Addison Trail outscraps Hinsdale Central to win Willowbrook title

 Hinsdale Central was scrappy, but Addison Trail was just a bit scrappier Saturday.
 
“They outplayed us,” Hinsdale Central coach Stephanie Kaegebein said. “We’re a pretty scrappy team, but they (Addison Trail) were scrappier than us.”
 
Addison Trail (25-9) used a 6-1 run midway through the third set to break open a 13-10 game and ease to a 25-20, 23-25, 25-14 victory over Hinsdale Central in the championship match of the Willowbrook tournament Saturday in Villa Park.
 
“We got deflated after we let a ball drop and just hung our heads instead of moving forward and getting the next ball,” Kaegebein said. “They had little more fight than we did.”
 
Fight has not been lacking for Addison Trail this season, but defense has.
 
“I feel like the last few weeks we have not been playing been playing defense to our capability,” Addison Trail coach Chad Grant said. “I want us to be a defensive team. We’re a little smaller than most teams.
 
“For the most part, I’ve been pleased with our offense,” Grant added. “Defense is another element. When we play like we did in the third set (against Hinsdale Central), when we play defense that well and scrap like that to keep the ball alive, we’re really tough to beat.”
 
The Blazers overcame an early test Saturday morning against Leyden – winning 25-21, 22-25, 25-18 – and defeated Wheaton North minus its setter Matt Frank (concussion) 25-22, 25-14 to reach the championship match.
 
“We struggled early this morning,” said Addison Trail’s 6-foot-5 setter Jacob Grygo said. “The defense really gave us a shot in the arm. They got every ball up and gave me a chance to set our hitters. We executed the best we can.”
 
The Blazers’ offense, meanwhile, received a boost from the return of 6-3 middle hitter Michael Pudlo (out with a broken and dislocated pinky finger) who had 5 kills in the title match.
 
“We’re back to full strength,” Grygo said. “He’s our No. 1 middle and his blocking is phenomenal. Having him back will give our other hitters solo blocks. It’s amazing.”
 
Mikey Strycharz led Addison Trail with 10 kills and 12 digs. David Zielinski added 9 kills, 2 aces and 8 digs, Grygo had 5 kills and 32 assists, Justin Werderitch had 6 kills, Pudlo and Joe Mosny added 5 kills apiece and Chris Garcia contributed 9 digs.
 
“Give Hinsdale Central a lot of credit,” Grant said. “They probably did the best job that anybody has done all year on defending Jacob. To win the match without him leading us in kills or being second is good for us going in the postseason.
 
“Everyone knows what (Grygo) can do,” Grant added. “We were able to spread it around a little bit on offense today.”
 
Despite the loss, Kaegebein is ready and anxious to begin postseason play.
 
“I’m excited,” she said, “This weekend was really good for us. We’re starting to mold well with the lineup we have. We just have to focus more on blocking. If we correct that, it will help our back row. That’s the biggest thing.”
 
Riverside-Brookfield (19-14) defeated Wheaton North 25-16, 23-25, 25-15 in the third-place match. The Bulldogs’ inability to get the ball to its middles, particularly Jason Bageanis, proved costly in its 25-21, 25-22 loss to Hinsdale Central in the semifinals.
 
“I’ll put our two middles against anybody’s,” Riverside-Brookfield coach Dan Bonarigo said. “Jason has been outstanding, but at times our passing breaks down and that’s a tough scenario for us. That’s what happened against Hinsdale Central.
 
“But that’s what a good team will do to you, and Hinsdale Central’s a good team,” he added.
 
Wheaton North is hoping to get Frank back for the playoffs. The 6-foot senior is day-to-day with a concussion he suffered last week in P.E. Class. Meanwhile, 6-7 middle blocker Daniel Duggan has inherited some of the setting responsibilities.
 
“We haven’t had a lot of time to practice (with this lineup), but the guys are working really hard,” Wheaton North coach John Noe IV said. “II told them last night and this morning … work is not the issue. It’s just getting comfortable and getting the chemistry down.
 
“I can’t say enough about their hard work and determination and how they’re rising through the adversity,” Noe added.
 
Host Willowbrook (15-18) defeated Leyden 25-18, 25-23 in the fifth-place match.
 
Featuring one of the top setters in the state in 6-3 Nick Cookingham and sporting a record skewed by a mid-season slump that included a 1-4 mark at Lincoln-Way East, the Warriors are another team that could make some noise in the postseason.
 
“I don’t think our record necessarily reflects the type of team we have,” Willowbrook coach Ryan Bazon said.

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