Boys volleyball: Oswego ousts Downers Grove North
Oswego middle hitter Reshawn Allen has a skill that can't be taught.
The 6-foot-2 senior has natural hops but that alone does not explain how he has racked up 101 blocks this season.
Even Oswego coach Franky Martinez is amazed sometimes.
"The anticipation, the athleticism, and just being able to maintain himself up in the air that long," Martinez said. "Being up in the air that long -- you can't coach that and it is very special.
"As you can see, he skies."
Indeed, Allen does. And after his tremendous performance Thursday, Allen and his teammates might not be coming down for a couple of days.
Allen had 10 blocks, 6-6 senior outside hitter Ben Rosenow spiked 12 kills and setter Jack Hawkins added 23 assists and four kills as fifth-seeded Oswego rallied for a thrilling 23-25, 25-23, 25-23 victory over fourth-seeded Downers Grove North in the Downers Grove North Regional final.
It is the first regional championship since 2009 for the Panthers (29-5), who advance to play top-seeded Downers Grove South (31-5) in the Hinsdale Central Sectional semifinals at noon Saturday.
"This means a lot, not just for our team but Oswego in general," said Allen, who will continue his playing career at Lourdes, an NAIA school in Ohio. "We've practiced so hard for this moment and just to be here is so awesome."
The Panthers have been itching to play Downers South since last season, when the Mustangs ousted them in a regional final. They will get that chance in large measure because of Rosenow, an Indiana Tech recruit who has 338 kills, and Allen, whose otherworldly blocking blunted the ferocious hitting of Downers North star Ian Schuller just enough to allow the Panthers to scrape by.
"Reshawn is the best blocker I've played with, ever," Rosenow said. "I'm so glad he's on my team.
"He's a force to be reckoned with. They found that out tonight."
The Trojans (22-15) led 21-19 in the second set but couldn't close it out. After Schuller landed a kill to tie it 23-23, Michael Pettke answered with a kill for Oswego and Allen blocked Schuller to send the match to a third set.
The Lindenwood-bound Schuller added nine of his 24 kills in the final set, but Allen blocked him three more times. The first such block tied the game at 3-3 after the Trojans had scored the first three points.
"That kid is actually incredible," Allen said of Schuller. "Props to him.
"I had to try to match myself up with, position myself with his arm and know where he's swinging."
While gifted with a strong vertical leap, Allen said it took a while for him to perfect his technique.
"Freshman year I was like a kid, it wasn't as good," Allen said. "But I have developed it over the years.
"I just jump up. I read everything as much as I can and try to go up as much as I can, and that's really it."
Downers North coach Mark Wasik lamented his team's sloppiness in the second set but complimented Allen's blocking.
"Ian has been the most dominant hitter on the floor every time we've taken the floor," Wasik said. "There's not a better hitter in the state.
"They did a nice job with the block because he is not normally shut down that way."
Schuller, who finished the season with 439 kills, spiked eight of the last nine kills for the Trojans, the last of which tied it at 23-23.
But Rosenow blasted a kill and Hawkins clinched the win with a dump off a set from Alex Rosenow.
The Panthers have never played in a sectional final. They are one upset away from doing so.
"We know the Chicagoland area is saturated with fantastic volleyball," Martinez said. "We knew this was going to be very difficult.
"We know we had the tools to do it, so we're excited to get this opportunity."