Boys volleyball: Boys volleyball: Special seasons end for Hersey, Palatine
The exceptional two-year run by the Hersey boys volleyball team ended Friday night in Glenview.
The last 2 seasons have been first-rate for the Huskies, as they won the Mid-Suburban East each year, were victorious in regionals and sectionals and advanced to the state tournament in 2017 before claiming another regional title this year.
Friday at the Glenbrook South sectional, however, Hersey ran into a hot team in the Loyola Ramblers.
Loyola played close to error-free ball to defeat the No. 2-seeded Huskies 25-19, 25-21.
"I've got to give props to Loyola tonight," said Hersey senior middle Joe Nugent. "They didn't make many mistakes. But we gave it our all no matter how it turned out."
"This is a special group," added Nugent of his teammates. "We had a lot of pressure coming into the season after having been to state last year. We didn't get back there but this whole team worked their butts off."
Junior setter Jakub Migus paced the Huskies effort, finishing with 22 assists.
"We were right there (in the second set), said Hersey coach Nancy Lill, "and then we gave it away. Their number 19 (Jack Howard) just kept swinging off our block. It was a matchup that was to their advantage and he came through for them."
Hersey never found its mojo in the first game, falling behind early and trailing by 4-5 points all the way through.
Then Brent Gurvis gave the Huskies a spark in the second game, hitting 3 early kills to help give his team an 11-7 advantage.
"After the first set we talked about keeping the energy level up," said Gurvis, "and that's what we did. We got the momentum but then it slipped away."
Trailing by 4, Loyola went on a 5-point run to reclaim the lead.
Hersey trailed the rest of the way, but closed to within 21-20 after an ace from freshman Lucas Irwin.
Loyola strung together a string of points to win, taking the match when a final hit from Hersey sailed wide.
"I felt like we had a great season," said Gurvis, a junior. "This loss hurts a lot, but I'm going to use this as incentive to work as hard as I can in the off-season and come back even better next year."
Senior Jake Mailloux finished with 8 kills for Hersey, classmate Camran Saeed added 6 kills, Gurvis had 4 kills and Nugent and Migus each served up an ace.
"These guys were nothing but class," Lill said of her seniors, a group that included Nugent, Mailloux, Saeed, Christian Hong, Michal Markevych, Mike Seneczko, Andrew Leno and Mike Pedota.
"They were unbelievable," added Lill. "Athletic, big, strong, talented and just great kids."
New Trier d. Palatine: In what turned out to be its final game of the season, the Palatine boys volleyball team played an inspired, outstanding match.
That didn't make the final result any less heartbreaking.
The Pirates had top-seed New Trier on the ropes and were 1 point away from winning Friday's Glenbrook South sectional semifinal, but ultimately succumbed to a Trevians rally.
New Trier won 23-25, 25-18, 28-26.
The loss brought the prep careers of nine outstanding Palatine seniors -- along with coach Frank Stark, who is stepping down -- to a close.
"It's pretty amazing when everyone on the team plays their hearts out," said Pirates right-side Camden Hill, one of the seniors.
Palatine finished one of it's best-ever campaigns with a record of 29-9.
"Coach Stark told us in the huddle that we ended the season being the best that we can be," added Hill "and I'm really happy with the way we played. Unfortunately it just didn't go our way."
Palatine took the first set when, with the scored tied at 23, Hill swatted a kill and on the next point New Trier hit a ball wide.
Then the Trevians ran off to a 6-0 lead in the second set and won handily.
"Volleyball sometimes is a weird sport," said Stark. "Sometimes good things happen and sometimes they don't, so it's just a matter of staying composed. In the second set we got out of doing what we do and started overthinking things, but in the third set we played our game."
In the deciding set, Palatine trailed 23-21 but went on a 3-point run, and a well-placed tip kill from Curtis McLennan brought the Pirates to match point at 24-23.
But a Trevians kill knotted things up, and the game see-sawed back and forth until New Trier took a 27-26 lead after a Palatine block attempt fell out of bounds.
Junior Jay Saravis had the final winning hit for the New Trier.
Palatine senior Johnny O'Shea led the way on attack, hitting 29-of-31 with 13 kills; while classmates Hill (6 kills), Conor McGarvey (12 digs) and Connor Nix (8 digs) also excelled.
"These guys have been like my brothers," said Bryant Smith of his senior teammates, a group that also includes Justin Wiesenmayer, Rohith Gudivada, Parker Sanchez, and Leo Donlin. "They've been my teammates, my friends, and I feel like I can be myself around them."
McLennan produced 11 kills for the Pirates, while Smith added 4 blocks.
"These guys proved just how special they are tonight," said Stark. "They competed on every point, and they just love to play -- that's the kind of group they are."
"I know this was just the sectional semis, but I really feel like this was a match between two of the best teams in the state. We played one of our best games of the year and we played at a high level."