Getting down 9-4 in Game 1 was not in Barrington’s game plan Tuesday.
“It was definitely not the plan,” said Barrington’s Gabe Hartke. “It was a little bit of a wake-up call for us. But we definitely came back and played better in the second half of the first game and in the second game.”
Fueled by a long service run by Hartke in the middle of Game 1, Barrington, No. 6 in Illprepvb.com's preseason rankings, recovered to bounce host Rolling Meadows 25-21, 25-12 in both teams’ season opener Tuesday.
Hartke’s 9 kills and 5 aces were a big part of Barrington’s comeback. The 6-foot-4 junior outside hitter is expected to pick up some of the scoring void left by the graduation of 6-6 middle hitter Josh Babicz, who led the Broncos in kills and blocks in 2017.
“Last year, I was more of a role player, more of a space filler than I am this year,” he said. “This year, I have a year of club under my belt, I have put on weight, I've been working out in the gym more and working on my skills more.
“I feel like it's definitely helping me with my physicality on the court,” Hartke said.
A few of Hartke’s kills Tuesday elicited oohs and aahs from his teammates and certainly gained the appreciation of his coach.
“Gabe's worked so hard in the off-season, mainly just getting more physical,” Barrington coach Rob Ridenour said. “His volleyball skill set is better, obviously, but the pace with which he's hitting the ball is tremendous. That's been one of his biggest goals for the off-season. I think he accomplished it.”
Hartke and 6-6 teammate Michael O’Toole combined for 19 kills Tuesday, but O’Toole said Barrington wants to be known more for its defense than its offense.
“I’d say we’re defense-oriented,” O’Toole said. “ I'd say a lot rests on our serve-receive and defense this year. We’re really trying to be one of the best defensive teams in the state. Hopefully, that will carry us a long way.”
O’Toole exhibited his defensive prowess in Game 2 when he dove and extended his 6-6 foot frame to dig a ball that was subsequently crushed by Hartke.
“It was a pretty good play,” O’Toole said. “It was fun diving on the ground, popping the ball up and seeing my good friend Gabe put it down. That was pretty sick.”
Evan Carroll had 18 assists for Barrington, which also got 4 digs and 2 aces from Kyle Vasquez, and 2 kills and 2 blocks from 6-5 middle hitter Petar Lumovic.
Rolling Meadows was paced by Art Barczak’s 5 kills, 2 blocks and 4 digs. Billy Tompkins added 3 kills, 1 block and 2 digs, Jackson Brosset had 6 assists and 2 digs, and Billy Psarros added 3 assists.
“We had little more energy in the first game,” Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Bourn said. “We were excited to come out here on our home court. That was awesome. Our passing was a little better in the first game than it was in the second. That was the whole issue … our passing.”
Bourn also said he talked to his team about mental toughness.
“Volleyball is such a mental game, such an emotional game,” he said. “It’s so easy when you're on top and into the game to be all excited. That leads to better play. But how do you get excited when you're down 5, 10 points in the middle of the game?
“That's what we need to figure out, so we don't get down each other, down on ourselves, and then suddenly we’re shanking balls that we should be passing,” Bourn said.