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Willowbrook volleyball's young team making strides as season progresses

VILLA PARK – With just one senior on the roster, ups and downs were probably expected early in the season for Willowbrook’s boys volleyball team.

With a 6-5 mark entering Thursday’s match at York, the Warriors’ record indicates a bit of inconsistent play.

“Overall we are up and down, but I’m pretty happy with where we’re at,” coach Ryan Bazon said. “I’m hoping that we’re improving every day.”

The one senior on the squad, Ben Wozniak, was a standout outside hitter on a team that won 26 matches last year and is again a key part of the offense. Through 11 matches, he was second on the team with 74 kills.

Junior Ryan Wakely has been a pleasant surprise leading the offense ahead of Wozniak. Wakely stood at 84 kills through 11 matches and has given the Warriors a more balanced attack.

The balance has helped junior setter Tommy King step in as a first-year starter. King is doing an admirable job of replacing multi-year starter Kyle Dewyer.

“He’s still trying to fulfill those shoes,” Bazon said. “He’s still got things to learn, but he’s improving.”

One trend in some of the Warriors’ losses have been tight Game 1 defeats. Against Glenbard East, Willowbrook dropped the first game, 31-29, before falling 25-20 in the second. At the Warren Invite on April 11, Vernon Hills and Niles North each beat Willowbrook, 25-23, in the first game before winning by a bigger margin in the second. Another loss to Oak Forest was a three-set defeat. Only Lyons Township has comfortably defeated Willowbrook.

Those close losses bring up what if possibilities for the Warriors, but they are also the kind of thing a young team can learn from.

“Those have been great learning experiences for us, but you also wonder what could have been if we won those close first games,” Bazon said.

Tough matches are numerous and frequent in the near future, so those lessons will have to be put to good use. The Warriors, who are 2-0 in the West Suburban Gold, head to Downers Grove South for a tournament that features a talented field, and they have another invite hosted by Lincoln-Way North and East the following weekend.

The top tier of teams in the Gold, DGS, Addison Trail and Morton, are still ahead on the schedule as well.

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