Boys volleyball: Nate Fleischauer, Tommy Fellows lead Joliet West to sweep of Plainfield Central

Joliet West’s Nathan Fleischauer powers a shot against Plainfield Central on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 in Plainfield.

PLAINFIELD – Entering Tuesday night’s match, Joliet West had two of its middle hitters injured and one was out because of illness.

But, with outside hitters such as Nate Fleischauer and Tommy Fellows, the Tigers were able to overcome their scarcity in the middle and come away with a 25-20, 25-13 Southwest Prairie Conference win over Plainfield Central.

Fleischauer had a match-high 11 kills, while Fellows was right behind with nine.

At the start, it was all Fellows as setter Landon Brouwer (15 assists) found him four times for the kill as the Tigers jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead. Plainfield Central, however, refused to let the Tigers roll and went on a 6-2 run to close the gap to 7-6.

The Wildcats (2-19, 0-4) eventually tied it at 8-all before West (20-3, 4-0) rallied behind two more kills from Fellows to gain a 15-10 edge. Fleischauer got into the mix with two kills and a block to move the Tigers out to a 20-12 lead.

“We have a great team, and we have confidence in each other no matter who is on the court,” Fleischauer said. “With some starters out tonight, we knew the other guys would come in and do the job. They push us at practice really hard, so we know they can play.

“Having hitters like me and Tommy and a great setter like Landon, it can confuse the other teams because they don’t know who is going to get the ball.”

Joliet West’s Thomas Fellows follows through on a shot against Plainfield Central on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 in Plainfield.

Plainfield Central continued to battle back, going on a 7-1 run, highlighted by back-to-back kills by Ethan Ricketts, to pull to within 21-19. West, however, finished off the set on a 4-1 run, including an ace by Fleischauer and a block by Drew Johnson.

The Wildcats grabbed a 3-1 lead in the second set on three straight kills by Milo Nelson. West answered with a 7-1 spurt that included an ace each by Nolan Fellows and Tommy Fellows and a kill by Fleischauer. Back-to-back kills by Tommy Fellows moved the Tigers to a 15-9 lead, and they outscored Central 10-3 the rest of the way.

“We had to move some kids around due to injury and illness,” West coach Tara Litwicki said. “There was an adjustment period, but once we got things going, it was a different game.

“Our guys don’t make a lot of mistakes. They made the other team earn just about all of their points. We have aggressive outside hitters, and Landon Brouwer sets the offensive pace. He is so smart and puts the hitters in a position to get kills.

“We have also changed a lot of our serves. We want to be aggressive, but we concentrate more on placement than power. A super hard serve does no good if it’s out of bounds, so we want to get our serves in and let our defense start our offense.”

Plainfield Central’s Milo Nelson stretches for the shot against Joliet West on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 in Plainfield.

Nelson and Draedyn Sanford had four kills each to lead Plainfield Central.

“Our kids don’t quit,” Central coach Robert Richardson said. “We can come back from being behind. The key is to not get that far behind in the first place. We need to be more consistent. Most of the kids are first-year varsity players, so it has taken them a little while to get up to speed.

“I thought [setter] Ethan Ricketts did a great job, both with getting blocks and assists. We’ve been searching for someone to take over, and he has with his senior leadership. That has been nice to see.”