Stevenson may be one of the smartest teams around.
“The one thing about our team is that our guys probably have the highest GPA of any team in the state,” Stevenson coach Tim Crow said. “I’m not kidding. We have three guys who have almost a 4.7, two guys who are at 4.5. Our team average team is about 4.3. They’re very smart guys.”
The Patriots may be bright, but none could remember the last time Stevenson won the Lake County tournament.
“It’s been a while,” Crow said. “Maybe 2009. I think that’s the last time we won it, to be honest.”
Stevenson should not have a hard time remembering the last time now.
Brad Tiller had 10 kills and Jonah May added 23 assists as the Patriots defeated Deerfield 25-19, 25-20 to win the Lake County tournament Saturday in Vernon Hills.
“We feel great about this one,” said May, who also recorded four kills. “This is my third year on varsity. We came close before, so finally being able to pick up the win means a lot to us. We do have a pretty bright group. I think we push each other academically and athletically, so I think those things have come together nicely for us.”
Aaron Zalewski recorded six kills and a block to help Stevenson (12-2).
The Patriots ran out to a 10-5 lead in Game 1 and Deerfield never got closer than 17-15 on a kill by Zachary Hara. Five aces by Stevenson proved to be the difference, including one by Eric Chang that extended the Patriots’ lead to 20-16.
“All season long we’ve definitely known our offense is pretty strong,” Deerfield coach Eugene Chung said. “We knew from the beginning that to get through teams, especially really strong offensive teams, we’d have to put up more of a defense against them.
“We got here through defense, and we ended up losing because of our defense,” he added. “Stevenson had a lot to do with that. They serve tough, they play great defense of their own and they don’t really make a lot of mistakes.”
A kill by May after a great dig by libero Brian Dubinsky allowed Stevenson to break a 14-14 deadlock in Game 2. The kill was part of a 9-2 run that essentially sealed the match and the tournament title for the Patriots.
“We have three great defenders in Dubinsky, Kevin Xu and Aaron Houser,” May said. “All are phenomenal on defense. We have a defense-first mentality in the back row and the front row. Blocking is very important to us, too, and those have come together to be win us some key matches.”
Deerfield (8-1), which upset top-seeded and defending champion Barrington 25-23, 28-26 in the semifinals, got seven kills from Hara, four kills from John Harlan and 18 assists and three kills from Jordan Fine.
“When you want to be a great team, you can’t make the kind of errors that we were making,” Chung said. ”The good news is it’s still relatively early. I think we’re in a good place right now. I think we will continue to improve. It was a good tournament for us.”
Barrington (13-3), forced all weekend to abandon its normal 6-2 offense and run a 5-1 due to the absence of junior setter Tommy Soifer, bounced back from its semifinal loss to beat Vernon Hills (11-3), which was also minus a couple of starters, 25-13, 25-19, to take third place.
“We’ve got to cleanup defensive first contacts,” Barrington coach Rob Ridenour said. “We had a lot of opportunities to score in Game 1 against Deerfield off digs and transition, stuff like that, and we did not. In Game 2, we had a chance to push our lead to five, a chance to push the lead to six. We have to get better at that.”