ST. CHARLES – Habitually glancing at the scoreboard Tuesday confirmed what St. Charles East boys volleyball players already knew.
South Elgin kept tightening things after the Saints eked out a Set 1 victory, responding much like Wheaton North had the night before.
A second-straight three-set loss frustrated East again, especially after the Saints jumped to early leads in Sets 2 and 3. They weren’t just on their toes in the late stages of the Storm’s 20-25, 25-20, 25-18 Upstate Eight Conference crossover win.
“We try to get a push from the start and we set goals with points,” Saints senior outside hitter Luke Spicer said. “Try to be the first one here, first one to the next couple points and then first one there. Just keep building off of that.”
South Elgin (11-2) prevailed in a trio of three-set matches en route to a runner-up finish at Saturday’s Rolling Meadows Invitational.
The Storm extended themselves for this road victory in part because of an adjustment. Late in Set 2, South Elgin began sending the Gibadlo brothers, seniors Chris and Dan, as double blockers against Spicer, who smacked a match-high 14 kills.
“He swings well,” said Chris Gibadlo, the Storm’s setter. “He’s a very good player, and he killed us at the beginning and we were able to find a way to stop them and that’s one of the big keys.”
East (8-6) raced to a 13-7 advantage in the second set but was unable to secure the sweep. The Storm benefited from 11 Saints errors or violations in scoring 18 of the last 25 points in the set.
Monday’s nonconference match at Wheaton North brought the same result, albeit in a different fashion.
The Saints scored just 16 points in the middle set against the Falcons after trailing, 20-9.
“Both [Monday] night and tonight were really good games. We played well in both of them,” East senior libero Joseph Leaman said. “Losing in three is not that bad, but we definitely have positives and negatives to work on for practice and St. Francis on Thursday.”
Sharing defensive duties with classmate Mark Healy, Leaman collected a match-high 15 kills for East.
Stability in the back row always has helped East’s attack swing with confidence, and R.J. Yoder, Robert Kudlicki and Kriss Brunovskis each had their moments up front, too.
Still, South Elgin’s resilience added up. Dan Gibadlo (six kills) led a balanced offense and the Storm stayed patient even as the team traded errors.
The Saints led the third set, 6-3, before the Storm scored six of the next seven points to seize control.
“It’s always nice to get a conference win, even if it’s a crossover,” Chris Gibadlo said. “St. Charles East is a good team; they won their tournament last weekend. So it’s nice to come out and beat a good team.”