CAROL STREAM — With perennial power Wheaton Warrenville South having a rare down year, the race for the DuPage Valley conference boys volleyball title is wide open.
Heading into this week, Glenbard North was tied for first-place in the league but a pair of losses now have the Panthers on the outside looking in.
The most disheartening of the two defeats came on Wednesday when the Panthers were just five points away from a win before ultimately falling 19-25, 25-22, 25-18 to Wheaton North.
Glenbard North led from start to finish in the opening game, then built a 20-15 advantage in game two. But the home team was unable to close out Wheaton North as the Falcons responded by scoring 10 of the final 12 points.
The visitors rode that momentum into the deciding game, building a 7-2 advantage at the outset. Glenbard North would never lead, though the Panthers got within three at 21-18 before the Falcons scored the final four points of the match.
"In game one, we were in control," said Glenbard North coach Dedra DeBenedetti, whose team fell to 4-3 in conference play and 14-7 overall heading into Thursday's match with West Chicago. "We took control of the match offensively and defensively. In game two, they had a big kill (when the score was 20-15) and that is where the momentum changed. They had a big kill and took advantage of it.
"In the last game, we had more hitting errors and not as many blocks. We weren't taking control of the net as much as we were earlier in the match."
Stephen Chartrand had eight kills as did Pasquale Fiduccia, who has been moved from setter to a hitting position.
"We were looking for a little more of an offensive threat," the coach said. "We don't have a lot of height and Pasquale is very athletic."
A day earlier, the Panthers lost 25-17, 25-19 to Naperville North, which sits atop the DVC standings. "Coming out in warm-ups, I thought we were going to be fine," DeBenedetti said. "But we came out a little flat. We had a lot of errors, a lot of unforced errors. The stars were not aligned, things just weren't clicking."
Done with their three invites, the squad has only conference matches left on the regular season schedule. Glenbard North will travel to take on Glenbard East on Tuesday before returning home for a contest against West Aurora on May 2.
"I'm pleased with their effort, with their team play and their intensity," the coach added. "We just need to be more consistent."