Boys volleyball: Palatine takes 2nd at Libertyville tourney
Palatine's Ben Rinella loves to joust. He just has never done it on horseback.
Rinella was able to win the 50-50 balls at the net on Saturday in his team's semifinal match of the Libertyville boys volleyball tournament. His ability to win those "jousts" helped the Pirates slay Libertyville 25-22, 25-18 and move Palatine into the championship match against Lake Forest.
That title match had all the feel of state playoff contest with the teams splitting the first two games by identical 25-23 scores. In the final game, Lake Forest (17-4), which is led by Stanford-bound Kevin Lamb, was able to score the final 3 points of the game, to pull out the title with a 25-22 victory over the Pirates.
"It definitely had a state feel to it," Palatine coach Peter Gavin said. "They have some great athletes. Lamb is an exceptional athlete and the best player we faced all year. We talked to our middles to be faster with their hands. We got some good touches. Seeing a caliber like him is going to make our blockers better."
In the first game, Lake Forest led 20-14 when Timmy Matijevic took over for the Pirates. The senior helped spark Palatine to 7 consecutive points and a 21-20 advantage. But Palatine couldn't sustain the momentum and fell 25-23.
In Game 2, the match was tied 22-22. Curtis McClennan had 2 kills down the stretch for the Pirates to help pull out the 25-23 win.
This is the first match I have been back in seven games, because of a shoulder injury," said McClellan, who had 11 kills. "I was just trying to get more sets and other things to help get the job done."
In the final game, Lamb had 5 kills to finish off the match with Palatine with 16 kills and 2 aces.
"We had a game plan for him," said Palatine's Nate Jones, who along with McClellan and Aaron Spaletto were playing up front in an attempt to slow down Lamb.
"We knew we had to stop him or least to try to stop him. I thought we executed pretty well, just some points went their way."
To get to the title match, Palatine (26-3) had to take on a very game Libertyville squad that was determined to defend its home turf.
The Wildcats did just that early, scoring the first 5 points of the first game thanks to Jack Stavrakos, Patrick Graham and Alex Weick. Libertyville led 9-5 when Palatine, behind the net action of Rinella, began to close the gap.
"It is kind of a running joke with the team that I never lose a joust," Rinella said. "I am good at it. It riles up the team as well, so it is fun."
Rinella was able to win 4 jousts to help propel the Pirates to an 18-16 lead. From there, the hitting of McClennan and Spaletto helped Palatine ease to the25-22 win.
In the second game, Rinella helped spark the Pirates to a 6-1 lead and they never looked back as they moved into the title game with a convincing 25-18 win.
"We are just working on our varsity experience," Libertyville coach Jennifer Smith said. "When things aren't all together, we can let points run. "
Libertyville (5-20) was able to turn things around in the third-place match. The Wildcats beat Rockford Jefferson 25-16, 25-20.
Graham had 24 kills, 8 blocks and 3 aces for the Wildcats. Weick had 23 kills and 4 aces while Stavrakos 19 kills and 16 blocks. Matt Apgar had 44 assists and 2 aces while Devon Hamilton 41 assists and 5 aces.