No setter, no middle, no problem.
Despite being plagued by injuries to star middle Joe D’Attomo, and starting setter Ben Wiegand, New Trier shook off a slow start to beat rivals Glenbrook North, 23-25, 25-20, 25-15 in what could be a preview of the sectional final.
“GBN is a great team. Were always pleased if we can beat GBN because they have such great ball control,” said New Trier coach Sue Ellen Haak. “That was a great win for us and I know we can play them again and it will be really close again.”
“I know most of their team so it’s really fun playing against them,” added New Trier outside hitter Colin Heath. “I played against them last year in JV and it’s just fun and really competitive.”
In a strange, twilight zone-esque first set, New Trier got off to a strong start behind a surprisingly poor GBN serve receive.
Though New Trier were not hitting the ball particularly well, they defended the net led by D’Attomo’s replacement Eli Lieberman, who set the tone with two stuff blocks in the first set.
Haak said: “I thought all of our players really stabilized us. They just don’t make a lot of mistakes. Defensively Eli never gives up on the ball so he was a pleasure to have on the court.”
New Trier seemed to be in control of the set especially with GBN committing an uncharacteristic 14 errors, but the communication from New Trier completely broke down late in the set, which brought GBN from a 18-13 deficit, to a 20-19 lead.
GBN capitalized on the momentum gained from late in the set and closed the set out behind the three headed attack of Ethan Brodell (seven kills), Mike Roane (10 kills) and Jack Ferber (eight kills).
After only putting away five kills in the first set, New Trier looked to shake up their attack by putting sophomore outside hitter Colin Heath into the lineup.
Heath (eight kills) gave the Trevian offense a much needed spark as they again got out to an early lead because of sub-par serve receive from the New Trier back line.
“Colin shares time, he’s a sophomore but the nice thing about Colin is he always wants the ball,” said Haak. “He’s a true competitor so if you get him on the court and get him going, he’s just going to take over.”
This time however, New Trier managed to hold onto the lead as setter Ethan Woodley started to lock in with his hitters as New Trier forced a third set going away.
“I’ve been playing with Woodley since 15s year and he’s always in practice with us so it wasn’t much of a transition at all,” said New Trier middle hitter James Snyder. “I thought he did a really great job for us today.”
Things really started to heat up in the beginning of the final set. A late swing from GBN after the whistle unintentionally hit a New Trier player which lit a fire under both teams as players from both sides started to swing as hard as they could.
GBN middles Roane and Tim Lillig went kill for kill with Snyder (seven kills, two blocks) but the New Trier defense eventually won out as they started to frustrate the Spartan front line with their big block.
“The block was huge,” said Snyder. “That really set us apart especially when we had guys who aren’t usually in there. We had Woodley blocking outsides and we still had a ton of blocks.”
The game started to get away from GBN in the middle of the set, and while the Spartans struggled to pass and attack, the Trevians flourished, committing only one attacking error in the final set to their 12 kills as they ran away for the 25-15 win.
Considering the quality of the two teams, there is a strong possibility that these two teams will meet before season’s end, but there is still plenty of regular season matches to navigate.
Glenbrook North will look to right the ship on Tuesday against Vernon Hills after losing three out of their last five matches, while New Trier will look to avoid any slip ups against Niles North on Thursday.