It’s becoming a pretty normal occurrence to see New Trier and Loyola not only battle it out for the North Shore, but sectional titles as well.
The two teams will follow in the footsteps of their girls soccer teams did on Friday night, facing off against each other for a sectional championship at Glenbrook South after their wins over Palatine and Hersey respectively.
New Trier opened up the nights proceedings with a thrilling 23-25, 25-18, 28-26 win over Palatine, who gave everything they had to the Trevians.
With both teams starting out slow, Palatine was the quicker of the two teams to shake off the cobwebs, as they took set one despite going down four points midway through the set.
“This was good for us, GBS has always been a tough place for us to play,” said New Trier head coach Sue Ellen Haak. “We knew Palatine were going to be tough, and we knew we had to come out and win the game and not just play well.”
New Trier, led by recent returnees to the lineup, middle Joe D’Attomo (13 kills, four blocks) and setter Tergel Gendelger responded straight away in set two, getting out to a 6-0 lead to start the set, while cruising through the rest of the way to force a third set.
“Every day Tergel and I are fixing something different,” said D’Attomo. “We play club together so we have that connection, but it’s nice having him back on the floor. We’re getting better every day.”
The third set brought about an intense battle between sophomore outside Colin Heath for New Trier, and senior Johnny O’Shea for Palatine.
The two outside hitters went kill for kill, with O’Shea racking up 10 of his team high 13 kills in the final set, with Heath adding 7 of his 12 in the final frame.
“Young kids like Colin have played such a big role on our team this year, they’ve really been amazing,” said D’Attomo.
Palatine looked to be going through to sectionals as on match point, they sent back a Trevian attack, but Gendelger came up with the miraculous cover to keep the game alive.
New Trier regained the upper hand on the next point, but it wasn’t until after three hard earned, high pressure side outs by Palatine that New Trier finally put the game to bed with a block from Jay Saravis.
“This has been true of this squad all season, they know how to win games the expect to win,” said Haak. “They’re not going to lose making goofy errors. We might not win every game but they’re going to go after it until the end.”
Final: What. A. Match. New Trier win 23-25, 25-18, 28-26. What an unbelievable effort from Palatine.
Joe D’Attomo led the way with 13 kills and 4 block.
Johnny O’Shea did everything he could for Palatine with 10 of his 13 kills in the final set but it wasn’t quite enough. pic.twitter.com/SW7UiKHMLU
— IL Preps Insider (@ILPrepsInsider) May 25, 2018
While the Trevians scrambled out of the gym to go support their girls soccer team just across the parking lot, Hersey and Loyola readied themselves for the night cap.
Loyola would end up taking an extremely strange match, 25-19, 25-21, showing how they are a completely different team from just one month ago.
“Nobody this season has seen us at our best,” said Loyola coach Lionel Ebeling. “We’re peaking at the right time and that’s a credit to these guys and we still have room to improve for Tuesday.”
The biggest difference between Loyola now and in the beginning of the season is a fully healthy Jack Howard.
Loyola’s game plan of setting the ball near the top of the pin worked out as Howard hit over the Hersey block to the tune of 11 kills.
“Our setting wasn’t our greatest aspect today but we wanted it high, outside to the pin, and to hit line,” said Ebeling. “But we got it out there and let Jack go and get it.”
While Loyola was doing what they do best, Hersey looked unlike themselves as the usually disciplined Huskies committed 13 errors in the first set to help the Ramblers run away with the first set victory.
With both Loyola and Hersey still struggling to get their footing, even in the second set, the Ramblers found consistency from an unlikely source.
Freshman libero Ryan Merk (10 digs) played outstanding in the face of pressure, and helped settle Loyola down when they went down early in set two.
“Obviously he’s a freshman, but I don’t know if he knows any different,” joked Ebeling. “He’s also been around volleyball forever, his older brother played for us and played D1 his mom played D1. It just doesn’t matter it can be 24-24, it could be 1-1 he’s just out there calm and composed.”
“I’ve grown up around the game and after seeing my brother lose, I just want to win.” added Merk. “Our block did a great job forcing them cross, and I was just there ready to dig them.”
Not long after, the Ramblers settled back in, erased the early deficit and carried the match home thanks to the attacking of Howard, and the net presence of Drake Johnson (four blocks).
“I think we realized that when we bring 100% energy, we’re pretty much unstoppable,” said Howard. “When Drake gets excited, we all get excited and I’m just happy for him and the whole team.”
Both New Trier and Loyola will have plenty of time to recover from the sauna like conditions, and mentally prepare for a rivalry game to earn a spot in the state tournament on Tuesday night.
Although New Trier won both of the previous matches against Loyola in this stage of the tournament, if we’ve learned anything from the 2018 state playoffs, nothing is for certain.
“It’s a rivalry, it’s sectionals, it doesn’t matter whose better,” concluded Ebeling. “We just have to go out there and compete on Tuesday and what’s better than Loyola and New Trier for a sectional final?”