No, John Davis and Felix Egharevba are a powerful 1-2 combination for Naperville Central, ranked No. 5 in the Illprepvb.com preseason boys’ volleyball rankings.
Monday in Naperville Central’s season opener against visiting Downers Grove North, the duo combined for 16 kills, 2 blocks, 12 digs and 2 aces as the Redhawks defeated the Trojans 27-25, 25-18.
Davis welcomes the pressure of leading the Redhawks, who were 24-14 last season and bowed in the regional finals to West Aurora, back into the upper echelon of Illinois boys’ volleyball.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s a good challenge. I think the other guys have the big part, too. It’s not just us (he and Egharevba). Even the guys on the bench are all part of it. We all have a part on the team, and we can all do it.”
But it was Davis’ ace that broke a 25-25 tie in Game 1, and Egharevba’s 90-degree block on the next exchange that gave Naperville Central the lift it needed against a feisty albeit young Downers Grove North team.
“Coach (Roger Strausberger) was saying during the huddle that we needed to focus more on our defense … blocking and digging,” Egharevba said. “We also have to put more teams out of system with our serving. I feel we didn’t do that tonight.
“We had a good showing at times,” he added. “Glimpses of greatness. We had a couple of missed serves here and there, which is fine. But we were able to pass and side out. That’s what the coach was really happy about.”
Naperville Central used a 7-2 run to break a 10-10 tie in the second set, the final point coming when the Trojans could not handle the ball after it changed directions coming out of the airducts suspended from the ceiling.
Two Downers Grove North errors sealed the second set and the match.
Davis led Naperville Central with 9 kills, 2 aces, a block and 5 digs. Egharevba added 7 kills, a block and 7 digs. Tanner Stefani contributed 6 kills and 5 digs, while Timothy Folliard distributed 25 assists.
Downers Grove North’s standout middle hitter, 6-foot-8 University of California Irvine recruit Owen Wahlgren, was pleasantly surprised with his team’s early-season performance. Wahlgren and 6-3 outside hitter Michael Price are the only returnees from last year’s 31-8 sectional finalist.
“We came out and put a lot of pressure on them (Naperville Central) and were full of confidence,” he said. “Our setter (Ben Thompson) is only a sophomore, and the more repetitions he gets the better he will get. Once we get our setting down, the rest will just come through.”
Junior outside hitter Griffen Liszka led the Trojans with 7 kills, junior Joseph Martens added 6 kills, Price had 5 kills and Wahlgren added 4 kills and 4 blocks. Thomson dished out 21 assists in his varsity debut.
“This is a kid (Thompson) who’s played three months of freshman volleyball,” Downers Grove North coach Mark Wasik said. “He didn’t even play club. He is skilled. You can see the baseline of talent that he has. But we know we’re going to live and die with him right now.
“It’s just experience and understanding situations, like not using his hands when the ball is up in the rafters and he’s trying to push the ball 30 feet out to the antenna, things like that,” the coach added. “He’ll get it.”