Fans won't have the opportunity to watch one of the most exciting players in the state -- Glenbard West's Ian lawson -- after the Toppers were knocked out of the state tournament by Benet in the brutal WW South sectional.
Wheaton Warrenville South survived the sectional from hades Tuesday when it defeated Glenbard East 25-19, 25-17, but you can't blame Glenbard East coach Marci Maier for feeling that the teams' fifth meeting of the year occurred much too soon.
"Unfortunately, we had to meet them here as opposed to playing them in the state championship game or something like that," she said. "It would have been much nicer. We had been playing extremely well. I wish we could have played a little better. But..."
Glenbard East (32-7) lost to WW South five times, but that is also testament to how good the Rams were this year. In addition to their two DuPage Valley Conference meetings, the teams also met in the finals of the Downers Grove South tournament and the WW South sectional.
Glenbard East's only other two losses this season were to Downers Grove South at their own Springfest tournament (after the Rams defeated Glenbard West in the previous match) and Naperville North in DVC play.
In addition to WW South, Glenbard East played two other teams this year that won sectional titles - Barrington and Payton - and beat them both. They also beat sectional finalist Glenbrook South and sectional semifinalists Downers Grove North and Buffalo Grove.
It was a banner year for Benet's volleyball teams this season. The girls won the Class 4A state title, and the boys eliminated Naperville North and Glenbard West before falling to Glenbard East in the sectional semifinals at Wheaton Warrenville South.
Head coach Amy Van Eekeren was disappointed that her team was unable to muster much an offense against Glenbard East, but said that one loss should not overshadow what the team accomplished throughout the season.
"I don't know if it was nerves or not being mentally prepared, I don't know," she said. "But I am really proud of them. This was a team full of seniors who have wanted this for a long time and they've been fighting for it all.
"I'm proud of how hard they played all season," Van Eekeren added. "This doesn't show the success we've had all season."
Benet was led by 6-foot-5 outside hitter Bobby Wehrli, a Sun-Times all-area selection, outside hitter Luke Ladowski and junior setter Pat Dougherty.
Several all-area players were victimized by the IHSA's "geography-first" mentality and will miss the state tournament this weekend. One of them is Glenbard West's 6-foot-7 Ian Lawson, who could very well go down as the best player in school history.
"Ian was an impact player, a playmaker, our go-to guy and one of the greatest players to go through Glenbard West," coach Christine Giunta-Mayer said. "One of Ian's greatest attributes to the sport is his love for the game and his competitive nature. Lawson is a true competitor. He knows how to win.
"He became a threat all over the court and his ability to 'wear teams out' worked to his advantage," she added. "He continued to improve every day and has really set the bar high for outside hitters at our school in the future."
Another all-area player sidelined by the sectional disparity prevalent in boys volleyball is Naperville North's Spencer Sauter, who is likely to receive much better treatment from the NCAA when he attends Penn State next year.
"Spencer will be leaving Naperville North as the most well-rounded, six-rotation player this program has ever had," coach Nate Bornancin said. "His work ethic and drive to improve both physically and mentally will provide Penn State with a dynamic option for the next four years."
The future looks much brighter than the immediate past at Hinsdale South, where junior Robbie Mead and sophomores Dylan Sarocco and Shaun Dulleck should return for head coach Billson Rasavongxay.
"We have a great core of kids coming back," Rasavongxay said. "We started two sophomores - a setter and an outside hitter - which are pretty big positions for us. Hopefully. they will get bigger and better during the off-season and will want to come back even hungrier next year."
Willowbrook coach Ryan Bazon won't be overlooking the Hornets next season.
"The upside for them is unbelievable," he said. "They are one of those teams that played us really well both times we played them. Both matches went three, and we were lucky to go ahead and pull them out."
Six-foot-1 outside hitter and former Geneva star Lauren Wicinski has gained her release from Northern Illinois and will play for Michigan State in the fall. Wicinski was the first two-time All-American in Mid-American Conference history.
As a sophomore, Wicinski led the nation in points (6.18) and kills (5.34) per set, and was third in aces (0.57). She reached 1,000 kills in 54 matches at Northern Illinois, the fastest in MAC history, and posted 33 career double-doubles.
Karen Whitehouse has been named the new girls volleyball coach at Huntley. Whitehouse, a former standout at Eastern Illinois, compiled a 138-62 record and four regional titles in six years at Hampshire including a second place Class 2A finish in 2007 behind Amy and Kara Wehrs.
Elsewhere, former Rosary and Minnesota star Rachel Hartmann is taking over at her alma Mater succeeding Lisa Kasper, and Hersey graduate Kelly Moran is assuming the reins at Hinsdale Central, where Sheralynn Kellough stepped down after giving birth to twins in November.