HOFFMAN ESTATES – Morton's boys volleyball program has been building up to go to state for three years now, and even though it lost in the quarterfinals it was still worth the wait.
Many of the seniors on the roster had three years of varsity experience and targeted this season and their best chance to go to state after the Mustangs went in back-to-back years in 2009 and 2010.
Even the 25-14, 25-18 loss to Glenbard West couldn't ruin the experience. When asked if state lived up to expectations, senior Daniel Ibarra didn't hesitate to say "Yes." However, the Hilltoppers had too much height and talent for the Mustangs to contend with.
"We played well, we tried our hardest," Ibarra said. "They deserved it. They played well. They're a good team."
The Mustangs (22-10) fell behind 5-1, but battled back to 9-9 in the first game to give their crowd, the biggest of the eight for Friday's quarterfinals, something to cheer about. The Hilltoppers closed the game on a 16-5 run.
"We were with them up to a certain point and they just pulled away," Morton coach Tony Hornilla said. "We kept chipping away, but they kept that lead."
The second game was a similar story. West jumped ahead 6-1, Morton got back within 11-10 and then the Hilltoppers finished strong to win 25-18.
"They played all out just like we did," senior Alex Olivares said. "There was a really big height disadvantage. We played good defense, but they executed more than we did so they deserved to win."
Ibarra led Morton with eight kills. Andrew Franco had four kills and Rashaad Mathis had three. Andres Guerrero dished out 16 assists and had nine digs.
It wasn't that Morton couldn't create some big hits of their own. Mathis had a couple thundering hits and blocks to excite the team and the Mustang fans. However, West had more of those moments.
"When we did execute we were able to put balls away," Hornilla said. "We just couldn't execute well enough."
All seven listed starters for Morton were seniors, so the program will likely need to restart another rebuilding process like the one this current group just completed.
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