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RB volleyball to fight for respect after tough playoff seed

RIVERSIDE – As the new guy on the block, Riverside Brookfield boys volleyball will have to earn its respect the hard way in the Proviso West sectional.

RB previously had been in what is the St. Rita sectional this year with more Cook County schools in recent years. Now, they are facing off against mostly DuPage County schools in the deepest sectional in the state by far.

Despite carrying a 16-9 record at the time of seeding (RB was 22-11 entering Monday’s match at Hinsdale South), the Bulldogs were passed over for teams with similar resumes due to the lack of familiarity with the Bulldogs to those teams. RB was given the No. 14 seed in the 24-team sectional.

“We had a pretty comparable record to a lot of the teams that are ahead of us,” said RB coach Dan Bonarigo. “I didn’t expect to get much respect from those teams, even though we had a good record.”

RB will play No. 18 Hinsdale Central on Monday in a regional quarterfinal at Glenbard East. The Bulldogs have two wins over the Red Devils this month, including a pool play match Friday at the Willowbrook Invite. If RB gets past Central, No. 2-seed Neuqua Valley awaits the following day.

“We’re a good team, but you’ve go to have a good state tournament run to get some respect,” Bonarigo said. “We’re capable of that this year. If we show up to play I like our chances against just about anybody.”

The Bulldogs finished third at that Willowbrook Invite with a 3-2 record. RB beat Addison Trail, Central and Joliet Catholic. The losses both came in three games to Wheaton North, a match in which RB had a match point in the third game before losing, and Willowbrook.

Middle hitter Tim Thor-Larsen has emerged as RB’s top hitter this season. The 6-foot-4 senior had 11 kills against Central, the highest of any Bulldog in the tournament.

“He’s been doing well all season, but he’s definitely asserted himself,” Bonarigo said. “He’s led us (in kills) most matches. He’s had a number of 10-plus kill matches. At times when our passing has broken down, we haven’t been able to get him the ball and that’s led to a bunch of our losses.”

Jack Gibson, Mitch Malloy and Mike Chaney also had good showings over the weekend. The Bulldogs will need all of their guns firing off to make a run in the playoffs.

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