It is bad enough that the IHSA loaded a handful of sectionals with all the best teams in Illinois. Then to compound matters, two of the top sectionals get paired off in a state quarterfinal.
According to the "rolling of the peas" conducted in the IHSA offices Friday, the winner of the Lincoln-Way East (Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way North, Sandburg, Marist?) and Glenbrook North (the hosts?) sectionals will meet in the first quarterfinal on Friday, June 1 at Hoffman Estates.
On the other end of the spectrum, the IHSA did no favor to the winner of the Whitney Young sectional. What will likely be either Payton or Young will draw the winner of the toughest sectional in the state - at Wheaton Warrenville South - in a first-round matchup.
Here are the 2012 boys state volleyball quarterfinal pairings:
Lincoln-Way East sectional vs. Glenbrook North sectional; Romeoville sectional vs. De La Salle sectional; Young sectional vs. Wheaton Warrenville South sectional; and the Elgin sectional vs. the winner of the Barrington sectional.
If projected top seeds hold to form (some certainly will but some will not) the quarterfinals would feature Lincoln-Way North vs. Glenbrook North, Minooka vs. Mt. Carmel, Payton vs. WW South, and Lake Park vs. Barrington.
Penn State added a third player from Illinois to its 2012 recruiting class when it inked Naperville North's outstanding 6-7 outside hitter Spencer Sauter. Sauter will join Downers Grove North setter Zach Parik and Wheaton Warrenville South middle Matt Callaway at Penn State.
"In guys' volleyball, there's a huge stereotype that California is the place to be," Sauter said. "This really shows there's talent out in the Midwest. Every year, it gets better and better. I feel like men's volleyball in Illinois gets better every year and it's starting to finally show."
Sauter recently took a visit to Penn State and instantly knew he made the tight choice.
"I was actually just out there (two weeks ago) and loved everything about it," he said. "The campus was beautiful. There are mountains everywhere. I love the program, too."
Sauter was surprised by how the men's program is conducted.
"I thought it was going to be a tightly run program being Penn State and everything," he said. "But they give a lot of freedom to the players. They hold them accountable to get better. I really like that."
Barrington libero Austin Czarnecki found himself running all over the court during the Broncos' semifinal match against Stevenson at the Lake County invite Saturday. The Patriots' liberal use of tips and roll shots against the taller Broncos had the champions on their heels early.
"Stevenson definitely came out really hot and ready to beat us," Czarnecki saidf. "They gave it their all and we were kind of slow at the beginning. But we started getting the tips and roll shots and that was the key to beating Stevenson.
"That momentum just carried over into the Vernon Hills match," he added. "We know so many guys on that team, it was almost like friendly competition because we play with so many of them on club. It was like, 'Man, I really want to beat them.'
"It was a matter of just going out there and playing. We know exactly what they have and they know exactly what we have. It was just two great teams competing, but I'm glad we pulled it out."
Barrington's 6-5 senior outside hitter Jeff Hochstein, whose block against Pipeline Volleyball Club teammate and Vernon Hills outside hitter Martin Niemczewski sealed the Broncos' second consecutive Lake County tournament title Saturday, remembers all too well their loss against Glenbard East at the Bison Battle earlier this season.
Barrington led Glenbard East 13-11 in the third game (played to 15), but the Broncos were blocked on three straight rallies. The Rams eventually won 15-13.
"That motivates us a lot," Hochstein said. "We know we have to finish matches and we did that this match (vs. Vernon Hills). If we had finished that Glenbard East match, that whole day would have had a different tone.
"I think we would have had a lot more energy for the last match (vs. Sandburg)," he added. "In practice, we play games starting at 21-18 and we have to finish. That's just what motivates us."
Last year, Vernon Hills lost twice at the Lake County tournament and finished third in the state. Vernon Hills was denied a county title again this year by Barrington, but Cougars' coach Chris Curry hopes his players show the same resilience they did last year.
"Last year we came into this tournament and lost Highland Park and Stevenson," he said. "Those matches showed us what we weren't good at, and we had our best week of practice the next week. That tournament really turned things around.
"If our senior captains can motivate their team to improve all parts of their game, maybe we will see (Barrington) again in the sectional and have a little closer matchup," Curry added.
