Naperville Central’s Jack Burton is getting a lot of swings this season, and he’s loving it.
One of only two starters back from last year’s 34-5 team that lost to Glenbard West in the sectional finals, Burton had 13 kills to lead the Redhawks to a 25-23, 25-22 victory over St. Louis DeSmet Jesuit on Thursday and into the gold quarterfinals of the Tiger Classic at WW South.
The 6-4 outside hitter, who led Naperville Central in kills and attempts last year, doesn’t mind doing the heavy lifting.
“I’m loving it right now,” he said. “This high school season has been super fun. The group of guys I’m playing with is awesome, and I love all the sets I’m getting from [rookie setter] Kevin [Prazek]. He’s giving me a lot of them. They’re all amazing sets. It’s the only reason I’m able to do well.”
Naperville Central (8-0) is coming off the championship of the Marist invite last week, upsetting a more-seasoned Benet team in the championship match.
“It did surprise me,” Burton said. “I knew we had a lot of potential because our team is loud, obnoxious, really energetic and fun. We like to run around. I knew that is going to be our main factor. Maybe not the talent, but the actual fight and drive in our team are awesome.
“I love playing with these guys. So we’re going to surprise a lot of people I think.”
DeSmet surprised Naperville Central by rallying from a 7-1 deficit in the first set to close within a few points late before a huge block by Burton helped the Redhawks close it out.
“We don’t fold under pressure,” Burton said. “We just keep fighting and keep playing as hard as we can, and at the end of those game if it’s tight, I can rely on every single player on our team to execute on the last point.”
Among the new faces joining Burton on the court is 6-8 sophomore Matt Skowronski, who didn’t put up huge numbers Thursday but does give Naperville Central a dimension at middle hitter it has not enjoyed for several years.
“I was on the sophomore team last year and varsity is a lot faster, a lot quicker than sophomore ball, but club season definitely got me ready for this,” Skowronski said. “Everybody here is making it so much fun for me. I love coming out and playing.”
Naperville Central’s Kacper Mazurek had seven kills and Prazek had 20 assists in the DeSmet match. Earlier Thursday, Burton had 11 kills and Tyler Stefani added five kills as the Redhawks defeated Oak Park-River Forest 25-13, 25-15.
“We’re just trying to find our consistency out there,” Naperville Central coach Roger Strausberger said. “We’ve got a lot of nice players that have filled in good roles. We had a great tournament last weekend. We played really well. It’s just a matter of us staying consistent and playing smart.”