Evanston’s young boys volleyball team is still learning what it takes to win at the varsity level.
And the Wildkits passed their first Central Suburban League South division test in a big way Monday night at Beardsley Gym.
Evanston stunned a Glenbrook South team that returns four starters from a team that placed fourth in the Illinois High School Association state tournament last spring, rallying from a 17-11 deficit in the third set to pull off a 25-18, 21-25, 25-21 triumph.
It was the veteran Titans’ unit that faltered down the stretch against an ETHS team that is still searching for a cohesive lineup and entered the match with just a 2-6 won-loss record.
Monday’s win was the start of a three-game stretch of conference tests that also includes games against Maine South on Tuesday and Waukegan on Wednesday.
Veteran ETHS head coach Mike McDermott couldn’t remember a bigger win.
“Honestly, down 17-11, I thought we were done,” McDermott admitted. “To be sure, GBS made some mistakes to help us get back into it, but our young guys hung in there, recovered from their mistakes and really toughed it out.
“Tonight we were a completely different team than we were this weekend (1-4 finish at the Warren Tournament). This is as important a victory as we’ve had in this gym in a long time.”
Evanston exploited holes in the South defense with a varied attack paced by Chiril Russo (8 kills), Xavi Ajamia (7 kills, 4 blocks), setter Evan Lindley (6 kills, 32 assists) and Jeremy Levin (5 kills). But it was 6-foot-6 sophomore middle hitter Isaac Sageman who helped turn the tide after GBS (6-3 on the season) grabbed a 17-11 advantage in the third set due to an ETHS hitting error.
Sageman scored a block for a point — one of three he was credited with for the match — and also contributed a tip kill as Evanston responded with a 5-0 run and clawed its way back into contention.
“Isaac brings such energy onto the court, and it’s not just vocal energy,” McDermott praised. “He covers a lot of space out there. He’s one of those guys who’s learning and growing for us.
“Xavi’s experience really came through for us tonight, too. I thought his hitting was critical for us. We did a lot of smart hitting tonight. We minimized our errors and we hit much smarter than we have been.”
McDermott still hasn’t settled on a starting libero and shifted former setter Eitan Sondak to right side hitter in an effort to bolster Evanston’s attack. And junior Jack Bernin, who was installed at libero near the end of the competition Saturday at Warren, missed Monday’s match due to illness.
“It’s been a carousel of craziness for us as far as our lineup goes,” said the Wildkit coach. “We haven’t settled on a comfortable rotation yet, and even tonight we ran a completely different offense in the third set from what we ran in the first two sets.
“This win is exciting and it’s fun, but one match does not a season make. This is the first time we’ve been 1-0 in the conference in a long time. But it’s still too early to say we’re in the conversation (with favorites New Trier, GBS and Niles West) as far as winning the conference goes. This is a great way to start. I just hope we can keep the good vibes going.”
Source: ETHS Sports Information