No. 1 with a bullet

The IHSA’s sectional seeds for boys volleyball, softball and baseball were released Thursday, which means sectional pairings should be posted later today. Congratulations to the Pioneer Press’ top seeds: Oak Park, Glenbrook North and Maine South for boys volleyball, Loyola for softball, and Highland Park and New Trier for baseball.

If only living up to a No. 1 seed was so easy. It seems like a top seed is a ticket to the state tournament for boys volleyball, but not so fast for softball and baseball. Only one Class 4A softball semifinalist last season was a No. 1 seed (state runner-up Barrington).

New Trier softball reached the semifinals with a No. 4 sectional seed.

In baseball, the odds were slightly better. Two semifinalists were No. 1s, but Neuqua Valley was a sectional No. 1 and Prairie Ridge was a regional No. 1 coming out of the Rockford area sectional. Oak Park baseball last season reached the semis with a No. 2 sectional seed.

And then there’s boys volleyball, where seven of last year’s eight quarterfinalists reached the State tournament in Hoffman Estates as No. 1 sectional seeds. Neuqua Valley was a No. 2 that had to beat No. 1 Naperville Central to advance.

That should be good news this year for Maine South’s Butch brothers and Glenbrook North’s winning combination of kills leader Stephen Carrington, middle hitter Colin Cullitan and dual setters Nick Riley and Stefan Van de Graaff (right, top to bottom). Highland Park Sectional coaches gave the Spartans (23-2) the No. 1 seed over Buffalo Grove, which is led by outside hitters Chris Falknor and Chris Shanahan and setter Dan Wichman.

Both teams reached last year’s state quarterfinals with BG finishing second. Now only one of those two teams will be able to advance since GBN was moved into the Lake County area sectional. That’s too bad. With the exception of Falknor, all the other players received limited or no playing time in last year’s State tournament.

In the season’s only meeting, GBN defeated BG 26-24, 19-25, 18-16 in the season-opening Bison Battle March 28.

Top-seeded Oak Park boys volleyball is hoping to make a return trip to the state quarterfinals, but top-seeded Maine South missed out on a trip last year.

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