Boys volleyball: Glenbard West beats Downers Grove North for third time, advances to 10th straight state trip

Two-time defending state champions come up big at the net in 25-19, 25-19 win

The Glenbard West boys volleyball team poses after beating Downers Grove North to win the Bolingbrook North Sectional championship.

BOLINGBROOK – There was no blocking another state appearance for Glenbard West.

The Hilltoppers came up big at the net and defeated Downers Grove North 25-19, 25-19 on Tuesday in the title match of the Bolingbrook Sectional.

With its third win of the year over the Trojans, two-time defending state champion Glenbard West advanced to state for the 10th straight postseason. The Hilltoppers (36-3) will face another West Suburban Conference rival, Lyons Township, at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Hoffman Estates in the first state quarterfinal match.

Last year, Glenbard West defeated the Lions 25-18, 25-20 in the title match.

“Oh, my gosh, we blocked so well,” Glenbard West coach Christine Giunta-Mayer said. “And Andrew [Ellis] was on fire at libero. He led the team. We played very clean. Downers Grove North is a great team and our conference is super strong. Our next matchup is a conference matchup and we can’t take anything for granted.”

The Trojans (29-11), who last made a state quarterfinal appearance in 1994, lost in the sectional final for the second straight season.

“They’re very physical. They push you to play fast,” Downers Grove North coach Mark Wasik said. “We knew them and had them scouted well. But they do the basics. They speed us up and we made errors.”

Seniors Xzavion Willett (7 kills, 6 blocks, 2 digs) in the middle and Casey Maas (7 kills, 2 digs) on the outside led Glenbard West.

After falling in the opener, the Trojans were out in front in the second set, jumping to early leads of 6-2 and 9-6 before Glenbard West came back with a 5-1 run. Three ties followed, the last one at 14-14. Leading 19-18, the Hilltoppers had a 5-0 spurt, starting with a kill by senior opposite side hitter Adam Graham (6 kills, 7 digs, block).

Charlie Clifford, a junior outside hitter who had four kills, four digs and three blocks, had a final bock and senior outside hitter Gabbe Magsumbol served an ace to make it 24-18. Moments later, Willett ended it with a kill.

“We’ve been putting in a lot of work at practice to make sure we were closing the block,” Willett said. “But our team is really good at rallying behind us and making plays. We just wanted to make sure we slowed Downers down because they’re very physical at the net.”

A 5-0 Hilltoppers run gave them a 10-6 lead in the first set. Ahead 12-9, Willett had two blocks and two kills in a 6-0 blitz as Glenbard West took an 18-9 lead and coasted.

“We went down in the second set but knew we could fight out of it,” Maas said. “We’ve had hard situations all year. It’s hard to beat a team three times, but we know them and they know us. We proved that we’re the better team by winning.

“We have great coaches who hold us accountable. They make sure we’re in the best mindset all the time.”

Senior setter Jack Anderson had 24 assists, two blocks and two digs and Ellis had nine digs for the Hilltoppers.

Aiden Akkawi, a junior outside hitter, had seven kills for Downers Grove North. Senior middle hitter Adam Janowiak added five kills. Senior Gavin Reina (11 assists) and junior Ryan Pawlik (8 assists), combined for 19 assists. Senior libero Lincoln Geist had 11 digs.

“Xzavion Willett is a good leader and player, Giunta-Mayer said. “Our whole team around him is outstanding. We work our butts off.”

Randy Whalen

Randy Whalen - Shaw Local News Network Correspondent

Randy Whalen is a contributing reporter to Shaw Local, covering high school sports in Will County