No slowing Stevenson in winning North Suburban boys volleyball crown
There was a movie that came out a few years ago called "Unstoppable," basically the story of a runaway freight train.
Unstoppable and a runaway train in the best possible sense, could have applied to Stevenson junior outside hitter Sam Nuudel Wednesday night.
Nuudel was like a locomotive careening downhill on attack against visiting Libertyville, and in a dominating performance, his strong, stellar hitting willed the Patriots to the North Suburban Conference boys volleyball championship.
Stevenson defeated the Wildcats 25-14, 25-16, and according to coach Eric Goolish, it's not just offense for Nuudel -- it's his all-around game that leads him to success.
"He played a great game tonight," Goolish said. "Just overall, serving, digging, playing smart at the net. I'm very proud of him, and of all the guys."
The Patriots improved to 31-4, 7-0 in the NSC.
It was an uncharacteristic match for Libertyville (16-12, 5-2).
"We weren't playing our game today," Wildcats coach Jenny Smith said. "We made about 13, 14 errors in the first game, and when you give a team like Stevenson 14 points in a set, it's very hard to come back.
"Once we relaxed, we starting playing better, but we couldn't really get it together. I did think we blocked well and that was the one redeeming feature of the game. All other aspects were not in our favor."
Libertyville had a chance to tie for the conference crown but fell behind early in game one.
An ace from Stevenson senior Christian Headley gave the Patriots a 12-4 lead, and with Nuudel twice hitting consecutive kills, the Patriots cruised to the first set win.
Libertyville rebounded in set two, and when junior Aleks Slesers hit a kill the Wildcats led 9-7.
Then a Libertyville swing to extend the lead was ruled just out, and Stevenson took the lead for good at 11-10 on a well-placed dump kill by setter Daniel Nuudel.
Then with the score 12-11 in favor of the hosts, Sam Nuudel took over on serve and accounted for 7 straight points to put Stevenson up by 8.
"We really wanted it," said Sam Nuudel. "It's been awhile since we won conference and (with this win) we got to do it all by ourselves without sharing it."
A tip kill from 6-foot-6 Libertyville senior middle Mack Imm brought the Wildcats to within 23-16, but Stevenson closed the match out on the next two points.
First Eric Hartman hit a winner off the block, then it was a dig by Daniel Nuudel, a set from Leo Kleban, and a final tip kill by Sam Nuudel that set off a wild celebration.
"These guys wanted this very badly for each other," Goolish said of his team. "It's a lot of fun to spend time with them, because they work so well together."
Sam Nuudel led the Patriots with 10 kills and Karl Lutz had 7. Libero Murad Shahzadah finished with 8 digs, while Daniel Nuudel pitched in with 19 assists.
Now the playoffs start next week, and if things go as planned for each of the teams, they'll meet up again next Thursday in a regional final on Stevenson's floor.
"We'll get back in the gym, work harder and take it day by day," Smith said.