LISLE — Inexperience and a lack of height usually isn't a good mix in boys volleyball.
Try telling that to Glenbard West.
The squad was expected to go through a rebuilding phase after being hit hard by graduation. The undersized lineup has instead picked up where recent Hilltoppers teams have left off.
This past weekend, Glenbard West finished in third place at the Benet Invite, compiling a record of 4-1 to improve to 19-5 on the spring. The Hilltoppers beat the host school twice and also notched victories over Morton and Waubonsie Valley while losing to St. Francis 24-26, 25-23, 25-23 in the semifinals.
"I am thrilled," said coach Christine Mayer. "They have kept their top-20 ranking in the state. Two years ago, we went downstate and last year we won the conference with a huge team. This year, I think everyone was thinking we'd have a year off. But these guys didn't believe that. They decided they were going to work harder than everybody and prove to people that they are here to play ball."
With a different make-up this spring, the Hilltoppers are relying on new ways to pull out wins.
"At the beginning of the year, senior Jacob Stone said we would win in different ways and he is right," the coach said. "We don't have a 6-7 guy or a 6-6 guy or even a 6-5 guy. But they are crafty and creative and they communicate.
"They do what they can do and they know what they are capable of. They really win on the line, their serve and serve-receive is extraordinary. And their work ethic is ridiculous; they are gym rats."
Mayer gives a lot of credit to her three seniors, Johnny Davis, Kee Gales and Stone.
"Even though we have only three seniors, they are running the show," she said. "They have really embraced the juniors and the two sophomores."
One concern though is the health of Davis, who has battled a knee problem throughout the season. The leader in kills on the team, he was forced to sit out Saturday and was expected to undergo an MRI this week.
"We will just plug through it, that is what good teams do," Mayer said. "We've had injuries all year. If you are a good team, you can't have a bottom. Everyone (on the roster) should be able to play at any given chance and at any given time.
"I have really a lot of respect for Johnny. When he couldn't play on Saturday, he didn't start to sulk. Instead, he was my assistant coach for the next three matches. I don't know a lot of 18-year-olds who would do that. He's smart, he's played the game forever and he knows what to look for. That's our kids at Glenbard West, they are top-notch athletes who want to do something special."
The Hilltoppers were scheduled to play Lyons Township on Tuesday in a match that will go a long way in determining the West Suburban Silver championship. A non-conference matchup follows on Thursday against Downers Grove South.