CHANNAHON – Sometimes, a team just wants to have fun. And nothing makes a fun game even more fun than winning it.
Minooka’s boys volleyball team will attest to that after defeating Southwest Prairie Conference rival Oswego East, 25-15, 25-22, on Thursday night.
It was senior night for the Indians (25-9, 14-0), and it seemed like they wanted to let off a little steam after the pressure-packed Tuesday win over Plainfield Central that clinched their third straight conference title. The Indians started all seniors, and usual libero Armani Zuniga and right-side hitter Mitch Perinar switched jerseys and positions.
“We went with a little different lineup [Thursday],” Minooka coach Janel Grzetich said. “It was all seniors on the floor, and that was good. Plus, they got a chance to play in spots they don’t normally play. They came to me and asked to do it, and I let them.
“It’s not often, especially this late in the season, that you get a chance to have one of these just-go-have-fun type of matches.”
Justin Toth, a 6-foot-11 outside hitter, led the Indians with 11 kills as he played his normal position. Zuniga had a career-high four kills, while Alex Karzcewski had two kills. Mason Novak had 11 assists and seven aces, while Matt DiBiase had two digs, and Perinar had six digs and three aces.
“We definitely had a more relaxed attitude [Thursday] than we did earlier in the week,” Grzetich said. “It was a fun senior night for these guys, especially after playing with a lot of intensity Tuesday night.”
The Indians had little trouble adjusting to their new surroundings in the early going of the first set, with Oswego East grabbing a quick 6-3 lead. Minooka rebounded to go ahead, 11-7, after the second of two straight aces by Perinar. The set stayed close, with the Wolves tying the score at 15. Then Novak stepped to the serving line, and it was over. The 6-foot-5 senior ripped off a string of nine straight points, including aces on six of the last seven, as Minooka claimed the 25-15 victory.
The second set was tight as well, with Oswego East running out to a 13-9 lead midway through. The Wolves held a 19-14 advantage before the Indians started to rally. Toth sandwiched a kill and a block kill around a Novak kill, and a hitting error, an ace and a net violation by Oswego East tied at 20. A pair of successive Novak kills gave Minooka a 23-21 lead. After a net violation on the Wolves, Toth ended it with a thundering kill to the middle of the court.
“I feel like we are finally coming together as a team at the right time,” Grzetich said. “A game like this helps. They can have fun and laugh and have a good time to blow off some steam. Now, we have to get back and put the focus on Monday.”
The Indians will begin the postseason at 9 a.m. Monday at the Joliet West Regional against Lockport.