PLAINFIELD – When a boys volleyball team loses its setter to injury and he happens to be one of their three seniors, the last thing they want to do is face their biggest rival and one of the state’s best teams.
But that’s what Plainfield North did Thursday when it met 119th Street rival Plainfield East in a Southwest Prairie Conference showdown at North.
With Matt Richmond in street clothes and on crutches after spraining his ankle over the weekend, a bunch of other Tigers needed to step up big in order to hand the Bengals only their second loss overall and first in league play.
The first set started well for No. 11 East, but they ended better for the hosts, who rallied to win, 23-25, 25-21, 25-18, in the teams only regular season meeting. The squads also figure to be ranked with Lincoln-Way West as the top seeds in the Minooka Sub-Sectional Regional.
Coach Tracey Marshall’s Tigers (19-4-1, 8-1) not only received an impressive setting effort from Nathan Domabyl, but also got great defensive play that was paced by senior libero Josh Amen, strong blocking efforts from senior Jason Rohlfing and Drew Ehlers and big kill nights from outside hitters Dorian Fiorenza and Tedd Butler against the Bengals (22-2, 7-1).
“I wouldn’t have done so well without my teammates,” Domabyl said. “They picked me up after every mistake and were always there for me. With Matt going down, I had to step up, and I’m playing for him and the whole team, and it was just a great win. From my middles to the outsides to the guys in the back row, they put the ball where I threw it up, and they were able to put it down. East is a great team, and the fans made it so much more entertaining.”
In the final set, the Bengals used a block and kill from Erik Gerulskis and a block from Matt Binkus to grab an early 9-4 lead, but the Tigers got back into it on a four-point service run from Butler that featured a block from Fiorenza and two more from Ehlers to go up 13-12.
Another four-point service run that included an ace from Ehlers, a kill from Fiorenza and a block from Rohlfing made it 18-13 before East was twice able to close to within two points, doing so for the last time at 20-18 following a kill from Gerulskis and a block from Binkus. But Fiorenza gave the serve back to the hosts and then closed things out behind the line by getting an ace before Butler and Rohlfing did the same and a long hit ended the drama.
“This is one the biggest matches, and we really pushed ourselves to come out strong,” Fiorenza said. “We played our game and minimized our mistakes, and we play as a team and that’s a big key that we’ve talked about all year. Our guys really came together tonight to get the win over East, which was a great win for the program. You have to give credit to our entire bench, since they give us inspiration and energized us the entire game.”
North pulled away late in the middle set as Nathan Cupps got a kill to make it 22-20 and then Fiorenza got a kill and Butler served an ace to make it 24-20.
“They’re one of the harder teams that we’ve had to play,” Butler said. “With Matt going down, Nate came in and did a great job today by distributing the ball and giving it to everybody. And on defense, everyone just gave their all. Josh is the captain of our defense, and he tells us what to do, and we do it. And Jason did a great job closing and swinging, and was playing out of his mind. I’m happy to be with this team and I think that we can really go far.”
In the opener, the Bengals went up, 21-17, with a five-point service run from Josh Tagtmeyer that featured blocks from Binkus and Andrew Mankunas. But after falling behind at 23-22, Remington Norman got a block, Trey Cowan added a kill and Jacob Simpson served an ace.
“They’re a rival, so you know it’s going to be hard and point-to-point,” Bengals coach Alex Rodriguez said. “They got us on a couple of runs where we got stuck and capitalized later in the match, so hat’s off since they got us tonight.”