Boys volleyball: Palatine outlasts West Chicago for regional title
After seeing West Chicago capture game one 27-25, Palatine' boys volleyball team found itself tied with the Wildcats 22-22 in game two and facing the possibility of its season coming to an end in Wednesday evening's South Elgin regional final match.
It was at that moment the second-seeded Pirates found their championship mettle which led them back on a winning path that ended with them earning their second straight regional crown.
The Pirates held off seventh-seeded We-Go in taking game two 25-23 prior to capturing the third game 25-19.
Palatine (31-4) advances to the Fremd sectional for a 6:30 p.m. Friday semifinal against No. 6 seed St. Charles East (19-9).
"That was a fun match," a smiling Pirates coach Pete Gavin said. "That's (West Chicago) a really talented team over there. We saw them earlier in the season and knew they had a lot of firepower. I'm proud of the way our guys fought back."
After a block from We-Go senior Liam Goeckner tied the second game at 22, Palatine junior Nate Jones ignited the decisive surge with a feed that set up senior Aaron Splaleto for 1 of his 8 kills that gave the Pirates the lead for good at 23-22. A block at the net by senior co-captain Ben Rinella would follow, setting the stage for a collaboration between Jones and fellow senior co-captain Curtis McLennan that produced the game-winning 25th point to even the match.
Game 3 saw the Pirates seize permanent control with an 11-3 tear that took a 7-6 lead into an 18-9 advantage.
In that run, Jones (11 kills total), McLennan (15 kills total) and junior Timmy Matijevic each tallied twice.
The Palatine edge got as high as 10 at 22-12 before the Wildcats (24-9) made their final push as a 7-2 run had pulled them within 24-19 before a Wildcat block went out of bounds for match point.
Splaleto, who also had 8 digs, credited his teammates for the successful turnaround.
"It was good work all around," Splaleto said. "Everyone's making nice serves today, everyone was covering blocks a lot today, we were picking those up. Everyone was getting sets to where they had to be in order to make the plays we had to make."
Junior Chase Heuer's 11 kills and seniors Mike Wagner (8 kills) and Caleb Kulesza (6 kills) led the West Chicago effort.
Second-year Wildcats coach Regina Pauli praised her club's effort.
"I just told them that they need to walk out with their heads high," Pauli said. "They played a really good match tonight. Unfortunately in the third game we didn't start off strong and we got ourselves into a rut. We fought hard. We gave them a good game. They gave us a good match."
For Palatine, a return to the drawing board in preparation for Friday is in store according to McLennan.
"We're going to try and clean up some of the mistakes we were making today and come out Friday as clean as we can," he said.