Boys volleyball: Buffalo Grove edges host Conant in title match
It had to be a shock to the system for fans and players exiting Conant at the conclusion of Saturday's varsity boys volleyball invitational.
Snowflakes the size of silver dollars and near white-out conditions greeted the throng, a typical example of Chicagoland's crazy April weather.
Inside the gym, however, Buffalo Grove, Conant, Lemont and St. Francis had found a way to heat things up.
Buffalo Grove won the tournament championship with a thrilling 3-set win over Conant, while Lemont went to 3 games as well to win the 3rd place match against the Spartans.
"We've got a lot of talent on this team," said Bison coach Tim Kosiek. "Our goal is to maintain the edge mentally throughout each entire set."
"Sometimes we make these great runs to get to 15, but our objective is to keep pushing past that, and not let our opponents get runs. We're continuing to look at the smallest details, talk, communicate and minimize errors."
BG won its red pool matches in straight sets over Maine West, St. Francis and St. Patrick, then won a tough contest against Lemont, in 3 games, in the semifinals.
"Lemont is an outstanding team," Kosiek said. "I was really impressed with them, and Conant is a solid team as well and they played with a lot of fire today."
Just as BG had done in the title match, Lemont dropped set one in their third place tilt but came back to win 27-25, 22-25, 15-11.
"We really brought it in the first few matches today, and it's unfortunate that we lost against Buffalo Grove," said Lemont senior outside hitter Van Gaetto. "That game was very close, and I'm looking forward to the next time we play them."
Sophomore libero Nathan Tilly had 55 digs for the third place winners. Senior Jacob TerMaat finished with 24 kills and 67 assists, Cael Whitchurch added 64 assists, and Gaetto had 37 kills and 36 digs.
"Buffalo Grove is very, very good," said Lemont coach Chris Zogata, "so it was a nice test to play them and see where we're at. Everyone contributed today. We played well as a team, we moved the ball around and everybody got involved. As a coach, that's what you want to see."
Gaetto said that it was challenging for his team to bring the energy in the third place game after the rugged loss in the semis against BG, But he was proud of his teammates for the way they responded.
"We were mentally drained at the start (against St. Francis)," said Gaetto, "but we found a way to make it work. If it wasn't for the energy we picked up on and off the court, we wouldn't have won."
Conant was victorious in matches against St. Ignatius, Lakes and Lemont in the blue pool, then in a semifinal game against St. Francis to earn its ticket to the championship round.
The Cougars won game one against BG and led game two midway before falling just short. They were paced in the tourney by setter Dhruv Patel (97 assists, 17 digs, 15 kills), Nic Breiter (36 kills) and Michael Recko (29 kills and 36 digs).
"We played well," said Conant coach Drewann Pancratz. "We try to get better every day as a team and the kids came out and played hard today."
"Dhruv (Patel) stepped up and did a great job of moving the ball around, and our middle, Maks (Zalesinski) is working really hard in transition."
St. Francis' fourth place effort came behind the stellar play of 6-foot-3 setter Kyle Zediker (95 assists) and JT McCormick on defense (44 digs).
"I'm very happy with the way we played today," said Spartans coach Mike Lynch. "We're very young, with six sophomores, and we graduated nine players from our team that was ranked No. 1 all of last season."
"It was great to see the young guys step up. They responded today and competed very well. And in the final match (against Lemont) our setter (Zediker) went down and we had a kid who had never played setter before, Chris Rojas, step up.
"Chris took us to three sets, he did a great job, and as a coach I couldn't have been happier about that."
For title-winning Buffalo Grove, Connor Dell led the way on the day with 55 kills and 8 aces.
Dan Feder added 32 kills for the Bison, Piotr Wymoczyl had 34 kills, 2 aces and 14 blocks, and Colin Shin pitched in with 20 kills.
"We won (some matches) with authority today," said Kosiek, "which is good, and I told the kids 'win with authority, and walk out with humility', because we realize that this is a game, and we're fortunate to be playing it.
"I thought that Piotr, our middle, was outstanding today, as well as Colin in the middle. They're both weapons as are our outsides, Dan and Connor. We've got a great group and I'm excited to see where this is going to lead."