Boys volleyball: Stevenson handles Fremd
Months ago, as preparations for the spring season were in the works, Eric Goolish knew that there was a scheduling issue that needed his immediate attention.
The Stevenson boys volleyball coach wanted his team to once again play Fremd in a nonconference match because it would be, as always, a competitive, tough test.
But Goolish also knew that there was absolutely no way he wanted his team to play the Vikings on the same day as last season.
After all, the 2018 match against Fremd didn't go so well for Stevenson. It was a loss on the road. A big loss.
"We had Prom on the weekend, then the kids came back to school after Prom and it was our Senior Ditch Day that Monday and even though our seniors had to be in school in order to play, they were pretty much half asleep and out of it," Goolish said with a laugh. "The game against Fremd wasn't so great for us.
"When we were putting together this year's schedule, I specifically looked for that Fremd game and I was like, 'Oh no. We've got to move that Fremd game.' It was actually scheduled for the same day again and I was like, 'That day, (Senior Ditch Day and the first day back to school after Prom), is a day that we will no longer have any competitions.'"
So on Monday, Stevenson was coming off a ho-hum weekend. No Prom aftermath. No Senior Ditch Day to work around. The Patriots, who celebrated Prom a couple weeks ago, looked as if they were focused on nothing but volleyball this time around against Fremd.
Stevenson took control early and sent the visiting Vikings home with a sweeping 25-18, 25-23 nonconference loss.
The Patriots are now 24-6 on the season while Fremd dropped to 13-9.
"We really wanted it tonight, especially since we lost to (Fremd) last year," said Stevenson 6-foot-8 junior middle hitter Justin Ross. "I think our guys were a little tired last year. It was a long weekend. It was Prom. We always try to play our hardest, but sometimes when your heart's not in it, you're just not going to win.
"This time, I think we were really rested."
Stevenson threw down one powerful kill after another, led by Ross who finished with 6 kills. He was also part of a big blocking wall that thwarted many of Fremd's best attempts at the net. Ross, Will Sorenson and Daniel Prindiville had 2 block kills apiece.
Ross has already committed to play volleyball in college at perennial national power Loyola University in Chicago.
Sorenson will be playing in college next year at Harvard and has been showing his versatility in recent days for the Patriots.
He has been Stevenson's setter since the beginning of season, as well as last year. But Goolish changed up the lineup and made Sorenson a hitter and turned junior Andrew Keevins, a defensive specialist, into the setter. Keevins finished with 12 assists. Sorenson still had 5 assists to go along with a few kills.
"We're moving those pieces around and we'll see how it goes," Goolish said. "Will is a good hitter and Andrew is a good setter and we've been 5-0 since the change. We can flip things back at any time but so far, so good and it gives us a lot of different options. Having a lot of options ... that's a good problem to have."
For Fremd, senior outside hitter Jason Hajdukovic had a team-high 6 kills while Justin Spiekermann and Martin Michalski each had 3 kills. Setter Cole Cheripka had 11 assists.
"I think Stevenson is just a great team all the way around," Hajdukovic said. "We were able to go on runs, but they were able to go on longer runs. We showed a lot of fight like we always do but we just need to start it earlier (in the match)."
Still, Fremd coach Curt Pinley likes where his team is headed into the stretch run.
"We had too many errors tonight," Pinley said. "But Stevenson is always a really good team. And at this point in the season you want to see really good teams. We've had some ups and downs this season, but we are getting better and that's what you want to see right now. We'll keep getting better as we make our final push."