It was a rough night for the top seeds Wednesday at the Tiger Classic at Wheaton Warrenville South.
Lincoln-Way West fell by the wayside. Naperville Central also found itself on the short end …. not once, but twice.
Only Brother Rice and Lake Park lived to fight another day.
Naperville Central (6-2), fresh off its tournament championship at Marist last weekend, was relegated to Saturday’s Bronze playoffs when it lost to Buffalo Grove 27-25, 22-25, 25-18 and Benet 25-18, 24-26, 25-15.
Benet (6-2) later defeated Buffalo Grove 25-15, 25-16 to earn a spot in Saturday’s Gold division playoffs.
“We expected fire from them (Naperville Central)," Benet coach Jeff Steinberg said. “They won the Marist tournament. We know they’re a solid team. It just came down to our passers stepped up, we were able to get our middles involved and we put up some nice blocks.
“The boys played well,” he added. “They bounced back from that start (down early in Game 1), got their heads in it and pulled out that win.”
Naperville Central (6-2), despite 19 kills from 6-4 outside hitter John Davis and 11 kills, 4 blocks and 10 digs from 6-4 middle/rightside hitter Felix Egharevba against Buffalo Grove (3-6), and 17 kills from Davis against Benet, never found its rhythm.
The Redhawks committed 10 service errors and 19 hitting errors against the Bison and 21 hitting errors and 9 passing errors against the Redwings.
“We were just flat,” Naperville Central coach Roger Strausberger said. “We made a lot of errors. We had a nice comeback in the second set (rallying from down 21-16 against Buffalo Grove) but just could never find a rhythm out there.
“Every time we would make a couple of decent plays, we would make an error that set us back a step,” he added. “It was frustrating that our fight and desire weren't there tonight.”
Buffalo Grove, despite its loss to Benet, will head into Saturday’s Silver bracket on a high after what was probably the biggest upset of Wednesday’s first round.
“We played really clean the whole night,” Buffalo Grove coach Tim Kosiek said. “We minimized the mistakes and we played consistent. I think that's why we’re strong.”
Naperville Central was not the only team bitten by the upset bug, although few observers would call Neuqua Valley’s 25-21, 22-25, 25-16 win over Lincoln-Way West an upset. The Wildcats used their superior height and physicality to knock off higher-seeded Warriors (6-3).
“They’re (Lincoln-Way West) not a very tall team in particular and we felt like we could always hit over them,” Neuqua Valley’s 6-8 setter Kevin Kauling said. “They might have a lot more ball control, but I thought the physical thing played a major role.”
Kauling said Neuqua Valley (4-0) has its sights set higher than just knocking off a top seed, however.
“The plan is always to win this tournament because our coach (Erich Mendoza) told us Neuqua Valley has never won this tournament,” Kauling said. “So that's our goal. We have an opportunity to come out and maybe win this tournament.”
Lincoln-Way West was able to handle St. Charles North’s size in its 23-25, 25-19, 25-14 win over the North Stars. But Lincoln-Way West coach Jodi Frigo knows that size will be an issue for the Warriors throughout the season.
“Plainfield East and Wheaton North (Lincoln-Way West’s previous losses) both had 6-9, 6-6 players,” she said. “We’re going to have to figure out a way to play around that. We’re just not very big.”
Lincoln-Way West survived St. Charles North’s superior size by making a subtle lineup change in Games 2 and 3.
“They made some adjustments in their lineup and we left ours alone,” St. Charles North coach Todd Weimer said. “It paid off for them. I could also see fatigue setting in and our communication was getting low.
“You can't do that if you want to compete at a high level, but those are things we can fix,” he added.”
For Brother Rice, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The second-seeded Crusaders (10-0) rolled past Metea Valley 25-22, 25-8 and Lincoln-Way Central 25-19, 25-17 Wednesday to advance to the Gold bracket on Saturday.
“We played our best front-row defense of the year tonight,” Brother Rice coach Dan Dwyer said. “We probably had 10 blocks between the two matches. Our hitting was very efficient and we didn’t make a lot of mistakes.
“Actually, we had more service errors that we any other errors today, which is kind of odd,” he added. “The boys did a nice job.”
Lake Park also advanced unscathed, although the Lancers had to go to three games in both of their matches. Lake Park (2-0) beat Downers Grove South 23-25, 25-20, 25-14 and Andrew 25-19, 22-25, 25-16.
See all results and box scores under "Tourney Results."