Boys volleyball: Glenbard West earns 7th straight state berth
After prom for the seniors May 18, Glenbard West boys volleyball players discovered a green, plastic alien doll.
When the original alien departed, junior Gavin Swartz purchased a look alike, which attends all matches and otherwise resides in the school's Biester Gymnasium.
"We just found it one day and now it's our team mascot," Swartz said. "We bring it everywhere we go. It's our good luck charm. We haven't lost since we had it."
Like another well-known alien, the Hilltoppers now are going home.
For the seventh straight time, Glenbard West has advanced to the state quarterfinals after beating Hinsdale Central 25-21, 25-18 Tuesday to win the Hinsdale Central sectional.
The Hilltoppers (33-2) will play on their home court for Friday's 3 p.m. state quarterfinals against St. Rita. Days after the IHSA officially announced a state tournament in mid-May, Glenbard West became this year's new tournament site.
"That made it all the more special to try to get back to Biester to get to state," senior setter Danny Lohman said. "We didn't have a season last year and this year we had the chance to do something super special at home. That was very, very motivating."
Seniors Danny Pasinski (10 kills, three blocks), Lohman (20 assists, seven service points, five digs), Nick Jones (two kills, two blocks) and Zach Noland (five service points, three digs), juniors Danny Dorsey (five kills), Kenny Gibson (eight digs) and Sam Alles (three digs) and sophomore Parker Moorhead (six kills) led the Hilltoppers.
No players remain from the Hilltoppers' second-place 2019 lineup, but Lohman and Pasinski were promoted for the matches and postseason training.
The outstanding 2020 senior class, who missed out on their final state chance because of the coronavirus pandemic, came in force Tuesday for support.
"We wanted to come home so bad, especially after this year. It's been a really tough year," Glenbard West coach Christine Giunta-Mayer said.
"This (state berth) means a lot because we lost it last year and those alumni were all here. They were all here cheering us on. This was very meaningful. None of them are the same but we're all shooting for baby steps to get that ultimate high school dream."
Glenbard West, the sectional's No. 2 seed, won all three regular-season matches against the fourth-seeded Red Devils (21-6), including the match that made them co-West Suburban Silver champions at 5-1.
Hinsdale Central was coming off an upset of top-seeded St. Francis Saturday. Starting senior AJ Hood had missed the previous three meetings with an ankle injury.
Hinsdale Central sophomore Jakobi Lange had 12 kills, along with senior standouts Sam Snyder (23 assists, two kills), Hood (four kills, four service points) and Cullen Bradley (four kills) and Matt Schwab (eight digs).
The Red Devils' lineup also was practically new since losing to Glenbard West in the 2019 state quarterfinals.
"We hadn't beaten them yet and that was our challenge. We tried as hard as we could, but they played a great match," Hood said. "I've never really played with any of these guys before (except Snyder) so we jelled great as a group. I'm insanely proud of everybody."
After the Red Devils took a 12-11 lead in the first set, neither team led by more than one until back-to-back Moorhead kills put Glenbard West ahead 20-17. The Red Devils closed to 22-21 before a sideout and two points served by Lohman on a Pasinski and Jones block and an attack error.
Glenbard West led the second set after pulling ahead 4-3 and by at least three points after 15-12. Noland served the final three points with Lohman notching match point with his only kill.
"I felt like we started off timid, and then we were OK, neck and neck, and then just didn't finish out," said Hinsdale Central coach Stephanie Kaegebein. "I thought (our players) did such a great job of bouncing back from not having a season. I asked them, 'Did you think you were going to do this well this year?' and they said, 'No.' We really did do well this season."
The Hilltoppers hope to keep succeeding for themselves and others.
"It feels really good to be able to win games for (our alumni)," Pasinski said. "We're trying to prove that we would have had something last year and we're going to try and take it for them this year, too."