By Phil Brozynski
Most coaches agree that it’s not if you lose, but when.
Only three teams have won a state title with a perfect record in 16 years of the boys volleyball state tournament – Richards in 1992 and Wheaton Warrenville South in 2001 and 2004.
So losing a match or two or three (although no team has won a state title with more than nine losses) during the regular season seems to have little bearing on postseason success.
Neuqua Valley coach Erich Mendoza watched his team suffer its first loss of the season Saturday at the 10th Annual Springfest Boys Volleyball Tournament in Lombard. The Wildcats dropped a gutwrenching 25-22, 28-30, 25-22 decision to host Glenbard East in a semifinal.
Mendoza was more upset with his team’s performance from the service line than with the loss. Neuqua Valley (8-1) won the second game despite making eight service errors in its final 11 service attempts, then lost the deciding third game with a service error on match point.
“Mentally, those kill you,” Mendoza said. “There are times in a match when you have to get the ball in play. You don’t give yourself an opportunity to win when you serve the ball into the net.”
Neuqua had won its first seven matches including big wins over Naperville North, St. Charles North and St. Francis before Saturday’s loss to Glenbard East.
“It’s nice to get it out of the way,” Mendoza said.
Glenbard East (7-1) won the tournament for the fourth year in a row. The Rams regained the services of 6-foot-6 junior middle Peter Dabrowski for the championship match after he missed the team’s first seven matches for an athletic code violation.
One of the matches Dabrowski missed was a DuPage Valley Conference loss to Glenbard North.
Somebody asked Glenbard East coach Marci Maier if her team’s marathon win over Neuqua Valley had any significance coming on the heels of that loss.
“One game is not any more important than any other,” she said. “Every game is just practice until you get into the playoffs.”
◘ Look for Lake Forest to be a factor in the playoffs and the North Suburban Conference this spring.
The Scouts, under the direction of co-coaches Ray Werner and Joe De Rosa, reached the finals of the Springfest tournament by defeating Mid-Suburban League hopefuls Schaumburg and Conant.
Lake Forest (6-2) dropped the championship match to Glenbard East despite 11 kills from junior Larry Wrather. Wrather and middle hitters Alex Baraniewski, Ben Rockwell and Greg Warfield are the Scouts’ top weapons.
“It was a different feeling today than when we lost to Stevenson (earlier in the week),” Werner said. “It was fun to watch the level of play today. Larry at times is unstoppable. I enjoy watching him compete.”