VILLA PARK – Last year, Ben Wozniak was one of two juniors on a Willowbrook boys volleyball team with 12 seniors. This season he is the only senior on the Warriors' roster.
He may be the only senior on the team, but he is a good one. The outside hitter is going to continue his career at Milwaukee School of Engineering, which is not necessarily a place where people think of athletics. The selective school is more known for its academics than students that can also spike a volleyball.
However, Wozniak made academics the priority when choosing where to attend college.
"I was looking to go into computer science or software engineering and they have a really good engineering program with good job placement so that really drew me there," Wozniak said. "Josh Dougherty, who graduated here two years ago, plays there so he wanted to get me on the team. I talked to the coach and he said he'd love to have me on the team."
Wozniak had multiple options from a volleyball standpoint, but never wavered on his priorities.
"I've gotten a lot of interest in him from a lot of schools doing late recruiting and the whole time he said nope, 'I want to be an engineer,'" Willowbrook coach Ryan Bazon said. "He was U of I or he was Milwaukee School of Engineering because he could play. He's all about his education."
Wozniak plans to be a software engineer, although he admits he's not sure where that will take him.
"It's a pretty broad field so it can go anywhere from phone applications to making up a database system for a hospital," Wozniak said. "I'm real excited for it, not just for volleyball, but for learning. I love software engineering and all that, so hopefully I'll really enjoy myself the next four years."
In addition to challenging himself academically, Wozniak is looking forward to continuing his volleyball career. The Raiders play at the Division III level and Wozniak will join another former Warrior in sophomore libero Dougherty.
Wozniak started playing volleyball in fifth grade and wanted to take his game to the next level by playing club ball starting his sophomore year of high school. He has been a key hitter for Willowbrook the past two seasons.
"I've had the pleasure of coaching him for three years," said Bazon, who also coached him on the freshman team. "It's been a pleasure to watch him grow. He will be greatly missed in our program. He's been a part of a lot of years of good things."
The Warriors fell to 2-3 in the West Suburban Gold with a 25-19, 25-20 loss to Addison Trail on Tuesday. Willowbrook is the No. 16 seed in the loaded Hinsdale Central sectional. The Warriors will open up the postseason against No. 18 Nazareth on May 26 and the winner will face No. 2 seed Glenbard West in a regional semifinal.
The young Warriors have struggled with 11 juniors and just Wozniak as a senior.
"It's tough being a young team, but we don't think that should stop us from being a good team," Wozniak said. "We don't think we're that far from being one of those top teams."
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