Led by junior setter Jonah May and senior outside hitters Collin Ryan and Jason Fleischman, Stevenson (12-2) had No. 8 Barrington on the ropes in Games 2 and 3 of their semifinal match at the Lake County tournament Saturday.
But the Patriots, who led 19-15 in Game 2 and 14-9 in Game 3, were unable to close the deal. Both times, the Patriots got caught in a rotation from which there was no escape, coach Tim Crow said.
"We never should have lost that second game," he said. "We went up three or four points then we had a bad rotation. We gave up six or seven points in a row. That makes a difference when you do that against a good team.
"In the third game we had a good run good for a five-point lead and they were able to come back within a rotation or two, tie the game up and go ahead," Crow added. "We didn't finish the deal. We felt like we should have beaten them.
"They're an outstanding team. We played extremely well except for three rotations. We had three bad rotations. I think that's pretty much what did us in."
Stevenson used tips and tools liberally during the match, trying to compensate for its lack of size against the Broncos, who threw a couple of triple-blocks against the Patriots' top outside hitters.
"I think we were effective doing that," Crow said. "We also talked about tooling it more. I think we got through their block once. We got blocked a few times, and we had five or six kills on tips. The triple block wasn't the concern of mine, just our inability to get out of a rotation.
"Especially with the type of guys we have," he added. "We don't have one guy who is so dominant he can hit from all over. We still need to make better choices in our offense, pay a little more attention to how many points we give up in a row and try to make things a bit less dynamic. Get a sideout and move on."
Deerfield coach Eugene Chung got creative at the Lake County invite and his team surprised Carmel on the final day of the tournament.
"We played both days without our starting setter and captain, Scott Laner, who was home with the flu," Chung said. "On day two, we were also without rightside Matt Dlugie and played half of the match against Lake Forest without three more players who were taking the ACT.
"It was time for some creative lineups and for our youth to gain some experience," he added. "I even called up a sophomore JV setter who had never even practiced with us to set a 5-1 on Saturday in game 1 against Lake Forest."
Deerfield, which defeated Grant (25-11, 25-16) and lost to Warren (25-18, 23-25, 15-11) and Vernon Hills (25-16, 25-21) in pool play, bounced back from Saturday's 25-21, 25-23 loss to Lake Forest to defeat Carmel, 25-18, 17-25, 27-25.
Although her team struggled in Game 1 of a 25-22, 25-11 victory over St. Patrick last week with senior outside hitter Alex Kahn sidelined with illness, Glenbard West coach Christine Giunta-Mayer let her team play through its mistakes.
"We had a lot of errors in the first game, but I told the guys that they got to figure it out themselves," she said. "We were tight the whole first game.
"But I got an all-state setter (Alex Emanuel) who can do anything he wants - he's a phenomenal athlete - I got Ian Lawson who can do anything he wants, but everybody else has to be a part of it," she said. "It just can't be two guys, and that's what they did differently in Game 2.
"We started running the middles a lot, and the middles are good. You get that really good hitter and you get excited about it, but you have to use everybody. Game 2 was a reflection of that. Scottie (Thomas) had like five kills in the middle and (Matt) Burelbach had a couple."
St. Patrick's 6-foot outside Joey Williams is one of the better hitters in the city, but the Shamrocks are still looking to find a complement for him following the graduation from last season's 20-game winner of 6-4 Ryan Fisher.
However, Fisher's graduation cost St. Patrick coach Julie Wiejak more than just a solid hitter. She lost one of her top passers. That loss is being felt just as hard.
"I had a libero who graduated who passed like a 2.3, Ryan passed a 2.3," she said. "We lost that consistent passing from two guys and you have to make that up. We've had a roundhouse of people through the back row trying to find out who's going to consistently take over that job.
"The great news is there's a lot of opportunity out there," she added. "We have a lot of youth, but also a lot of opportunity. We have a lot of young guys getting a chance to get better."
While the search for passing and a compliment to Williams continues, St. Patrick has stayed in early matches through strong serving.
"When we serve well, it's the thing that makes us play well," Wiejak said. "So when we're off on serving, our whole game ends up like a rollercoaster. When we're serving good and consistent and aggressive, our whole game ends up good and consistent and aggressive."
Downers Grove North's 6-1 outside hitter Taylor Kasal signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.