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Palatine capture first regional title since 2010

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If you’re going to go out, you may as well do it on a high note.

Palatine coach Frank Stark, who has been in charge of the Pirates boys volleyball program since 2008 will be stepping down from the position after this season to spend more time with his family.

After enjoying one of the most successful regular season campaigns in school history, the Pirates added to the accolades with a 25-21, 25-20 victory over Glenbrook North to bring home a regional title for the first time since 2010.

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“It hasn’t even set in yet,” said Stark. “We knew coming in we had a special group and GBN is a very good program. We’re still waiting for these guys to reach their potential and honestly, we’re starting to put things together right now.”

The match started with Palatine looking calm and collected, while the usually machine-like GBN looked frazzled and a bit out of synch.

Early passing errors and missed connections between the GBN setter and hitters helped Palatine get out to a 9-5 lead, which was especially important considering the Pirates were on the road.

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It took until midway through the first set for GBN to get refocused when a six-pack from Mike Roane lit a fire underneath the Spartans to help them take the lead for the first time at 15-14.

But even while in a high pressure situation, Palatine never panicked. After a timeout, the Pirates responded by winning four straight points, with their impressive defense giving them all the momentum they needed to close out the set.

“It’s happened a couple of times this year where we look at our offensive statistics and we’re saying holy cow, how do we have that few assists and kills,” said Stark. “Really our kids take a lot of pride in our defense, and they love it, they love playing defense.”

Knowing they still had a tough task ahead to close GBN out in their home gym, Palatine again got out to an early lead behind the outside tandem of Johnny O’Shea, and Curtis McLennan (six kills each).

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Like set one, GBN would take the lead midway through, but were unable to string together a significant run, while O’Shea did a little bit of everything for Palatine, to see out the win.

Stark said: “Johnny is very, very special. Not only as a volleyball player, but as an athlete and a person. He’s a great front row player but his vision and understanding of the game is amazing.”

Palatine will move onto the sectionals where they will face New Trier, which is quite literally a tall task. Despite not faring well the last time they were in a sectional match, Palatine and coach Stark will continue to do what they have done all season long, look forward and enjoy the ride.

“We’re excited to play, we obviously know it’s going to be a really, really tough battle and if we keep taking care of business on our end I think we’re going to be okay.”

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