Unfortunately, the Belleville West Maroons’ season of firsts won’t have a happy ending. The quest is over.
Perennial Chicago power Lincoln-Way East started fast in the third and decisive game as it ended the state tournament dreams of Belleville West 25-16, 23-25, 25-8 on Tuesday in the title game of the Lincoln-Way East Boys Sectional Volleyball Tournament.
Belleville West (23-15-1), which won the first boys regional title and first sectional game in school history last week, seemingly had the Griffins on the ropes following a kill by all-state senior Nick Stevenson at the end of the second game, which evened the match.
But when the Griffins started fast in the third game, Belleville West ran out of answers and energy as Lincoln-Way East coasted to the third game victory.
“We had so much energy after winning the second game but when we missed a couple of shots and they (Griffins) were able to hit a few winners and get out in front, we lost that energy. Plus, they raised their level of play a few levels to start the third game,” West coach Austin Betz said. “They were a very good volleyball team with players at every position that you could tell have played a lot of high level volleyball.
“But we were right with them and felt good to start the third game. I told the team that it had a lot to be proud of and they do. It would have been nice to get that first trip to the state tournament. Hopefully there will be other chances in the coming years.”
Lincoln-Way-East will take on New Trier at Hoffman Estates High School at 2 p.m. on Friday in the first of four State Volleyball Tournament quarterfinal round games. The Trevians defeated Maine South 25-20, 25-21 in the title match of the Mount Prospect Sectional on Tuesday.
The Griffins led from start to finish in game one on Tuesday. But in game two, the passing of setter Sharron Clay began to find its mark. Stevenson, who led the St. Louis area and finished with an even 500 kills this season, began t find his mark as he combined with numerous Maroons in the middle who shreadded the Griffins defense to even the match.
Stevenson led Belleville West with 12 kills while Clay dished out 20 assists for the night.
“What was the difference in Game 2? We were able to get the ball to Nick (Stevenson) a little bit better and we got a great effort from our middles (hitters),” Betz said. “Sharron (Clay) did a great job of spreading the ball around and we were able to get kills from several different players.
“Plus we got a big match from No. 18 Devin Hunt. He had five blocks. For one player that’s a lot of blocks.”
Stevenson ended a see-saw second game with a kill up the middle to give West a 25-23 win. But the Griffins seized command in the third game.