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Worth the wait: Morton volleyball has core group who have played together for years

CICERO – Two years ago Andrew Franco and Daniel Ibarra were a part of a young Morton boys volleyball team that went through its share of struggles.

Now the Mustangs are reaping the benefits of that experience with a senior-laden squad.

Morton received the top seed in its own sectional when the playoff draw came out last week, and as host of the sectional are hoping to make a deep postseason run.

"This is what we've been waiting for, for us to all get older and more mature," Franco said. "We have experience at this level and we feel happy playing with each other."

Along with Franco and Ibarra, Alex Olivares, Jesus Ceja and Rashaad Mathis are also key seniors with varsity experience. The Mustangs entered Tuesday's match against Leyden with a 3-1 record in the West Suburban Gold and could share the conference title with wins against the Eagles and on senior night against Downers Grove South on May 20.

On Monday, Morton beat Fenton 25-22, 25-13 to improve to 14-5 overall.

"Our five losses have all been close, two points, three points, and they're not bad teams that we lost to," coach Tony Hornilla said.

Lyons Township beat Morton 25-23, 27-25 early in the season. Notre Dame knocked off the Mustangs in a tight three-game match. In losses to Addison Trail and York, Morton had set points, but were unable to close the deal in straight-set defeats.

None of those teams will be in Morton's way of getting to state. The sectional is a bit down with teams like Riverside Brookfield, the No. 4 seed, and St. Rita, the No. 7 seed, below their typical levels. The No. 2 seed is Oak-Park River Forest, which Morton swept 25-23, 36-34 on April 17.

"When these guys were sophomores, we took our lumps, but it's paying off," Hornilla said. "I'm telling them, a lot of these guys have been playing varsity since sophomore year so this is what they've been preparing for and hopefully they can take it all the way."

The team's core group has come up through the system together and the next few weeks as the regular season closes and the postseason approaches is what it has all led up to.

"This is what we've been working for," Ibarra said. "We've been playing together since seventh grade. Eight players on the team have been playing together for years."

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