Sandburg discovered that winning the championship game of the Bison Battle was not nearly as difficult as just getting there.
The Eagles weathered three-setters against Glenbrook North and Prospect, then rallied from deficits of 17-11 in Game 1 and 10-8 in Game 3 to beat WW South in pool play before edging the host Bison 25-23, 25-23 in the title match Saturday in Buffalo Grove.
“It was rough (getting here),” Sandburg setter Ian Zalewski said. “Oh my gosh, flip a coin for the third game at that point. We played tough teams…Hersey was great, Wheaton Warrenville South was good. We had a little left at the end.”
In the title match, Sandburg (5-0) broke a 9-9 tie in Game 1 on a Zalewski kill and rallied from a 22-20 deficit in Game 2 to avoid a fourth three-setter in the 10-team, two pool round-robin tournament. The Eagles won without leading attacker Paul Chmura, who tweaked a back injury in the WW South win.
“We switch people around in practice a lot and we have a lot of team chemistry, so when we switch one guy it doesn’t really change the flow the game,” Zalewski said. “Everyone knows what to do.”
Dan Tynski led Sandburg with eight kills and a block. Neil Naughton, a 6-8 middle, added six kills, Kyle Van Stedum had five and Zalewski contributed 25 assists and two kills. Sophomore Jake Hanes filled in for Chmura and had a kill and an ace.
“We had core guys in there, but even toward the end of the championship we needed people who were playing for the first time all day to step up and they did,” Sandburg coach Sean Airola said. “We need to build on this. We need to get better.”
Junior Kevin Shanahan had six kills and a block and 6-5 junior Alex Franz added five kills for Buffalo Grove (5-1).
“Our defense and blocking is going to allow us to stay in matches while our offense catches up,” Buffalo Grove coach Matt Aiello said. “We play elite level defense. They (Sandburg) hit some bombing serves and we were actually in system probably 80 percent of the time.
“I think at times we’re not sure if we want to swing or hit shots, and I prefer that we swing. Early on, we kept them off balance by hitting some shots, but we need to hit the ball. That’s what we do. Once our offense truly catches up with our defense we’re going to be just fine.”
The Orange Pool, which featured Sandburg, WW South, Hersey, Prospect and Glenbrook North, swept the crossover matches against the Blue Pool as Hersey (4-1) defeated Glenbard East 25-21, 25-19 for third place and WW South (3-3) defeated Naperville North 25-22, 25-22 for fifth.
“There was a lot of great talent on our side of the pool, for sure,” Airola said.