As “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC blared over the loudspeaker during an early timeout, Illprepvb.com’s No .1 preseason choice Lincoln-Way East looked like it was shaking in the knees during its early-season matchup against three-time defending state champion Glenbard West.
“We started a little bit slow, working out the simple things,” said Lincoln-Way East’s Loyola-bound 6-foot-1 outside hitter Ian Piet. “But I think it in sets two and three, we really took off.”
Helped by Piet’s sizzling serves and some mind-numbing blocking by Piet and 6-6 middle hitter George Kougan, Lincoln-Way East shook off a 25-21 loss in Game 1 to topple No. 2-ranked Glenbard West 21-25, 25-21, 25-15 Thursday in Frankfort.
Thursday’s monster clash between the top two team’s in the Illprepvb.com preseason poll had all the earmarks of a Glenbard West sweep after the visitors jumped out to a big lead in Game 1 and cruised to the finish line.
“They had a game before this and they were a little more prepared,” Piet said. “We weren’t really ready. We knew it would be a huge game. We had a lot of fans out here, so it’s nice to have the support. We just kind of brought it after the first set.”
Lincoln-Way East shook off its Game 1 woes to grab an early 10-5 lead in the second set. Glenbard West (1-1) closed within 11-10 on a tip kill by 6-2 sophomore Ben Harrington that just dribbled over the net, but the Griffins quickly answered on a kill by 6-6 middle hitter Michael Herlihy.
Lincoln-Way East gradually extended to a 20-15 lead, and the Toppers never got closer than 24-21 on another kill by Harrington.
“We have a handful of kids who are going to play big roles for us who were playing in their first varsity game,” Lincoln-Way East coach Kris Fiore said. “It took a little bit of time for them to get adjusted and get it going against Glenbard West.
“It’s a challenge,” he added. “They’re (Glenbard West) a phenomenal program. We battled jitters in Game 1, but we got them out of system in Games 2 and 3 and that helped our blocking. We also started passing a little bit better so we could run our offense.”
Game 3 mirrored Game 2. Lincoln-Way East raced to early leads of 7-0 and 10-5, but this time Glenbard West had no response. An ace by Piet that veered 90 degrees to the floor after striking the tape followed by another that split two defenders in the backcourt pushed the lead to 19-8.
“My serving was pretty slow in the first game,” said Piet, who was credited with 4 aces but forced Glenbard West to scramble on defense on several other occasions. “It really heated up in the third set. I floated last year. I've been working on a jump-serve during the off-season.”
Piet and 6-6 senior George Kougan were each credited with 6 blocks as Lincoln-Way East’s newcomers, including Kougan, defensive specialist Blake Boykin and libero Danny Pacini, all made significant contributions to the victory.
“Pacini, one of our juniors, a libero, I thought he played great,” Piet said. “He had really good coverage. Kougan had six or eight blocks, something crazy like that. That really helped us to shut them down.”
Herlihy tied Piet for team honors with 7 kills, Mark Wroblewski had 5 kills, Wil McPhillips added 4 kills, Brent O’Donnell distributed 20 assists and Boykin and Pacini each had 4 digs.
Harrington paced Glenbard West with 11 kills and 2 blocks. Junior Ryan Swartz also had 11 kills, JT Ardell added 4 blocks, junior Henry Curtis had 26 assists and junior Zach Morris had 6 digs.
“I think part of this is experience,” Glenbard West coach Christine Giunta-Mayer said. “We got to figure out how to battle back. We’ve got to figure out what happens when you're down. They got a couple of runs. It wasn't anything we couldn't stop.
“We just weren't paying close attention to details, and that's our fault,” she said.
However, everybody was paying attention to Glenbard West sophomore Ben Harrington.
“He’s lovely,” Giunta-Mayer said. “He’s got a lot to learn, but he's going to be a force for us. We have to continue to teach him and be mentors to him. But he’s going to do some great things for us in the future. He’s doing great things for us now.”