Boys volleyball: Smart playoff start from Chen, Stevenson
There are some heavy hitters on the Stevenson volleyball team, Leo Chen included.
In fact, Chen would live for hard hits and thunderous kills when he was a sophomore on varsity a couple years ago.
Now, the senior outside hitter appreciates not only the brawn, but the brains too.
"I've grown a lot," Chen said. "I'm trying to play a lot smarter, step up for the team, do more as a leader.
"I'm better with my hitting, because I'm not trying to always hit it as hard as I can. I'm smarter with hitting and trying to make the right shots at the right time."
Chen and the rest of the Patriots pretty much aced Tuesday's test against Grayslake North in the Lakes regional. Stevenson swept North, 25-11, 25-10.
Chen rolled up a match-high 11 kills to help keep Stevenson (27-9) alive in the state tournament.
"I was happy with how we played, we did what we needed to do this time of year," Stevenson coach Eric Goolish said. "I was really happy with how Leo played. His leadership out there is so good and he's just been so consistent for us."
Grayslake North, which finishes its season at 14-22, posted the most wins in a season in its three-year history.
"Our season was really up and down, but our record isn't really indicative of us becaue we had a lot of close games," said Grayslake North Nikki Kirchway. "It's a bummer to play a team like Stevenson, a huge powerhouse, because I think we were a little intimidated.
"But that also shows our lack of experience at the varsity level. We had one returning varsity player from last year."
The Patriots flexed their muscles with some powerful hits and serves, but also kept Grayslake North frustrated with tough defense. The Knights were never able to get much momentum going.
"We played how we've been always playing, maintaining our identity, which is defense first," Chen said. "That's what we try to do is tough defense. We have guys who can put balls down obviously, but in the end when it comes down to it, it's the defense that is going to win for you."
The Stevenson defense was led by George Lie with 7 digs.
Setter Will Sorenson had 22 assists for the Patriots and sophomore Justin Ross added 5 kills.
For Grayslake North, Sam Inmon had 6 digs while Jarod Hesse and Nicholas LeBaron each had 3 kills.