Boys volleyball: Lake Park aces its first state test
With a state trophy now in hand, the Lake Park boys volleyball team is preparing for a big test Saturday in an effort to make the engraving on that trophy as impressive as possible.
The Lancers took care of business in Friday's quarterfinal match, disposing of Oak Park 25-15, 25-19 to advance to the final four, where they will take on Glenbard West, the only team to have beaten them this spring. The 24-1 Lancers, who dropped a 26-24 third set earlier this year to the Hilltoppers, will try and avenge that setback in the semis at Glenbard West.
But first Lake Park had to get past the Huskies, and a determined, experienced squad did just that, jumping ahead 5-0 and growing the lead to 22-11 before taking the opening set without ever trailing. Oak Park (11-6) put up a better fight in the second set but couldn't keep up with Lake Park's strong serving and heavy hitting.
Josh Schellinger, who's committed to play at the University of California-San Diego, led the Lancers attack Friday with 13 kills but was also a key component of a tough serving unit that gave the Huskies fits much of the match. Lake Park recorded 10 aces -- with Elijah Wrobel picking up 5 -- and the offerings made matters tough on Oak Park's offense.
"I think serving is one of our biggest assets because if we're making serves we're going to get teams out of their system," Schellinger said while sitting next to teammates Wrobel and Andrew Deardorff in the postgame news conference. "All three of us have tough serves and were going to be able to take points off them [opponents] each time."
First-year Oak Park coach Justin Cousin, who played for the Huskies a decade ago, said his young squad wasn't quite prepared for everything Lake Park threw at them.
"Those guys are just really good. It could have been nerves but at the same time they didn't do anything to help us," Cousin said. "They played a really good clean game ... it's really hard to see the speed of the ball and the size of the players on camera. This whole season we worked really hard and we're probably going to be back here next year, but those guys were aggressive. Their serves, they just took us out of system."
Deardorff knows the Hilltoppers will provide an obstacle in the semis, but he knows his team is playing much better than it did when it came up just short in that 3-setter with Glenbard West.
"Last time we played them we had a pretty good crowd, like we did tonight," the senior outside hitter said. "We worked on things over the season, and I think we've gotten a lot better. I'm excited to see our far we can go."
Lancers coach Brian Fischer knows his team is filled with players motivated to excel and hoping to reach the program's first ever state championship match. The school was third in 2017 and fourth in 2014.
"All three of these guys had older siblings pass through that saw some success and fell just short," Fischer said. "They've been around it a long time and they know they want it. We've gotten those [past trophies], so we're looking for a new [better] one."