By Pat Brozynski

Big is good (overrated?), but good is better

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Glenbrook North advanced to the championship game of the Bison Battle Saturday at Buffalo Grove in impressive fashion, defeating the hosts, Naperville North and Sandburg in pool play before falling 25-18, 22-25, 25-19 to Wheaton Warrenville South in the finals.

Although a veteran team, Glenbrook North does not start anyone taller than 6-foot-3. Size obviously doesn't matter.

"Size doesn't matter as long as you can do a lot of other good things," coach Chris Cooper said. "This group has experience, we have depth at some positions and guys know they can't take plays off. And we have ball control. If you can ball control, you can stay with anybody."

The Spartans boast veterans in twins Kyle and Patrick Bedford, middle Luke Jacobson, libero Mitch Shapiro and rightside Trevor Ponticelli. Junior Jakub Barabus was a big factor in the Spartans three-set loss to WW South.

The Spartans could get another shot at WW South at the Tigers Classic this weekend.

"I wasn't sure how we'd do these first two weeks," Cooper said. "I thought we could have a really poor record because of who we are playing. You just never know. You have to challenge yourself to see where you're at."

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Despite heavy graduation losses - setters Nick Bendell and Scott Fifer are the only starters back from last year's state championship team - Sandburg looks ready to challenge for domination in the south suburbs again this spring.

The Eagles should have a better idea of where they're at after playing at the Tiger Classic this weekend and visiting Lincoln-Way North on April 12.

"We're learning how to play next to one another," coach Sean Airola said. "Right now, it's a big hodge-podge full of kids. We're tall, we have talent. But when they're next to one another for the first time against real competition, it becomes a difficult transition."

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Barrington's Rob Ridenour wasn't the happiest of coaches after his team squandered leads of 9-6 and 13-11 in the third set of a 25-23, 22-25, 15-13 loss to Glenbard East Saturday at the Bison Battle.

"I think we just got to be a little tougher," he said. "That's the bottom line. Glenbard East blocked great down the stretch. That was a contributing factor. We got a little tentative as well. We have to get our guys in the right mentality."

Ridenour would like to see his team take on some of the attributes and attitude of 6-foot-1 senior setter Taylor Ganzer, a three-sport athlete (golf, basketball, volleyball) whose college plans are still uncertain.

"I think Taylor really is maturing as a leader," Ridenour said. "He really is becoming our heart and soul on the court. If we accept his personality - a little bit of fire, a little bit of his competitiveness - I think our whole team would be better off.

"We have guys who are good competitors, I think Taylor is a great competitor," he added. "If that competitiveness permeates throughout the team, we'll be better off in the long run."

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Naperville North, which reached the state championship game in 2011 but is looking at a few new faces in 2012, finished 2-2 and in fourth place in the Blue pool at the Bison Battle Saturday at Buffalo Grove.

The Huskies stunned the hosts 16-25, 27-25, 15-12 after trailing 18-13 in Game 2, but lost in straight sets to Sandburg and Glenbrook North.

"Everyone is adjusting to a new role on the team," coach Nate Bornancin said. "We have a lot of talent, it's just a matter of guys getting used to playing together. Last year's team, all those guys played together in the off-season. They knew what to expect from each other."

Six-foot-7 senior outside Spencer Sauter, who missed the first half of last season with an injury, and part-time starters Kyle Losik and Matt Jennings are all that return from a season ago. The Huskies are also breaking in a new setter in 6-6 junior transfer Gert Lisha.

"It's just going to take a lot of time, more time than I thought it would," Bornancin said. "We have extremely high expectations for this season."

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Lake Park improved to 6-0 under first-year coach Tim Murphy by winning the "speed-dating" Conant invitational last Friday. Teams played four matches in one evening session beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The furious schedule did not seem to bother Lake Park, which defeated Conant, 25-15, 25-14; Lyons, 25-17, 25-19; Walter Payton, 25-14, 25-24; and Stevenson, 25-20 25-22.

Six-foot-3 senior outside Michal Ragan led Lake Park with 33 kills. Six-foot-5 senior Mike Dickerson had 29 kills and 11 blocks, 6-4 senior Dave Prentis had 59 assists, 11 blocks, 6 kills and 5 aces, Devin Burke had 12 kills and 18 blocks, and Kevin Smith had 20 kills and 5 aces.

Lake Park will tangle with Naperville North and Evanston in Pool C Thursday at the Tiger Classic hosted by Wheaton Warrenville South.

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Speaking of the Tiger Classic, ESPN High School (ESPNHS) will be at the Tiger Classic on Saturday. ESPN will have a tent set up near the concessions stand to collect information for player profiles and to take photos for ESPNHS.com, ESPNHS Magazine and potential usage on air.

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Alex Valdez lost the duel with Kit Bruzek for the setter position with Wheaton Warrenville South, but that doesn't mean the 6-foot-1 senior St. Ambrose recruit has not been a huge contributor to the Tigers' 6-0 start.

"He's a very, very consistent server," WW South coach Bill Schreier said. "He was one of the guys we were looking at as far as setting was concerned, but it ended up that there are other ways he can help us. Serving is one of those ways, and he also plays solid defense back there.

"He's going to St. Ambrose for a reason," the coach added. "I just like his consistency as far as serving is concerned. There's enough movement on his ball that will keep the pressure on people in serve receive."

***

The Great Lakes Volleyball Center in Aurora will host the 2012 Collegiate Challenge on Saturday, April 14.

Eleven teams, including Bradley, Wisconsin, Illinois, Marquette. Iowa, DePaul, Missouri State, Michigan State, UW-Milwaukee, Notre Dame and a team from Tianjin, China, will participate in the tournament.

Play begins at 8:00 a.m. with two pools of four teams and one pool of three teams playing six sets, The pool winners, runners-up and losers from Round 1 will meet in a best two-of-three format beginning at 1:45 p.m.

***

Prairie Ridge has openings for teams in two girls' tournaments in the fall 2012 - a sophomore tournament on September 15 and a junior varsity tournament on September 29.

For more information, contact Prairie Ridge athletic director Patti Hie at phie@d155.org or Prairie Ridge coach Stefanie Otto at sotto@d155.org.

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This page contains a single entry by Back Row published on March 26, 2012 9:29 PM.

More teams to ponder as the 2012 season opens was the previous entry in this blog.

Zyburt, Smith step up to keep WW South on top is the next entry in this blog.

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