Boys volleyball: Neuqua Valley defeats Hinsdale Central in three sets

By Andy Martinez
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/29/2018 10:11 PM

Andrew Schlegel and the Neuqua Valley boys volleyball team have a good grasp on what they need to do in order to have success.

An early onslaught and strong start gives the Wildcats moxie and that gives them the confidence they need to pull out wins.

"Whenever we start with energy, we always roll through teams," Schlegel said. "That's been our biggest thing, just come out and get quick kills."

Tuesday night at IMSA in the sectional title match against Hinsdale Central, Neuqua Valley showed just how essential it is for it to have hot starts to sets. The Wildcats rolled out to a quick start in the first set, staggered early in the second set and rattled off another strong start in the third set en route to a 25-17, 21-25, 25-21 win over Hinsdale Central. It sends the Wildcats to Friday's state quarterfinals where they'll play Lincoln-Way West.

"It feels great," Schlegel said of the Wildcats first trip to the state quarterfinals since 2009. "It's definitely been a good journey to get here."

Neuqua Valley (31-7) scored 5 of the game's first 6 points, a much-need hot start for the Wildcats.

"When we get out quick and early like that, it allows us to try different sets," Schlegel said. "I'll go to different hitters so I don't have to rely on Jeremy Grove as much so that the blockers will move away from him.

"That's the biggest key for us, just allowing our other hitters to keep swinging."

The Wildcats made sure to set up Grove, who had 18 kills, in their offense, but they wanted to make sure they were diverse in their attack, too.

After setting up Grove for a kill for the first point of the match, Schlegel and Neuqua Valley opened up their offense, allowing other hitters like Jeremy Cardenas, Mark Borghesi and Matt Coyne to contribute in the attack.

"(Grove's) ability to kill everything really changed it for everyone else," Schlegel said. "I know I got a couple of no-block sets to Matt Coyne, a couple of really good late blocks with Jeremy Cardenas and doing that allows all of our hitters easier swings at the net."

In the second set Hinsdale Central (30-11) found its mojo.

After falling behind 2-1 early, the Red Devils scored on a Cal Snyder kill from John Zolpe and grabbed the lead on a Wildcats hitting error. Hinsdale Central led the rest of the set and took the set on a Zolpe kill from Bryce Bernard.

"As we kept playing we did a little bit better with setting up our defense," Hinsdale Central coach Stephanie Kaegebein said. "You have to continue to tell the players to keep your head up."

But Neuqua Valley refocused between sets and went back to doing what they need to do in order to have success.

"We needed to come out with energy and get a couple of quick kills," Schlegel said.

That's what they did.

Neuqua Valley scored the first 4 points of the third set on a Grove kill, a Cardenas block, a hitting error and a Grove block and led 8-3 early on.

"It's such a big boost," Grove said. "When you start off strong, you know you're going to have that cushion for the rest of the set if you just keep trading points."

The Wildcats used that quick start to take the set and punch their ticket to the state quarterfinals at Hoffman Estates.

"You coach for times like this," Neuqua Valley coach Erich Mendoza said. "We've come close in between (the last state appearance)."

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