HOFFMAN ESTATES – 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 three-set win over Conant, while Lemont went to three sets as well to win the third place match against the Spartans.
“We’ve got a lot of talent on this team,” Bison coach Tim Kosiek said. “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 three sets, 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,” Lemont senior outside hitter Van Gaetto said. “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,” Lemont coach Chris Zogata said, “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.”
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,” Spartans coach Mike Lynch said. “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.”