Eisenhower halts Richards’ conference win streak

The streak is over.

Richards entered its match at Eisenhower with 38 consecutive South Suburban victories in tow. The Cardinals had no intention of becoming victim No. 39. Instead, Eisenhower sent Richards packing 25-21, 25-20 Tuesday night for the Bulldogs’ first conference loss since 2011.

“Finally beating them has been one of my goals as a senior and captain,” Eisenhower setter Lukasz Kupiec said. “As of now, it’s the biggest win of our season and the biggest of my career.”

Eisenhower hadn’t defeated Richards since 2005, according to coach Stan Natonek. Richards downed the Cardinals in two sets April 8.

“If we didn’t beat Richards, we realized we had no chance of winning conference,” Robert McCoy said. “We had to come out and play a lot better than the first time.”

McCoy led Eisenhower (15-8, 1-1) with six kills and three blocks. The wiry 6-5 middle hitter is looking like an All-Area candidate despite picking up the sport last season as a sophomore. He earned an All-Tournament selection Saturday at the Brother Rice Smack Attack.

“It’s a joy setting this guy,” Kupiec said of McCoy. “I just get ‘em up high and he hits over every block. He puts it straight down.”

Vinny Curta added five kills, Mike Konczal had four and libero Alec Esparza served two aces for the Cardinals.

Ed Karalius notched eight kills for Richards (14-5, 2-1). Mike Walt put away five kills and Dan Krasich contributed 18 assists.

It was a rare quiet performance for the Dominican-bound Karalius. Natonek said “the ball looked like it weighed 50 pounds” the last time Eisenhower played Richards’ powerful hitter.

“We focused on placing the ball where they couldn’t set him comfortably,” Natonek said.

After taking Game 1, Eisenhower jumped out to a 15-8 lead when McCoy buried a kill from Jonathon Esparza. Kupiec then made it 18-10 with a dump, yet Richards didn’t quit, cutting the lead 20-17 on an ace from Colton Stermer.

But it was too little, too late for the Bulldogs.

“We never really got going,” Richards coach Troy Grevengoed said. “Eisenhower had a great match, so you’ve got to give it to them. All their guys played efficiently.”

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