Eagles hold fourth at state
Win ensures volleyball team a trophy
By Anthony Nasella
When Sandburg advanced to the boys; volleyball state finals last weekend in Hoffman Estates, it had only one goal: to bring the championship trophy back to Orland Park.
The Eagles had to settle for fourth place, however. Vernon Hills ended their title bid -- not to mention a 28-match win streak -- in the semifinals by squeezing out a 25-23, 20-25, 25-23 victory on Saturday. Both physically and emotionally drained after that encounter and then forced to wait a long time before taking the court again, Sandburg fell to Addison Trail in just two sets, 25-18, 25-23 in the third-place match.
The Eagles (36-6) beat New Trier 30-28, 18-25, 25-18 in Friday's first quarterfinal after advancing to state on the heels of a 25-15, 25-20 vanquishing of Marist last Tuesday in the Shepard Sectional championship match.
“We brought home hardware and it’s always nice to do that,” Sandburg coach Sean Airola said. “It just wasn’t the trophy we wanted. It was all or nothing for these guys.
"We played a long hard match against New Trier, and the next day after we lost to Vernon Hills the players had a four-hour gap of sitting around. [So] it was tough for them to play in that third-place [match].”
The Eagles' loss to Vernon Hills prevented them from getting another shot at Glenbard West, the eventual state champ. Sandburg had won a head-to-head encounter with Glenbard at Brother Rice's Smack Attack, the most notable triumph during the Eagles' lengthy win streak that had begun April 20 and one of only two losses suffered by the champs this season.
Paul Chmura and Jake Hanes had 12 and 10 kills, respectively, versus Vernon Hills, but the duo was also guilty of 11 hitting errors between them. Also chipping in along the net were Tajai Lang (seven kills) and T.J. Vorva (five).
"This is the state tournament and we weren't going to down easy," Chmura said.
Sandburg never find a rhythm against Addison Trail as it put down just 19 kills and posted a .180 attack percentage. Things had been much better opposite New Trier as Chmura (17 kills), Hanes (14), Vorva (six), Grant Burden (39 assists), Lang (five blocks) and Colin Ensalaco (12 digs) all lent a hand.
Hanes also had an embarrassing moment in the latter match when a ball he had thrown in the air to serve wound up hitting him on the head when it descended
"That was the worst toss of my life,” said Hanes, whose seven kills had spearheaded the Eagles' sectional-clinching victory over Marist. “I was thinking I was going to make a foot fault and I was thinking about jumping, but I just let it drop and it hit my head."
Despite coming up short of their goal, the Eagles drew nothing but praise from Airola, who watched them get on a major roll after going 8-4 over their first dozen matches.
“We started out a little rough but got better as the season went on," he said. "We played one of the toughest schedules in the state and we proved to be one of the best teams in the state. We showed a lot of heart [and] we did a lot of great things this year."
After finishing with a 7-8-3 record in 2014, Stagg put together a stellar season in 2015 as it tripled its victory total and earned the program's first sectional title since 2006 and just its second overall.
But the Chargers' magical campaign came to an end at the Class 3A Normal Supersectional, where Collinsville shut them out 3-0. In the process, Stagg also saw a 12-match unbeaten streak get halted.
“The hardest part about Tuesday was saying goodbye to a really good group of girls who were so committed and so driven,” Chargers coach Chris Campos said. “We lose some significant seniors, so the loss was definitely bittersweet. This season was a definite success for Stagg soccer.
“We finished with the best record in Stagg history (21-4) and had the big winning streak before our final loss to a very good Collinsville team. We tried to put our best foot forward on Tuesday, but we just fell a little short.”
To be sure, Stagg was in the hunt after 32 minutes as it was locked in a scoreless tie with Collinsville thanks to some stellar play by goalkeeper Claire Heneghan. However, Collinsville’s height and depth began to make a difference in the second half.
The Chargers, who had recorded three straight shutouts heading into the supersectional, almost scored when Hannah Mussallem and Veronica Stafira paired up but Mussallem’s shot was stopped by the Collinsville keeper.
“We had a so much support from the community and the school,” Campos said. “This season was an experience the girls will remember and carry with them for the rest of their lives.
"We lost some great seniors like Allison Stefan, Hannah Mussallem and Claire Heneghan, but we have nine freshmen and bunch of juniors who got experience this year. So we’re definitely looking forward to the future and [will] try to get back to where we were and keep improving day by day the way this team did.”