Libertyville gets punched in the face, knocks out Barrington

Libertyville got punched in the face Friday night.

It was exactly what the doctor ordered. But the Wildcats don’t want to make it habit-forming.

Down 9-3 in the first set and 5-1 in the second, No. 10-ranked Libertyville (8-1) rallied behind Brendan Cook, Colin Hawkinson and Jack Stevens to upset No. 7 Barrington 25-23, 25-23 Friday in Libertyville.

“We got lucky tonight,” Libertyville coach Jenny Smith said. “We got punched in the face and were able to come back in both sets. We need to start off faster and avoid that completely, because eventually a team is going to come get us and we won’t be able to recover from that.”

Barrington (10-4) raced to a 9-3 lead in Game 1 and still led 17-15 when the Wildcats went on a 4-0 run aided by a pair of hitting errors by the visitors.

The Broncos narrowed the gap to 21-20 and 22-21, but Cook split a block to extend the lead to 23-21 and a backrow attack by Stevens gave the hosts set point. Barrington got within 24-23 on an ace by 6-foot-5 middle hitter Petar Lumovic, but his next serve failed to clear the net.

A kill by 6-4 junior Gabe Hartke gave Barrington a 5-1 lead in Game 2, and after Libertyville pulled even at 11-11, a dump kill by Barrington setter Evan Carroll and another ace by Lumovic allowed the Broncos to ease to a 13-11 lead.

 A kill by Barrington’s 6-foot-1 junior middle hitter Ricky Gibson had the lead at 14-12, but another 4-0 run by Libertyville aided by three consecutive hitting errors by the Broncos gave the Wildcats their first lead at 16-14.  

“We got stuck in a rotation in both runs,” Barrington coach Rob Ridenour said. “We practice getting out of that rotation against that serve, but it didn’t happen tonight.”

A return by Barrington that rattled around the gymnasium rafters tied the second set at 21, but a kill by Cook, a double-hit violation by the Broncos and a block by Hawkinson gave Libertyville set and match point.

Back-to-back blocks by Barrington, including one by Gibson against the 6-3 Ohio State-bound Stevens, closed the gap to a point. But Stevens made good on his second chance, beating the block to give Libertyville the win.

“It didn’t faze us falling behind,” Hawkinson said. “We practice being behind a lot and coming back, controlling our emotions and not letting the game get to us. So this is just what we practice. We’re really good at it. We’re getting better at the game.”

Hawkinson credited the partisan crowd and the Libertyville bench with aiding the comeback effort.

“It was a much more exciting game than we’re used to,” he said. “There was a ton of energy in the gym tonight. It really helps out having the fans and the team cheer us on together. It makes us all play our best. It was a really good game.”

Cook, a North Dakota State football recruit, led Libertyville with 8 kills. Hawkinson had 6 kills, 1 block and 6 digs, and Stevens added 6 kills, 2 blocks and 4 digs. Carter Schaffnit contributed 21 assists and a kill.

Barrington got 8 kills, 5 digs and an ace from Hartke, 6 kills, 7 digs and an ace from Michael O’Toole, 3 kills from Gibson and 21 assists from Carroll.

“It was a fun match,” Ridenour said. “To play a competitive, really high-level match like that at the mid-point of the season is a good checkmark. We’ll move on and get better.”

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