Boys volleyball: Palatine battles past Fremd

  • Palatine's Aaron Spaletto goes up against Fremd's Justin Spiekermann (8) and Cole Cheripka (10) during Tuesday's boys volleyball game in Palatine.

      Palatine's Aaron Spaletto goes up against Fremd's Justin Spiekermann (8) and Cole Cheripka (10) during Tuesday's boys volleyball game in Palatine. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd's Jason Hajdukovic (12) is up against Palatine's Ben Rinella, center, and Michael Green during Tuesday's boys volleyball game in Palatine.

      Fremd's Jason Hajdukovic (12) is up against Palatine's Ben Rinella, center, and Michael Green during Tuesday's boys volleyball game in Palatine. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Fremd's Cole Cheripka (10) and Justin Spiekermann go up for the block against Palatine's Aaron Spaletto (8) during Tuesday's boys volleyball game in Palatine.

      Fremd's Cole Cheripka (10) and Justin Spiekermann go up for the block against Palatine's Aaron Spaletto (8) during Tuesday's boys volleyball game in Palatine. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 4/2/2019 9:58 PM

The Palatine boys volleyball team kicked off Tuesday's match against Fremd with a heartfelt pregame tribute to military personnel and first responders.

Then the Pirates took to the court and scored a hard-fought 25-16, 25-15 win over their Mid-Suburban West rivals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Pirate players Timmy Matijevic and Tyler Stein gave eloquent speeches during the commendation and Vikings assistant coach Nick Vassos, a veteran, said he appreciated the shout-out.

"I had a short stint in the Navy," said Vassos, "but what I really respect are the people who are now in law enforcement, the first responders, and the firefighters. Any day something could happen to them, and of course our guys serving overseas now are the guys I really want to thank as well. It was nice to have that tribute tonight -- I accept the fact that I'm a veteran but I also know there are guys right now who are in harm's way."

Senior Curtis McLennan led Palatine in the victory with 9 kills on 15-of-17 hitting, and 3 service aces.

"Something we've talked about since the beginning of the season," said Pirates coach Pete Gavin, "is that volleyball games and the season in general are roller coaster rides, and we've got to try to eliminate the lows as fast as possible, stay level-headed, and try to ride the highs as much as we can."

Martin Michalski had 4 kills for Fremd, while defensive specialist Jacob Yoo was 15-for-15 on serve receive.

"I thought we stayed aggressive throughout the match," said Vikings coach Curt Pinley. "Our problem was consistency. We were consistent early, then we were inconsistent when the score got into the teens.

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"You give a good team like Palatine a four or five-point lead," added Pinley, "and it's hard to reel them in."

Fremd raced to a 9-5 lead in the first set, but behind the strong, productive serving of McLennan and junior Nate Jones, the Pirates rallied by scoring 20 of the next 27 points to win the set -- despite the stellar defensive play from Michalski of the Vikes.

"We made some uncharacteristic errors early, and started out a little slower than we wanted to," said Jones, a 6-foot-5 middle blocker. "We knew we had to come out firing and with a lot of energy in the second set. We got a lead but couldn't coast; we kept pushing and pushing."

"After that first set," said Michalski of the Vikings, "we told ourselves we had to come out in the second set with a purpose, improve communication, stick to the basics and keep things simple."

The Vikes started the deciding game with a sturdy effort, taking a quick lead behind the blocking of Jimmy Jandura and the hitting of teammate Justin Spiekermann.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But Palatine took the lead back for good on an service ace from McLennan, then late kills by Jones and McLennan put the match in the win column for the home team.

Matijevic finished with 6 kills for the Pirates, Thomas Lambke produced 9 digs, while Jones, McLennan and Ben Rinella had 3 blocks apiece. Rinella added 15 assists.

Senior Cole Cheripka, the Vikings' setter, was 43-of-43 with 13 assists.

"I thought we played well," said Michalski, "but this match will be good motivator for us for the rest of the season."

Palatine improved to 7-0, 1-0 in the West, while Fremd fell to 1-1, 0-1.

"That was one of the things we had to work through tonight," said Pinley of the fact that the Vikes competed in only their second game of the season Tuesday. "The difference in matches played really showed."

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