Boys volleyball: Conant tops St. Francis to take title at own invite
Michael Recko, a junior outside hitter, came up big during crunch time for Conant in the championship match at Saturday's Cougars boys volleyball invitational.
Recko helped the hosts take control in the third set against St. Francis, and the effort propelled the Cougars to a 25-22, 20-25, 15-10 victory over the Spartans.
That gave Conant a perfect 5-0 mark in the tourney, and minutes after the title match win they were holding the championship trophy aloft.
"Great way to end the day," said Cougars coach Drewann Reibel. "Our goal was to keep getting better and control the things we can control, like communication."
The rugged loss to Conant was the only blemish on the day for runner-up St. Francis, which finished the invite with a 4-1 record.
"We had a lot of three-set matches today," said Spartans coach Mike Lynch, "so the guys got to play a lot and they really stepped up as a team."
Cameron Engesser is the only senior starter for St. Francis, and he said that he looks forward to the leadership role he's taking on this season.
"All the guys I'm playing with are younger than me," said Engesser, "so I feel like I have to give them something to look up to. To be honest, though, they're all at my level or even above my level, so it's a lot of fun to play with them."
Lakes defeated St. Ignatius in two sets in its final match of the day to finish with 3 wins on the afternoon and take third place.
Will Haak had 89 assists and 16 digs on the tournament for the Eagles, while teammates David Synovic (39 kills, 12 blocks, 4 aces), Malakar Zamora (19 digs) and Erik Stover (37 kills, 5 aces, 30 digs) also excelled.
"This was exciting," said Stover. "We've started out the year playing some really tough teams, and if we keep playing tough teams it's going to set us up for conference."
"Great tournament," added Lakes coach Greg Bruns, "and some great competition out there. We had some guys in different positions, and our outsides (Stover and Kaden Martin) were very good today."
Lemont earned two wins in the invitational, and coach Chris Zogata said that she was impressed with her squad's effort.
"Overall it wasn't a bad day," said Zogata, "although we have some improvements we need to make and some things we need to work on, like hitting against the block."
Lemont junior Max Kulaga agreed, saying that "our serving was good but our blocking could have been better." He added that "we have a really strong team all around, everyone from the starters to the guys on the bench are giving their all."
Maine West scored three wins on the day to take fifth place, while Buffalo Grove got a pool play victory over the Warriors, and another triumph over Proviso East.
In Saturday's championship match, Conant got off to a fast start and took a big lead in the first set. St. Francis fought back late and an ace from Nick Madden brought them to within 22-24.
Then a kill from Conant senior Jacob Pietraszek gave game one to the Cougars, but the Spartans battled in game two to send the contest into a deciding set, with a cap of 15 points per tourney rules.
The score in the third set was knotted up midway through when Recko came through with a couple of kills in the middle, then Christian Tamunday extended the lead with an ace.
Recko, who led the Cougars with 63 kills and 15 aces in the 5-match meet, closed out the set with a game-winning kill and the Conant celebration was on.
"The kids did a good job today," said Riebel of her team. "We have a great group of guys here and they're kind of in the driver's seat. They're very confident, and hopefully we can keep improving."