In a word, inconsistent, would be the best way to describe the 2018 version of the Maine East boys volleyball program.
With three sophomore starters the Demons season has been riddled with growing pains, but despite the inconsistencies, Maine East earned their 10th win of the season with a 25-15, 25-23 win over Niles North.
“Coach Drase and I often say how much of a roller coaster ride it is with this group, it is a bumpy ride,” said Maine East coach Jon Kulesza. “It’s not from lack of effort or want to, we just need to be a little more seasoned. But we’re 19 matches into the season and we expect to see less and less of those growing pains.”
Despite what would be considered a down year for Maine East, the potential the Demons possess certainly shone through in the first set.
Sophomore Brian Yoo (nine kills) got things going early as he he started the match with two kills, a block, and an ace to help Maine East get out to a 10-6 lead.
Maine East continued to attack Niles North both not only offensively, but defensively as well, putting together their best blocking performance of the season with four stuff blocks in the first set led by junior middle hitter Nick Maczuga (four kills, three blocks) to stifle the Niles North offense.
“We got them out of their flow offensively and we were able to set better blocks,” said Kulesza. “Nick especially, he’s explosive, quick and unselfish. On a tandem that Brian hit, Nick was up so fast and so aggressive that I thought the set was going to him and that opened up a one on none for Brian.”
But as good as Maine East looked in the first game, they looked just as bad in set number two.
The Demons got out to an early 12-8 lead off of 10 Niles North errors, but the Vikings managed to clean up their play to pull ahead at 13-12.
While Niles North cleaned up their act, it was Maine East’s turn to be plagued by errors. The usually solid serving attack from the Demons was a little off kilter, and the Niles North defense started camping out on Yoo, slowing down the Demons offense while extending their lead to 19-14.
Maine East finally started to make their move later in the set as a kill from setter David Bobila (17 assists, two kills) and a bigger presence from outside hitter Isaac Marsh (three kills, one block) sparked a rally that saw the Demons tie the set up at 20 a piece.
Kulesza said: “Isaac has great athleticism. He struggles a bit if the set isn’t there but he has some shots. He had a cut shot today he didn’t need to do, but he has several shots at his disposal, he just needs to know how to use them a little better.”
Niles North would once again look to be in a good position to force a third after retaking the lead at 23-20, but the Maine East serve proved to be too much, as the Demons closed out the match on a 5-0 run capped of by a Marsh kill.
Both teams will return to their respective side of the conference with Niles North facing off against rivals Niles West on Tuesday, and Maine East hosting Vernon Hills on Wednesday.