Boys volleyball: Libertyville wins NSC showdown with Stevenson
Stevenson boys volleyball coach Eric Goolish had a little chat with his team on Wednesday night.
He preached about improving his team's service reception. Well, that's fine -- but easier said than done when playing Libertyville.
The Wildcats have a fearsome server in big Brendan Cook. On this night, Libertyville also showed off its best player in Jack Stevens, who brought a fierce focus to the competition.
Stevens fired off some dangerous serves at the Patriots. Stevenson, riding a 10-game winning streak, ran into a good Wildcats club.
It lived up to the billing when the two best teams in Lake County met. The Cats overcame an early Stevenson lead and won this North Suburban Conference battle 25-21, 31-29.
Stevens (13 kills, 7 digs, 4 aces) explained how he entered the world of lazer-like serves.
"It came to me,'' Stevens said. "When I was about 14 or 15, I started jump serving. I also got bigger and stronger. I wanted to be recruited (Ohio State) so I needed to stay in shape."
A natural growth spurt didn't hurt his cause.
"I'm now 6-4, and that's made a huge difference," he said. "I'm naturally stronger."
Of course, other teams know about Stevens.
"Stevens has a complete game,'' Goolish said.
With Alex Bien serving for the visiting Pats, Stevenson strolled to an early 7-3 lead. Stevenson's blocking showed up early. Leo Chen (10 kills) had a strong start.
"I've played with Leo," Cook said. "That was a good idea to move him to the outside."
Libertyville (18-2, 4-0) had back-to-back kills from Stevens to knot the first set at 13-13.
"We made adjustments,'' said Libertyville coach Jenny Smith. "We figured out a few things. But Stevenson is an excellent team. They have great blockers."
On a serving ace from Stevenson's Thomas Finn, the first set was tied at 19-19. Stevens had another kill and the Cats prevailed.
"We played well,'' Goolish said. "We made some mistakes but their margin of victory was so small."
Libertyville jumped out early in the second set. However, on back-to-back blocks from Stevenson middle Matt Cliffer, the set was tied at 6-6. On a Chen block, the Pats had some breathing room at 15-12.
"I'm hoping we see Stevenson in the state playoffs,'' Stevens said. "We want to prove ourselves."
Stevens had back-to-back kills down the stretch but the match was still tied at 21-21.
Stevenson (19-5, 3-1) tied it at 26-26 before Cook (11 kills) finally ended the set with a kill.
Setter Carter Schaffnit had 32 assists for the Wildcats. He also had 5 digs. Colin Hawkinson had 3 kills. Zach Ford paced the Cats in blocks (4) and libero Ryan Winiger had 12 digs.
Stevenson setter Will Sorenson had 19 assists and George Lie notched 8 digs.