Boys volleyball: Maleski, Stevenson turn back upset-minded St. Viator

 
By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/23/2017 9:33 PM

Stevenson coach Eric Goolish couldn't help but be impressed as he looked over the stat sheet after the Patriots' 25-19, 27-25 win over St. Viator at the Fremd boys volleyball regional Tuesday in Palatine.

Especially when he noted the line of senior outside hitter Grant Maleski.

 

"20 kills and only 5 hitting errors," said Goolish of Maleski. "That's a stellar night. Grant is at his best when he mixes up his shots, like he did tonight. There are moments when he comes out and tries to punish the ball, but when he simplifies things he's tough to stop.

"There were times that he had 3 blocks thrown at him and he still managed to hit a cross-court kill. Not many kids can do that."

The loss put an end to an impressive late-season run by Viator, who played at a much-high level than the No. 21 seed they were assigned.

The Lions started the season 4-13 but won 13 of their final 20 matches, including a regional-opening win over Mid-Suburban West runner-up Fremd.

"We had a lot of basketball players who came out for the team this season," said Viator junior outside hitter Ben Whalen. "It took them a while to get into the swing of things, but once they did we started to click.

"We were rusty in the beginning of the year but started to play with more excitement as the season went on."

Fifth-seeded Stevenson won the first set going away Tuesday, but Viator came alive in set 2, rallying from 3 points down late.

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The Lions trailed 20-23, but behind a couple of kills and an ace from senior Eric Ruth tied the set at 23-23.

"They (Viator) were covering our block and they came up with some big kills and some big digs," said Goolish. "They definitely made it interesting at the end."

A kill from Stevenson junior outside hitter Junhao Chen pushed the Patriots ahead 25-24, but then a hitting error tied the game again at 25.

Then Maleski swatted his final 2 kills to end the match.

"We had to maintain calm and maintain focus," said Patriots setter Haddon Kay, who finished with 31 assists. "We had to keep cool but still maintain the energy."

Chen added 3 aces for Stevenson (25-14) in addition to hitting 5 kills.

"We all took care of our responsibilities," said Patriots senior opposite Hudson Havenhill. "When we do our jobs and all do what we are supposed to do, we can be tough to beat."

Senior Danny Morton led the Lions with 5 kills and 8 digs while Ruth dished out 15 assists.

"The boys really went all out tonight," said Viator coach Jimmy Neill. "I'm so proud of how much they improved this season."

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