Boys volleyball: Stevenson outlasts Lakes in a marathon
A check of the court -- yep, court 4 at Warren High School on Saturday afternoon was home to the seventh-place match.
A check of the bracket -- yep, the Stevenson and Lakes volleyball teams were pitted against each other in the seventh-place match.
A check of the collective pulse on the court -- nope, this did not have the feel of a seventh-place match.
"It did not," Stevenson setter Will Sorenson confirmed. "This was high competition. It always is at the Warren tournament."
The boys volleyball teams from Stevenson and Lakes were fighting and scratching and clawing not as if they were in a ho-hum seventh-place match, but as if they were in the championship match of the Warren Blue Devil Invitational, angling not only for some major hardware, but also perhaps for a free steak dinner.
There were marathon three games between the Patriots and Eagles. There were 21 ties, and 21 lead changes, too. There were long volleys and primal screams. After a two-day tournament and five-straight games, the gas was low in the tank for both Stevenson and Lakes.
But they kept going and going, even shutting down Warren High School, and playing long after every other match on eight different courts ended. Finally, Stevenson came away with a sweaty, draining 23-25, 31-29, 26-24 win in the seventh-place match.
The Patriots improve to 9-3 on the season.
Oak Park-River Forest won the tournament title, defeating Deerfield in the championship match 25-13, 25-15.
"This didn't feel like a seventh-place game at all," Lakes coach Kevin Glabowicz said. "And that speaks to this tournament and how good it is. This was a very hotly contested match and I'm so happy with our effort."
Even in the loss, Glabowicz is thrilled with the turnaround of his team.
The Eagles (5-8) opened the season against Stevenson a few weeks ago and got hammered, losing in straight sets 25-17, 25-9.
"It was very ugly for us that match," Glabowicz said of the Eagles' season-opening loss to Stevenson. "They really beat us good. But we've bought in since then. Our saying this year is, 'One is greater than six.' And mathematically, that doesn't make sense, but in volleyball one team is greater than six individuals. The first time we played Stevenson, we looked like six individuals playing by themselves. Today, we played together and for each other. We've really turned a page and have gotten a lot better."
In fact, the Eagles not only turned a page on Stevenson, they almost finished the entire book this time. Lakes won the first game and had a match-point situation three times in the second game, but the Patriots hung tough and eventually pulled out a crazy 31-29 victory, thanks in part to some big kills by 6-foot-8 middle Justin Ross, who will be playing at perennial power Loyola next year.
"We have a lot of great players who don't get a chance to be on the floor very much, but those kids on the bench are the ones keeping us motivated and keeping our spirits up and keeping us motivated and that really helped us on the court during those tough times today," said Soreneson, an A-student who will be playing next year at Harvard, his dream school since he was in first grade. He was named to the all-tournament team at Warren.
"Team cohesion is at an all-time high with the way we played today," Sorenson said. "We all worked together, and everyone knows their role. It helps us do well in situations like today when we are down and the other team (is about to close out).
"We were never (panicked), even when we were down. The game is never over."
Like the second game, the third game didn't want to end either.
The third game alone featured 10 lead changes and 10 ties.
The score was tied at 24-24 but Stevenson got the final 2 points on a kill by Ross, and a big double block by Sorenson and Michael Gorokhovsky.
"We were patient today, and we got energy from the bench," Stevenson coach Eric Goolish said. "I told the guys, 'You might think the tank is empty, that there's nothing more in there, but there's something in there. You just have to find it.' I think our guys were doing that, and that was good. I think those moments are important.
"It's good for the guys to see that we can get stressed and we can still win."
Stevenson got 9 kills apiece from Ross, Gavin Meng and Thomas Finn.
Lakes senior outside hitter Connor Clowers, named to the all-tournament team, rolled up a match-high 14 kills while Benjamin Mercure added 8 kills for the Eagles.
"Taking on an opponent like Stevenson is always going to be a big deal to us because we know it's going to be so competitive and we're going to have to stay on our toes the entire time," Clowers said. "We stayed neck-and-neck with them today. We showed that we can hang even with the toughest competition.
"This is easily one of the best Lakes teams I've played on in my three years as a varsity athlete. The team chemistry we showed, and the way we build each other up, on top of all of our talent, it's really going to take us places this year."