With leading attacker Blake Reardon sidelined and in a walking boot, Joliet Catholic turned to a community approach Tuesday night at Nazareth.
Aron Goeken hit five players for kills in Game 1 as the Hilltoppers crashed Nazareth’s Senior Night with a 25-21, 25-21 East Suburban Catholic victory.
Goeken distributed 17 assists, feeding Jeff Budz for six kills and Mitch Gustafson for five. Chandler Kowaliczko added four kills for Joliet Catholic (21-16, 6-2), which with the win took second in conference for the program’s best finish.
“It’s a loss to have (Reardon) out, but it’s evened out our offense and I can really give it around,” Goeken said. “It’s made our offense much more unpredictable.”
Reardon, a sophomore outside hitter who’s putting up some big stats, might miss the remainder of the season as he continues to nurse a sprained ankle.
“All year long we’ve had a conversation about getting the other kids to develop,” Hilltoppers coach Rhyen Staley said. “Getting Jason (Turley) involved and Mitchell — Mitchell’s really been carrying our offense the last few matches.”
That much was evident in Game 1. Gustafson put away three kills in a four-point span to give Joliet Catholic a 23-17 advantage.
Will Cullen had five kills, Dan Gregor had three kills and two blocks and Dan Hubert eight digs for Nazareth (18-9, 1-6). Cullen moved into third all-time on Nazareth’s single-season kill record with 198.
“I didn’t think it would be that lopsided,” Nazareth coach Thomas Malesky said. “They have a nice team, and that’s probably why we didn’t block so well. We didn’t touch many balls, and if we don’t do that, we’re going to struggle.”
Joliet Catholic roared out to a 23-14 lead in the second set behind three straight points — a stuff block and two kills going off a blocker — from Kowaliczko. Nazareth, however, answered with a 7-0 run, capped by a block from Gregor, to make things interesting.
Kowaliczko stopped the bleeding with a kill on the next point and Nazareth followed with an attack error to end things.