Glenbard West’s ‘championship mentality’ rules the day at Benet

Naperville Central’s John Davis wasn’t sure where his prom was being held Saturday night.
“It’s at a hotel, an Embassy Suites, I think,” he said. “People make the plans and I just follow.”
But Davis had a pretty good idea what happened to his team in the second set of the championship match against Glenbard West at the Benet Invitational Saturday in Lisle.
“We ran out of fight,” he said. “We can’t let that happen. We weren’t really aggressive, we were making too many errors, and good teams will take advantage of that.”
Six hours after beating Naperville Central 25-19, 25-19 in both teams’ pool finale, the Hilltoppers dominated the second set of their 25-20, 25-10 victory over the Redhawks to claim their third consecutive Benet title.
It was Glenbard West’s fourth win over Naperville Central this season.
“Even without Felix (Naperville Central star Egharevba, who did not play over the weekend while nursing a minor knee injury), they’re still a very good team,” Glenbard West junior outside hitter Ryan Swartz said.
“You can tell they’ve improved a lot since the start of the season,” he added. “It’s tough playing the same team twice in one day because they know what our tendencies are, who’s hot and who’s not. I still think we pulled through and showed them what we have.”

Glenbard West (21-2) closed the first set of the championship match on a 5-1 run, aided by a Naperville Central service error, a kill by 6-8 middle hitter JT Ardell and an ace from defensive specialist Jackson Roach.

The second set was never close. Glenbard West raced to leads of 11-6 and 16-8, and Naperville Central did not even reach double figures until a kill at 24-9 by 6-1 sophomore outside hitter Carter Stenmark.

“We fought, we scrapped up until 17, 18 points, and then we just started making stupid errors,” Naperville Central coach Roger Strausberger said. “You can’t do that against good teams. They dug us off the court. We couldn’t find a way to get a kill.
“Even in the first set, we did better up until a point where we had a service error, followed by a hitting error, followed by a ballhandling error,” he added. “The wind goes out of our sails and we fold and collapse. We’ve done that time and time again all year. We just can’t finish.”

Swartz, who led Glenbard West with 8 kills, said the difference between this weekend and last when the Hilltoppers were beaten by Marist at Smack Attack, was mostly mental.

“What we applied this weekend was the championship mentality,” he said. “Last weekend, our legs went out and we didn’t play like every point was our last point. We showed today in the championship match that we do have the legs, we do have the championship mentality.”

Six-foot-3 junior middle hitter Connor Williams added 5 kills and 2 blocks for Glenbard West, which also received 4 kills and a block from Ardell, 4 kills and 2 blocks from Ben Harrington, 3 kills from Stone Metz and 22 assists and 2 kills from Henry Curtis.  

Stenmark paced Naperville Central (18-11) with 6 kills, Davis added 4, Tim Folliard distributed 12 assists and 6-5 libero Vaughn Hallstrom added 6 digs.

Elsewhere, St. Francis coach Mike Lynch did not have to wait long Saturday to record his 500th career win.  The young Spartans, who start four freshmen, defeated Plainfield Central 26-25, 25-22 in their pool play finale early Saturday morning.

“Seriously, I didn’t even know it was coming this year,” Lynch said. “I don’t look that stuff. Then all of a sudden somebody said, ‘I think you’re at 499.’ It’s nice to do it with this young team. It goes back to when I started. We were so young 20 years ago.
“But it’s been a blast,” he added. “I’ve had great coaches, great kids to work with. The kids buy into everything we asked them to do. That makes my job easy sometimes.”
Meanwhile, after falling to Benet 26-24, 21-25, 25-22 in its pool play finale and to Glenbard West 25-22, 25-20 in the championship semifinals, Neuqua Valley (20-4) finished on a high note by beating the Redwings 25-16, 25-22 for third place.
“Even though Neuqua Valley didn’t have its outside hitter (Jeremy Grove), they still have a really strong team,” Benet coach Jeff Steinberg said. “I expected us to come out and play better than we did. You can’t have 17 hitting errors and expect to win the match.
“It’s not something that we wanted,” he added. “You have to realize that you can’t take points off. Those little small errors are going to catch up with you. We’ll try to get better every day, move on from there and see what happens.”

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