It may have only been the opening match of the season, but Monday nights contest between Libertyville and New Trier had a playoff-like atmosphere.
Libertyville managed to knock off New Trier in three sets, 23-25, 25-18, 29-27 behind Ohio State commit Jack Stevens career high 23 kills to move to 1-0 on the young season.
“It’s the best way to start the season,” said Stevens. “It was a great atmosphere, really loud and when you play a great team like New Trier to start your year you really get to know how your teams works together.”
Set one started with both teams looking as though they were in mid-season form. New Trier’s Joe D’Attomo got the Trevians of to a solid start with a monster kill shifting the early momentum in New Trier’s favor.
New Trier looked to be taking control of the opening set as they opened up a 15-11 lead, but Libertyville were able to get back into the flow of the game behind the senior trio of Stevens, Brendan Cook and Colin Hawkinson, who combined for 14 kills in the first set to bring the two teams level.
However, the deadlock was short lived. A late service error from Libertyville gave New Trier all they needed to close out a tight opening set 25-23.
While set number one was relatively clean considering the circumstances, the start of set two quickly reminded everyone that it was still the first game of the season as New Trier’s first five points of the set came off of Libertyville errors.
Despite early issues with keeping the ball in play, Libertyville continued to be the aggressors which paid off in dividends.
“I want to say it was nerves, but it’s not always the case,” said Libertyville coach Jenny Smith. “After the first set we kind of dictated the match. We relaxed into our passing and our defense and blocking were better.”
Libertyville’s aggressive serving kept New Trier out of system, while Stevens could not be stopped, amassing 10 kills to help Libertyville run away with the second set and tie the match up.
“When it gets tight like that, I just like to have the ball in my hands,” added Stevens. “We spread it out in the beginning but as time went on it was still close I just told our setter to push it up and I’ll go and get it.”
“Jack is just a great athlete,” said Smith. “As a sophomore he was great and he’s just gotten much taller and stronger and smarter as a volleyball player. I’m glad he’s on our team, I would not want to play against him.”
Even with a strong performance in the middle frame, Libertyville were unable to carry that momentum into the decisive set.
Neither team were able to gain any separation until New Trier went on a mini run to take a 19-16 lead.
The Trevians eventually found themselves with match point, but Libertyville held their nerve and found Hawkinson to even the match up yet again.
It would take four extra points before Libertyville were finally able to put New Trier away for good courtesy of an ace from Stevens.
“A game like this will really wake you up to what high level volleyball is like,” said Stevens. “We’re pretty senior heavy but playing in an atmosphere like this will really help the young guys going forward.”
Both Libertyville and New Trier will next face the team’s who knocked them out of last years playoffs. Libertyville will face off against Hersey on Wednesday and New Trier will take on Lincoln-Way East on Saturday.