Libertyville dug deep on Saturday and came away with a tournament championship.
Minutes after a grueling 3-set win over Joliet West in the semi-finals of the Palatine-Schaumburg Boys’ Volleyball Invitational, the Wildcats took to the court to face Buffalo Grove – a team that has gone on a 17-game winning streak consecutive – in the title contest.
Libertyville were up to the challenge as they outlasted the Bison 25-16, 22-25, 25-19.
“We were riding high after that win over Joliet,” Libertyville coach Jenny Smith said. “They’re a great team, and we came out hot against Buffalo Grove, (especially) with blocks and kills. They (BG) have a huge frontline, and we kind of stopped them from doing that. what they wanted to do.
“I told the boys today that win or lose, we’re going to be able to play against some great teams and hopefully raise our game and rise to the occasion.”
Smith added that it may have been a recent team meeting that led to their high level of play in the invite.
“We had just lost a conference game (to Mundelein), and we sat down and talked – about how we wanted to play together on the pitch and turn over a new leaf. They stepped up and that’s the best that they’ve been playing all season.”
Buffalo Grove’s title game loss was their only invitational loss, as they had swept their first four games with victories over Maine West, Carmel, Grant and Fremd.
The Bisons are now 20-3 this season and coach Tim Kosiek says all the credit is due to teamwork.
“We have strengths,” Kosiek said, “but the reality is that everyone on our team is so talented. We spread it, and that’s what makes us successful.”
Connor Dell finished with 48 kills in the Bison Invitational. Dan Feder added 39 kills, while Piotr Wymoczyl had 30 kills and 10 aces.
“Our exteriors have been amazing (this season),” Kosiek said. “Dan and Connor split that responsibility so we don’t lean on one too much. Piotr stood out in the middle and Colin Shin is amazing and leaps through the roof.
“We were excited for this tournament because we knew we would be playing against high caliber teams. We focused on looking at our weaknesses and what we need to develop, working on the details that we worked on. all season.”
Fremd took third place with a 25-20, 16-25, 26-24 win over Joliet West. The only blemish for the Vikings was a grueling 3-set loss to the Bison in the semi-finals.
Hersey went 4-1 in the tournament, with their only loss at the hands of Joliet West, while Maine West was 3-2. Kacper Pogorzelski led the way for the Warriors with 77 assists, 8 blocks, 14 digs and 4 aces.
Prospect had victories over Maine East and Palatine in Pool; the Pirates nearly derailed Libertyville’s championship hopes with a win over the Wildcats in Pool B; while Schaumburg picked up a few wins over the two days, with pool games played on Friday night and the playoffs on Saturday.
For champion Libertyville, senior Patrick Akers paced the team with 42 kills, 14 blocks and 35 digs.
Aleks Slesers threw with 42 digs and 11 aces while teammates Reece Wiatrowski (36 digs), Chase Bonder (24 kills, 21 blocks), Ethan Lindberg (67 assists) and Luis Correa (54 assists) delivered a big hit thumbs up to the winners.
“Honestly, we’ve had some ups and downs this season,” Smith said. “It was our first tournament, and I wasn’t totally sure how we were going to do it, but I was very happy with the way we played.”
“It was sunny outside today,” Smith added with a laugh, referring to the hot weather on Saturday, “so if you have to be inside in the gym, you might as well win, right?”