Boys volleyball: Hinsdale Central's hitting its stride
The Hinsdale Central boys volleyball team notched its second straight 20-win season earlier this season. The Red Devils (21-5, 4-1 West Suburban) have become an annual powerhouse in DuPage County over the last 10-plus seasons.
Hinsdale Central coach Tom Gilbert indicated his team is right where he expected them to be due to a solid group of returnees, but experienced some rough patches early in the season.
"Going into the season, there were a lot of high expectations for this team," Gilbert said. "They had a strong showing in the playoffs last year and with most of the starting lineup returning, many expected us to make a run to be the No. 1 team in state. Just like every high school team, we hit some bumps in the road trying to figure out our team chemistry. Everyone put us as the team to beat, so it felt like every match those teams played to the best of their ability where we found ourselves reacting to a team's energy level instead of proactively creating our own.
"Lately, we have found success in training ourselves mentally. Mentally preparing at each practice and letting the players speak how they truly feel, so each teammate knows where they are at mentally. Our goal is simple: win state. To make that goal happen, every player needs to be 100 percent committed mentally and physically. Sacrifices must be made on and off the court and these boys know what it takes to make it happen."
The Red Devils' balanced lineup is one of the keys to the strong start. Junior outside hitter Jakobi Lange, a USC recruit, leads the team with 131 kills and 22 aces. Senior setter Matt Hughes has been solid throughout the season, compiling 318 assists. Nick Kujalowicz tops the team with 82 digs and Ethan Du has 26 blocks.
"Jakobi has led our offense all season," Gilbert said. "He has an amazing ability in reading the court and doing whatever it takes to complete his attack. He brings an intensity every match that shows his opponents that they better expect a fight every time they cross his path. Matt Hughes has been one of our leaders that every player on the team looks up to. Aiden Bonino is one of those players every coach hopes to have on their roster. No matter what position I put Aiden in, he won't hesitate and will give it everything he has. Aiden brings a mature mindset that is rare at the high school level.
"Carter Lyons came into our season as an opposite hitter but we had a hole in our lineup for the second outside hitter position. After a few trials with some players, Carter has come out on top to be another offensive weapon we can rely on. He knows he will always be the target on serve receive but Carter has done an amazing job this season on bettering his serve receive to fit his style of defense which resulted in him having the highest serve receive passing percentage on the team."
Lake Park update:
All signs pointed to a rebuild season for Lake Park.
After losing every starter from last season's second-place state team, the Lancers had numerous new faces in their rotation.
Yet, the Lancers (15-16, 2-2 DuKane)) have played exceedingly well this spring.
"We have two conference matches left and look forward to hopefully competing and keeping in the race for the top half of the conference standings," Lake Park coach Brian Fischer said. "With having an entire roster graduate from last season we were looking for players to step up at all times. Freshman Carter Gibbons has been starting for us all season long and has been making great strides. Each match we feel like a new player steps up and plays big for us when we need them too."
The Lancers open the playoffs against Addison Trail in the Addison Trail regional quarterfinal on May 23. Fischer said he's hoping his team can make a run in the playoffs. The winner of the quarterfinal match plays Bartlett on May 24.
"We feel like if we go into the playoffs playing well anything is possible for this group," Fischer said.
With the playoffs looming, Glenbard West was named the top seed in the Schaumburg sectional. Wheaton North received the No. 3 seed among DuPage County teams, while York is No. 4.
In the Hinsdale Central sectional, Downers Grove South received the top seed, with Hinsdale Central at No. 2. Downers Grove North (No. 4), Benet (No. 5), Glenbard East (No. 8), Hinsdale South (No. 9) and St. Francis (No. 10) also are in the field.