ice for the Wildcats.
Zoellick was well aware of Stevenson's injury problems this spring but knew not to take the Patriots lightly.
"Stevenson has a great team," Zoellick said. "I know they don't have their best player (Maleski), but they are a conference opponent and school rival."
Zoellick led a balanced Libertyville attack with 6 kills and added 3 digs. Stevens helped out with 5 kills, 6 digs and 3 blocks. Cook (4 kills, 2 digs) and Feiereisel (3 kills) were also effective.
Libertyville led 8-5 in the second set when the Patriots rallied. Gogula and Leonard registered kills as Stevenson grabbed the lead at 10-9. A serving ace from setter Jeffrey Wang (27 assists) had the Patriots in front 18-14.
Libero Sam Kharasch was the serving line when Libertyville's comeback began. He finished with 14 digs.