Minooka's 6-foot-6 middle hitter Maalik Walker was among the players named to the all-tournament team at Lincoln-Way East.
Everything you need to know about the inequities of the boys state volleyball tournament were on display last Thursday in Aurora.
The Mustangs of Morton were playing the Mustangs of Metea Valley in a nonconference match. Behind the 16-kill performance of Massachusetts Institute of Technology-bound 6-foot-4 senior Martin Krasuski, the host Mustangs defeated the visitors 25-17, 25-23.
The hosts improved to 20-6 with the win, while Morton fell to 10-13.
Now guess which team has the higher seed in its sectional?
If you guessed Morton, you're right.
Morton is the fourth seed in the St. Rita sectional, where barely-.500 Oak Park-River Forest is No. 1, St. Rita is second and Mt. Carmel is third.
Meanwhile, Metea Valley is the 10th seed at Proviso West, where the top nine seeds are (in order) Lyons, Neuqua Valley, St. Francis, Glenbard West, Downers Grove South, Downers Grove North, Glenbard East, Naperville North and Benet.
Even Morton coach Tony Hornilla is critical of the injustice.
"To be honest, there's teams that that should be headed down there that don't get to go there every year," he said. "I think the state really needs to look at going to what they did with girls -- two classes, maybe even four classes. They sure can't say money is the issue.
"Seeing teams perennially be so strong and then have to go through the toughest road to get there and not even get to the sectional, it's not right," he added. "But that's the way the state does things and we have to deal with it.
"Just as a volleyball coach and as a volleyball enthusiast, I wish we had more opportunities for more schools," Hornilla said.
Of course, Hornilla admits his teams benefitted from the disparity in sectional assignments in the past.
"We've been saying this for a lot of years," Hornilla said. "There are teams that are definitely better than us and they don't get to go. But for years before they rearranged the sectionals five years ago, for years we were going out to the meatgrinder in the western suburbs and Oak Park was going in the city.
"We were closer to the city by far," Hornilla added. "That absolutely made no sense. Somebody must have had some influence."
Too bad they can't use that influence to correct the injustices wrought by the state when it comes to sectional assignments.
Nowhere is the inequity in sectional assignments more blatant than in the south suburbs, where Lincoln-Way East, Lincoln-Way North, Sandburg and Brother Rice are the top four seeds in the Andrew sectional.
Although the Phoenix did not meet the hosts in the finals of the Lincoln-Way East tournament Saturday, North's big win over Minooka might be the lift the Phoenix need heading into state play, especially with the lineup changes they were forced to employ.
"This is good for the guys," said North coach Matt Lawrence, who moved Jake Walenga to libero and used libero Zach Blasgen as an outside hitter. "I think that's just a testament to how much these guys like playing volleyball.
"Zach is always asking to play outside, so this opportunity arose for him and he did what we needed him to do," the coach added. "He passed well, played great defense, served well and got some kills every now and then."
Lincoln-Way North also got help from other players like Josh Kim, who can do a little of everything although he is not a year-round volleyball player.
"We had a JV tournament and asked him to set," Lawrence said. "He's just an all-around kid. He's supersmart. He won the talent show at our school. H does so many things well.
"We just got a bunch of good kids on the team," the coach added. "They're smart, they're fun to coach and whatever lineup we go with, they're going to give their best effort."
Quote of the week: "The last time I played libero, seriously, was never. I play it for club as a joke sometimes, but otherwise no. I absolutely loved it though. I could just focus on passing and playing defense. It's a lot less stressful than playing outside. Your more involved in the game that way (as a hitter), but I think my passing helped us stay in the game. I'm happy we could do without my hitting." - Lincoln-Way North's 6-foot-2 junior outside hitter Jake Walenga, who played libero at the Lincoln-Way East tournament to rest his knees for the state tournament.
Named to the all-tournament team at Glenbrook North were setter Jonah May (Stevenson), setter Ryan Opitz (Vernon Hills), libero Cody Bolan (Glenbrook North), middle hitter Zach Lillig (Glenbrook North), opposite hitter Max Spiglanin (Vernon Hills) and opposite hitter Charlie Spry (Barrington).
Named to the all-tournament team at Lincoln-Way East were middle hitter Nick Timreck (Downers Grove South), setter Quin Krisik (Lake Park), outside hitter Austin Overby (Lincoln-Way Central), setter Austin Royer (Lincoln-Way East), setter Marko Kostich (Lyons) and middle hitter Aidan Spangler (Lyons).
Also, outside hitter Nate Wolf (Maine South), middle hitter Matt Munro (Marist), setter Phil Hannon (Minooka), middle hitter Maalik Walker (Minooka), setter Gert Lisha (Naperville North), middle hitter John Hodul (Sandburg), outside hitter Kamil Barnes (Stagg) and outside hitter Mike Gajos (New Trier).
Tournament champion Lincoln-Way North was represented by MVP Brad McFarland and libero Jake Walenga.
Neuqua Valley setter Alex Coyne will play volleyball next year at Division III Dominican University in River Forest. Dominican is adding men's volleyball and the 2013-14 season will be the team's first under coach Dan Ames, owner of Naperville Volleyball Club.
Among the players expected to join Coyne at Dominican next year are Downers Grove North libero Brooks Nevrly, Neuqua Valley's Jeremy Royko, Wheaton North's Zach Sinn, West Chicago's Trevor Slonek, Downers Grove South's Nick Timreck and Wheaton Warrenville South's Greg Vlassov.
Rolling Meadows (21-6, 8-2) clinched the Mid-Suburban East title for the first time since 1995. The Mustangs' 26-24, 25-13 victory over Wheeling on Tuesday combined with Hersey's 25-22, 25-16 victory over Prospect left Meadows alone atop the division standings.