Spartans beat Glenbard West to win Northside Classic title
With Danny Dorsey in a walking boot and Gavin Swartz sidelined by illness, Glenbard West was running out of options.
Glenbrook North, on the other hand, had Connor Durst.
Durst, a 6-foot-2 junior outside hitter, had 5 kills and 2 blocks during a 9-3 run that put the finishing touches on Glenbrook North's stunning 25-22, 25-20 victory over Glenbard West in the championship game of the Northside Classic May 7 in Northbrook.
Durst finished with 12 kills and the aforementioned 2 blocks as Glenbrook North improved to 22-3 and won the tournament for the first time since it went to a 16-team format.
So, what got into the Spartans' slender pin hitter?
"I've been playing beach volleyball, and that really helps increase my vertical," Durst said "I was just hitting my shots -- line, cross -- always avoiding the block, hitting the holes. I play club with (Glenbrook North setter Paul Cho), and we have a really strong connection.
"I just felt it at the end," Durst said.
After a seesaw first set that saw Glenbrook North score the final 3 points on a Paul Wyszynski kill, a Glenbard West hitting error and an Eli Joselit ace, the Hilltoppers eased to a 13-9 lead in Game 2 on a kill by 6-3 sophomore Adam Graham.
"We're very persistent," Durst said. "We try to ignore the score and play one point at a time. "
Glenbard West still led 17-14 when Wyszynski and Durst went back-to-back-to-back to prompt a Hilltopper timeout.
When play resumed, Durst picked up where he left off, adding a kill and a block to his stat line to force another timeout. An ace by Glenbrook North's Dylan Wang out of the timeout extended the Spartans' lead to 22-18 and set up a Durst clincher at match point.
"At the end, we finally got a couple of blocks," said Glenbrook North coach Chris Cooper. "We were trying to find something. They're a great ball control team and don't make a lot of mistakes. We finally found a little bit what worked."
Wyszynski added 7 kills and an assist, Evan Uhlig had 7 kills, 1 block and an assist, and Cho distributed 24 assists and added a kill.
"They just played good, steady volleyball," Cooper said.
"It's fun to watch, but hard to take with my heart because every game is close. I'm aging. This year is going to be the death of me. But it's a great group of guys. They're doing things that are surprising us a little bit and surprising a lot of people. Again, what we lost last year ... to see how these guys have grown, it's really fun."
Parker Moorhead and sophomore Adam Graham each had 4 kills for Glenbard West and Trevor Powell added 11 assists.
Glenbard West, dropping to 29-2, had won 28 consecutive matches prior to the championship match and 49 consecutive sets before dropping a set Friday against Vernon Hills. The Hilltoppers got 5 kills apiece from Parker Moorhead and Graham, and 11 assists from Trevor Powell.
"We are exhausted," said Glenbard West coach Christine Giunta-Mayer, whose team completed a stretch of 22 matches in 23 days including tournaments at Brother Rice and Lincoln-Way East. "We're down two men and it showed.
"We had a good tournament," she added. "We beat New Trier, we beat Vernon Hills, we beat Maine South. We wanted to see what was up here, and now we know. Hopefully, we come back healthy and we come back stronger."
Meanwhile, dare Glenbrook North think about back-to-back state titles? Maybe Connor Durst can pick his older brother's brain -- the same Mason Durst who led the Spartans to the IHSA championship last spring?
"We're close," the younger Durst brother said. "It was fun watching them win it last year. But he doesn't give me any advice."
After his younger brother's performance Saturday, what more could Mason tell him?
New Trier (21-6) finished third at the Northside Classic after falling to Glenbard West, 25-22, 25-16, in the semifinals.
"It's a tough tournament," said Trevians coach Sue Ellen Haak. "Every team is missing a couple guys; us, too. But I've been proud of our guys in this tournament. They've been playing aggressive.
"We just got (Stefan) Gjaja back from injury. He missed about half the season. We had to adjust a little bit. He's become one of our top hitters. He and Shane (Sullivan) are both sharing our setting, which really helps our offense and gives us a lot more power.
"I don't think we were diverse enough in our offense against Glenbard West," Haak said. "We were pretty predictable, which really hurt us. But overall, we played aggressive. That's a good team. When we're all at full strength it will be interesting. Hopefully, we'll get to see them again."