“That was rough,” Wheaton North’s 6-foot-7 middle block Daniel Duggan said of the Falcons’ 25-20, 25-27, 26-24 heartbreak. “We had to focus on making less errors. We dialed it down and went back to the basics. We focused more on serve and serve-receive.”
A few days in the practice gym did wonders for Wheaton North Tuesday against visiting Metea Valley. The Falcons played considerably cleaner than a week earlier while handing Metea Valley its first loss in the DuPage Valley Conference, 25-21, 25-20.
“That (Naperville North) match came at a point where we had been playing a lot and hadn’t been in the practice gym,” Wheaton North coach John Noe IV said. “Some guys reverted back to old habits and got a little rough around the edges.
“It was nice to get back to the gym and fine-tune some things,” he added. “It showed up tonight.”
Wheaton North (16-4, 2-1 in the DuPage Valley Conference) eased away at the midpoint of both sets, grabbing the lead for good at 17-16 in the first and at 12-11 in the second.
Three hitting errors contributed to Metea’s late demise in Game 1, while a kill by Wheaton North’s 6-6 middle blocker Paxton Kocher and an ace by setter Matt Frank allowed the Falcons to build a 21-16 lead in Game 2.
“It was not our best match,” Metea Valley coach John Aister said. “We were sloppy. We had way too many errors. We hadn’t been playing like that the last couple weeks. Tonight, for whatever reason, we had too many unforced errors from the service line and our hitting was not good.
“We played against both Metea and Wheaton North tonight, and you can’t win a game when you’re playing against yourself as well as the other team,” he added. “We’ll clean it up, go back to work and get some things figured out.”
The time Wheaton North was able to spend at practice also allowed the Falcons to prepare specifically for some of the things Metea Valley likes to do, Noe said.
“We saw some things in their defense that we could exploit, and things they ran consistently in their offense we could simulate in practice and get a feel for,” he said. “The No. 1 thing we could say was, ‘Hey, we really worked hard in practice against X and we did X tonight very well.”
Meanwhile, there were some things that Metea could not simulate in practice … like playing some of the unusual caroms off the low ceiling in the Falcons’ gym.
“The ceiling is good for at least 5 points a night,” Aister said. “They’re used to playing in this gym. They know how to play the rebounds. But that’s no excuse. We play in all sorts of gyms. Tonight, it just didn’t go our way.”
Duggan, who had 6 kills for Wheaton North, admitted that the Falcons’ gym does provide something of a homecourt advantage.
“It gives us a few points here and there,” he said.
Six-foot-7 junior outside hitter Benett Schreiner led Wheaton North with 8 kills, Kocher added 4 kills, Drew Ogilvie added 3 kills and 2 blocks, and Frank contributed 19 assists.
Metea Valley (14-10, 3-1) got 7 kills from 6-6 rightside hitter Andrew Kohut, 5 kills from 6-1 outside Cayden Reigle, 15 assists from Matt Nealon and 8 digs from Tim Medina.
Wheaton North visits Lake Park on Thursday. Lake Park defeated Naperville North on Tuesday to remain unbeaten in the DVC.