Boys volleyball: Glenbard West holds off Downers Grove North upset bid

Glenbard West's Xzavion Willett (22) celebrates a point with teammates during volleyball match between Downers Grove North at Glenbard West.  April 2, 2024.

GLEN ELLYN – Downers Grove North wanted to make a statement in boys volleyball scene on Tuesday night.

The Trojans were aiming for an early season signature win over Glenbard West.

The Hilltoppers, a two-time defending state champion, had other thoughts in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division clash.

In front of a large crowd, the Hilltoppers withstood a solid effort by the Trojans to pull out a 25-21, 25-18 victory in Glen Ellyn.

Casey Maas was a terror at the net, destroying nearly every Trojans’ rally with a thundering kill to thrill the mostly pro-Hilltoppers’ crowd. Maas finished with nine kills and seven digs, while Adam Graham finished with seven kills and eight digs. Charlie Clifford was a highlight machine in the two-set match, ending with seven impressive kills, Andrew Ellis had eight digs and Jack Anderson tallied 26 assists to lead a power-packed Glenbard West (3-0, 1-0) effort.

Glenbard West’s Xzavion Willett was strong at the net to spark the Hilltoppers. Willett said his teammates could tell Tuesday’s match was no ordinary early April battle.

“Andrew did a great job making sure the passes were in system,” Willett said. “Charlie had a great game today and had a lot of positive touches and kills. It’s early, but we worked really hard for this game and that helped us shine.”

Graham agreed with his teammate.

“This match means a lot because (Downers Grove North) is in our sectional, so this helps our seeding,” Graham said. “It’s a good win to get against a good team and a good conference opponent. We spread the ball around well, and everyone did their job well. We had the mentality we wanted to win it. I think coming off spring break we had a couple of long practices. We have seven games this week, so we knew we had to take care of this one.”

The Trojans (5-3, 0-1) made the Hilltoppers, who have won five state championships, work for the victory with solid defense and aggressive attack. Clifford caught fire late with two back-breaking kills to end the Trojans’ late-game uprising.

In the second set, the Trojans and Hilltoppers had a back-and-forth battle that featured several ties until a batch of hitting errors and a pivotal service error stung the visitors.

Adam Janowiak paced the Trojans with seven kills, Aiden Akkawi and Aaron Grey each added five kills. Senior libero Lincoln Geist played stellar in both games to end with 17 digs and setters Gavin Reina and Ryan Pawlik both racked up 10 assists.

“We believe and we have the talent, bodies, the height and stuff you can’t teach and they believe, which is little different from the last few years,” Downers Grove North coach Mark Wasik said. “They are disappointed but that’s good to see. We could potentially see them two more times, so we’re looking forward to that opportunity.”

Glenbard West coach Christine Giunta-Mayer said her team overcame some bumps in the match but pulled together when it counted.

“Downers Grove North is a really good team and really well coached,” Giunta-Mayer said. “We have to continue to get better and have a lot of things to work on. We will continue to work on them.”

Bob Narang

Bob Narang is a contributing sports reporter to Shaw Local News Network