Lincoln-Way Central exploits Richards’ service woes to extend winning streak

Lincoln-Way Central’s Jack Yurkanin had 5 klls and 3 aces Tuesday to lead the Knights past Richards. (photos by Dave Ruggles)

By Randy Whalen
Special to

In a match where the two teams combined for 19 service errors, what was a big factor in Lincoln-Way Central pulling out a win?

Serving, of course.

The Knights stayed aggressive in their serving and went on to a 25-22, 25-19 victory over Richards in a southside nonconference tussle on Tuesday in New Lenox.

With its third straight win, Lincoln-Way Central (8-8) climbed back to the .500 mark for the first time since it was 2-2. The Bulldogs (6-3) didn’t help themselves with 11 serving errors. 

“We’re getting better each match,” said Lincoln-Way Central coach Mary Brown. “We talked about limiting our mistakes in the second set and we did that. We were trying to be aggressive and made some errors to start. But I don’t want the guys to be afraid to make errors. I want them to stay aggressive.”

Jack Yurkanin, a senior outside hitter, led that aggressive attack with 5 kills, 3 aces and 3 digs. Rightside hitter Jason Sall came off the bench to add 5 kills, while middle hitter Brendan McCarthy (3 kills, 3 aces, 2 blocks) and setter Jimmy Kapsalis (8 assists, ace) also contributed for the Knights.

Alex Costa, a junior outside hitter, had 8 of his match-high 10 kills in the second set for Richards. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the service errors. Junior rightside hitter Rocco Palumbo and senior outside hitter Conrad Para added 2 kills apiece, and junior setter Nick Mioni added 14 assists.

“I thought we could come in here and get one,” said Richards coach Troy Grevengoed. “We should be building to things when playing a good program like Lincoln-Way Central. We’re a passionate team, and I kept waiting for us to show that.

“Instead, we made lots of errors. These guys care too much to play this type of match. But our body language in warm-ups said we were going to lose. I was waiting for a spark and it never got going.”

Before Monday’s 25-13, 25-16 victory over visiting Tinley Park in the opening South Suburban Conference match of the season, the Bulldogs hadn’t played in 12 days. This was the second of eight matches this week, however.

“We had a long time off, but that’s no excuse,” Grevengoed said. “We’ve got a long week ahead of us.”

The first set featured eight ties and four lead changes. It also had 11 service errors. But trailing 14-13, the Knights took the lead on a 4-0 run. Yurkanin served three straight aces to cap that off.

“I knew we needed to get some points back, so I just took the line and told myself to be aggressive,” Yurkanin said. “We know we really need to bring the heat on the lines.”

Richards took advantage of four straight errors in a 4-0 run of its own for a 20-19 lead. But a McCarthy kill started a 4-0 spurt for the Knights, which included an ace by Kapsalis. “

“Coach (Brown) says when you’re serving, it’s just you and the ball, and the only thing you can control is the serve,” Yurkanin said. “So I tell myself to have no fear.”

A kill by Palumbo and a hitting error allowed the Bulldogs to close within 23-22. But then they served into the net to match Lincoln-Way Central with 7 service errors apiece in the opener. A tip-kill by Yurkanin polished off the set.

Kapsalis started the season as an outside hitter, but has switched to a setter. 

“Richards is a great team with good hitters,” Kapsalis said. “So as a setter going against them, I like to look to establish the middle first and then move to the pins to put the ball down.”

The Knights only had one service error in the second set. They trailed 7-4 and were behind 8-6 before a pair of kills by senior outside hitter Sebastian Olmos highlighted a 4-0 run that gave them the lead for good. 

The Knights led 13-11 when McCarthy had a pair of aces to cap off another 4-0 burst, which had started on a Richards’ service error. Back-to-back aces by Costa closed the Bulldogs within 18-15, but they couldn’t get closer. McCarthy mashed a kill to end it.

The Southwest Suburban Conference opener for the Knights is still two weeks away. But they know a match like this can only help in preparation for teams like Lincoln-Way West, Sandburg and defending state champion Lincoln-Way East. 

“The conference will be tough,” Yurkanin said. “We just have to learn from this one and get better from here.”

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