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Despite record, Riverside Brookfield is primed for volleyball playoff run

RIVERSIDE – Riverside Brookfield's boys volleyball team has a terrific opportunity to make some noise in the postseason. Now, the key is to take advantage.

Despite a 10-23 record entering Tuesday's home finale against Payton, the Bulldogs received the No. 4 seed in the Morton sectional. A year ago RB was 25-12, but only received the No. 14 seed in the loaded Proviso West sectional and lost in a regional semifinal.

“I told the team last year’s team would have killed for this opportunity so hopefully you can make the best of it," coach Dan Bonarigo said.

RB has bounced back and forth between a sectional comprised of west suburban schools from towns with strong volleyball teams like Naperville, Downers Grove and Wheaton and a sectional including a number of Chicago schools. Morton and Oak Park-River Forest, the top two sectional seeds, have had solid seasons, but a number of teams, like St. Rita, are well below their usual level.

“A lot of teams in our sectional are down as well so we got a fortunate seed," Bonarigo said. “Our record is down. I think we’re very competitive. We’ve just lost a lot of close games.”

RB will head to Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville, located less than a mile east of U.S. Cellular Field, for the regional. The Bulldogs will play either the hosts or Chicago Richards in the regional semifinal on Tuesday, May 27. If RB advances, No. 5 seed De La Salle could be awaiting. The Bulldogs beat De La Salle 25-10, 25-21 on March 29.

The Bulldogs have shown improvement through the season, staying competitive in most matches and winning more frequently since a disastrous 3-12 start. RB went 1-4 at the Willowbrook Invite over the weekend, beating Joliet Catholic in the first match before losing four close matches to Willowbrook, Wheaton North, Leyden and Geneva. Four of RB's 10 losses since May 3 have been in three games and another five have included at least one game where RB lost the game by just two points.

“We’ve done a little bit better later on in the year, but we’re still struggling in close games." Bonarigo said. "We’ve made a lot of late-game mental mistakes to contribute to those, but we got some things we’re going to do that target those late game situations and not making errors late in the game."

Senior outside hitter Mike Chaney has emerged as the team's top hitter and is climbing up the school's single-season kills list.

“Mike Chaney was probably our fourth-best hitter last year, but this year he has far and above been our best hitter," Bonarigo said. "He was good at the beginning of the year, but he has really stepped up his game. If you look at his game-by-game stats he’s had so many games where he’s been 13, 14, 15 kills. I’ve never had a guy that’s had that many single game breakouts. He’ll probably end up second or third for a single season in kills for us."

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