Boys volleyball: Glenbard West takes early battle of state powers

 
By Gregg Voss
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/21/2019 9:20 PM
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Glenbard West knew it was going to have its hands full with defending state champion Lincoln-Way East on Thursday in a battle of boys volleyball state superpowers.

And for awhile, it looked like the Hilltoppers, third place at state last year, might be in danger of having to suffer through another sour spring break. You see, they lost to the Griffins before spring break last season.

But behind the exhortations of coach Christine Giunta-Mayer, the hammer-like kills of junior outside hitter Ben Harrington and a loud and proud student section, the Hilltoppers prevailed in a thriller, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22.

According to Harrington, though, the enjoyment will be short-lived, even if spring break starts this weekend.

"It's big, because they are a high-ranked team, and they put up a great fight against us, but we're always looking to the next game after we finish a game," he said. "Every game is huge. This game was definitely more huge than some others because they are a state-potential team.

"So are we. So it was good to show we could compete at a high level."

Harrington had a whopping 16 kills, easily the team leader, along with 6 digs and an ace. Setter Henry Curtis had 34 assists along with 3 aces.

After a downer of a first set, the teams played basically even in the second until the Hilltoppers took control late behind the serving of senior libero Zach Morris and junior outside hitter Joey Marchetti, breaking a 20-20 tie to prevail 25-21. The big plays in that final sequence were a combo block by Harrington and senior middle Diego Guzman, and a thunderous kills by Harrington to end the set.

That set the stage for an epic third set, one that saw the Griffins take leads of 10-5 and 13-8.

But then, behind the serving of Curtis and outside hitter Ryan Swartz, Glenbard West clawed back in to tie the set at 14-14. The teams traded punches before the serving of Lincoln-Way East's Wil McPhillips and a pair of kills from Ike Mahajan put the Griffins up 22-21.

Giunta-Mayer then called time, and coming out of the break -- and to the rescue -- was Harrington, who tied the game with a tip kill, then proceeded to serve his team to the win behind kills from Swartz and the game-winner from Guzman.

"When that ball came over, I saw it coming over and I was like, I just have to do something," Guzman said. "Once I hit it, I was confident in my hit. It felt amazing to get that final point. It was unbelievable."

Jubilation ensued, as the Glenbard West student section spilled onto the court. Giunta-Mayer gathered her team in a circle and knelt on the floor. What did she tell them?

"I just said, You've done it. You protected your home," she said. "Against an incredible opponent. I told the boys, This is what you play for. We play for this -- this what makes it fun.

"We're home now. There are all these people watching them. They do all this work, and this is our gym. We only get nine opportunities here and I don't want them to pass them by."

Mission accomplished.

"It was one of our goals coming in the season to go into spring break 2-0," Curtis said. "It feels great to get it off our shoulders, even though it wasn't our best game, it was a good result."

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