Boys volleyball: Glenbard West picks up where it left off
Even a three-time defending state championship team can feel first-game jitters.
Not that any of the nervousness could be felt or seen by others, however.
Winners of 123 of its last 126 matches over the past 3 seasons, including back-to-back-to-back state titles, Glenbard West (1-0) kicked off its 2018 campaign with a convincing 25-12, 25-12 nonconference victory over West Aurora (0-1) Tuesday night in Aurora.
"I'm glad it's over," said Hilltoppers coach Christine Giunta-Mayer. "You know it's (jitters) there but I kind of told them, 'just fake it. If it's there, just let it go. Don't let anybody know what you're feeling and just go for it.' "
The Hilltoppers did just that, scoring the first 5 points of the opening set behind a service ace down the line from junior setter Henry Curtis and a pair of kills from sophomore outside hitter Benny Harrington off back-set assists from Curtis.
"Earlier today, I was really having a lot of jitters because I felt the pressure but my teammates took a lot of that load off me," said Curtis, who added a kill, block and pair of aces along with solid defense.
"I feel like one of the big things for a setter is if your team trusts you and you have that confidence then you can go anywhere you want," said Giunta-Mayer. "If the team doesn't trust you, that's where we run into problems.
"This team -- they're giving him everything and more and letting him know what they need. Henry had a nice game today."
Leading 14-9, the Hilltoppers put the opening set away with an 8-1 run that included a combined block by Connor Williams and Harrington and kills from Ryan Swartz (6 kills) and senior outside hitter Stone Metz (6 kills, 3 blocks).
Metz collected 4 kills while Harrington and Swartz added 3 kills apiece as the Hilltoppers raced to a 14-3 lead in the second set and never looked back.
"We started off strong and we played together as a team," said Curtis. "It wasn't like we had just one person carrying us the whole time."
Pepperdine-bound middle J.T. Ardell added a pair of blocks while Zack Morris had an ace as Giunta-Mayer substituted freely, using 12 of the team's 18 rostered players.
"This team is so coachable," said Giunta-Mayer. "I think that is something that is allowing us to hopefully get to the level that they want to get. They listen to our every word -- all the coaches. They're in tune to everything everybody is saying and they're really a team out there. It shows."
Junior outside hitter Jeramie Gutierrez led the Blackhawks with 4 kills and an ace while senior middle Michael Walker added 3 kills.
"Actually, I don't mind starting this way at all," Blackhawks coach Tolis Koskinaris said of facing arguably the state's elite program.
"We've got Neuqua tomorrow so it's not like it gets that much easier but that's OK. It's just a lot of growing. I'm very optimistic about this team."