Boys volleyball: Bolingbrook rallies to record first regional title in school history

Bolingbrook celebrates with the Joliet West Regional Championship plaque after defeating Joliet West.  May 23, 2024.

JOLIET — In the final half of the first set Thursday in the Joliet West Regional championship game, Bolingbrook got away from the type of game it likes to play and lost the set to Joliet West.

The Raiders (27-9) regrouped after the first set and dictated the tempo to a much greater extent in the final two sets and came away with a 17-25. 25-19, 25-17 win to capture the first regional championship in program history. As fate would have it, the sectional is at Bolingbrook, where the Raiders will play Glenbard West at 1 p.m. Saturday in the first semifinal, followed by Lockport vs. Downers Grove North at 2.

A balanced attack featuring middles Tristan Benbow and Charlie Bialek and outsides Tristan Caminar and Trevor Wardlow were set up repeatedly by setter Connor Dmochowski, while Dmochowski and libero Tyler Vasquez anchored the defense. It all added up to a monumental victory.

“In the first set, we kind of compounded our errors,” said Caminar, who had nine kills. “Once that set was over, we regrouped and decided we weren’t going to tip anymore. We were able to see the blocks and make the smart play. We had nothing to lose. We weren’t expected to win this match, and that kind of fueled our fire.

“We knew we could beat them. We beat them at the beginning of the year, and they beat us a week later in a tournament. They are a great team and not easy to beat, but it’s going to be fun playing the sectional on our own floor.”

For most of the match, neither team was able to go on a sustained scoring run. Bolingbrook’s held a 9-6 lead early in the first set, but Joliet West, which finishes with a school-record 30 wins against six losses, got hot mid-set and took control. The Tigers trailed 12-11, but outscored Bolingbrook 14-5 the rest of the way to win the first set.

Bolingbrook refused to buckle, though, and jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, a lead they never relinquished en route to forcing the winner-take-all third.

“To say things didn’t go well in the first set is an understatement,” Bolingbrook coach Molly DeSerf said. “We were guilty of trying to mirror the style on the other side of the net. We had to regroup and find our groove and identity.

“We were able to do that by slowing things down, seeing what was going on and making good decisions. Our middles have been carrying a bulk of the load most of the year, but the outsides have worked their butts off and have improved a lot.”

Bolingbrook's Tristan Caminar (5) tips the ball over the net during Joliet West Regional Championship match between Bolingbrook at Joliet West.  May 23, 2024.

The third set was tight until Bolingbrook went on a 6-1 spurt after a tie at 10 to build a 16-11 lead. Trevor Wardlow had two of his team-high 11 kills in the stretch, while Caminar had three. Joliet West began to sneak back in it, getting a pair of kills by Tommy Fellows (12 kills) to cut the gap to 18-15 before Benbow stopped the momentum with a kill.

Joliet West's Thomas Fellows (14) celebrates a point with teammates during Joliet West Regional Championship match between Bolingbrook at Joliet West.  May 23, 2024.

In the late stages of the match, Bolingbrook got a pair of kills from Wardlow and one by Bialek before two hitting errors by West ended the match.

“We just stayed as a team,” Benbow said. “We feel like we can compete with anyone. Our biggest thing is our team spirit. We all have a lot of energy and we wanted to leave it all on the court. It’s amazing.

“We’re ready for the sectionals. We’ve never done this before [win a regional title], so it’s going to be great to play on our home floor.”

Wardlow had a team-high 11 kills for the Raiders, while Benbow had 10, Caminar nine and Bialek seven. Bialek also had four blocks, while Dmochowski had 34 assists and 10 digs and Vasquez had four assists and seven digs.

West. meanwhile, was led by Fellows with 12 kills, followed by Nathan Fleischauer with nine and Drew Johnson with seven. Landon Brouwer had 25 assists, while Connor Herre had seven digs and Michael Meloy had three blocks.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and we made too many errors,” West coach Tara Litwicki said. “They served aggressively and we didn’t pass well. Plus, I think we had seven hitting errors in the second set, and you can’t do that in a match like this.

“Still, this team has a lot to be proud of. They set a school record for wins and they won the school’s first conference championship. They have helped create a culture here that we want to see continue.”