Boys volleyball: Joliet Catholic sweeps St. Viator on senior night

Hilltoppers take Set 1 with little issue, overcome a slow start in Set 2

Joliet Catholic’s Jacob Medders hits a shot against St. Viator on Wednesday, April 24, 2024 in Joliet.

JOLIET – Jacob Medders and Miles Czerkies will tell you themselves, it wasn’t about them. Wednesday’s 25-14, 26-24 victory for Joliet Catholic over St. Viator was a team effort.

Still, for the only seniors on JCA’s roster to get the East Suburban Catholic Conference win on senior night was pretty special.

“It was pretty cool to get support from the people I’ve been playing with the past four years,” Medders said. “It was really nice to see the way they treated me. I thought it was great.”

As for the match itself, the first set was a relatively straight forward event. The Hilltoppers (6-12, 1-3 ESCC) jumped out to a 7-2 advantage that ballooned to 12-5 in a hurry, and they cruised to victory from there.

Set 2, on the other hand, was much more of a battle.

St. Viator (4-14, 1-3) actually started out in front with a 4-1 advantage before JCA battled back to move ahead 6-5. St. Viator briefly retook the lead 8-7 before the Hilltoppers seemed to take control, going up 16-12 and appearing to have the match in hand.

St. Viator wouldn’t go down easily. It pulled back to within 19-17 before tying the set 20-20 with the two squads battling back and forth from that point forward. The teams were tied at 24-all before JCA scored the final two points they needed for the victory.

“It feels great,” JCA coach Jeffery Budz said. “This team has been through a lot. We’ve definitely struggled at times this year, but it’s nice to finally get some energy on the court and put it all together. It was nice.”

After beginning the year 3-2, the Hilltoppers lost seven straight before beginning an up-and-down stretch. They’d lost two straight heading into Wednesday and were in danger of being faced with a third set after the slow start and hectic finish to the second.

Medders felt the turnaround in Set 2 came after the Hilltoppers remembered to get that energy Budz was talking about going again.

“I think the first set we were having a lot of fun,” Medders said. “I think in the second set we expected it to go about the same way as the first. When they came out swinging, we got kind of surprised, so we had to wrap it up ourselves, which took a little while. With the seniors and juniors we have, we knew we could get back into it.”

That kind of confidence and leadership is exactly what Budz has come to expect from Medders and Czerkies over the past four years.

“Miles is our senior setter who runs a fantastic offense,” Budz said. “He knows who needs the ball and when they need it. Jake is outstanding. He hits the [heck] out of the ball, and he’s our hardest swinger even though he’s not the tallest. They’re both great kids and great mentors for our younger generation.”

As for St. Viator, it’s all about trying to pick up the pieces and improve from this one. The team is young and trying to find its way this season. Coach Brennan Harrington believes that the effort in the second set shows what the team is capable of.

“We just seem like we didn’t really come prepared today,” Harrington said. “We started the first set slow and kind of regrouped in the second set. We started playing a little bit better with a little more energy and a lot scrappier. The passing just wasn’t there and the serving had too many errors with the first contact. We weren’t able to get in a rhythm offensively, but we’re a young group and we showed some flashes.”

JCA next heads to the Lincoln-Way East Tournament this weekend. Czerkies is hopeful the Hilltoppers can keep the momentum rolling.

“We have a tournament this weekend, so I’m really hoping we can win those first few games,” Czerkies said. “We’ll get a few more wins in a row and take the momentum from there. Just hoping to win more.”