Junior-varsity boys claim win against Willowbrook

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Sophomore Aj Johnson prepares to return the serve to Willowbrook at the April 30th game. “I was motivated to win because we worked so hard the whole game and we needed to finish it out,” Johnson said. Photo by Alexandra McPhee.

On Tuesday, April 30th, the East boys’ JV volleyball team took on Willowbrook at home. They are 17-6 in the season overall and were coming off a big win against Joliet Central on April 25th. Feeling strong from their win, they were confident going into the game. The team had to play all 3 sets with East winning the first set, Willowbrook taking the second and the Wolves finishing them off with the win of the third set, to win the match.

“Without my teammates encouraging me I wouldn’t be able to make a serve or a hit because volleyball is such a mental sport, if you get down on yourself it’s over,” sophomore right-side hitter AJ Johnson said.

East dominated the first set with a score of 25 to 15. The score was close during the beginning of the set. However the Willowbrook Warriors started to pull ahead leading 8-12. Although that didn’t last long. The Wolves quickly tied it up at 12, then started to pull away. They got up 20-14 with sophomore libero Joey Johnson assisting with an ace. To finish off the set AJ had a killer spike to end the set 25 to 15.

“The bond with our teammates is everything, especially because it’s a team sport,” Joey said. “Everyone needs to be one cohesive unit. Having a good relationship with your teammates is major part in winning.”

The Wolves were looking strong when they started the second set with a 4 to 0 lead. Sophomore setter Vince DiCosola helped the Wolves with strong serves and an ace.

“Every time I ace the ball it helps me build up my energy and keep me going throughout the game. Aces are not that common so when they happen it feels great,” DiCosola said.

The Wolves kept the lead until it was tied at 9. Freshman middle hitter Esteban Daval came in with a monstrous kill to put them up again. With East holding a lead, the Warriors were trying very hard to find a way to get ahead. The Wolves continued to hold the lead until the Warriors came back and tied it at 13. Sophomore outside hitter Carter Long served and smashed down an ace to put them ahead again.

“I feel I played alright. There is always room to improve. Everyone on our team did their part to help us win. That’s why we were successful,” Long said.

The momentum was strong for the Wolves as they went on a run of 11 to 7. AJ and sophomore outside hitter Jack Ford both did their part with some great digs and each having strong kills. Daval and Long contributioned with many kills and blocks throughout the entire night.

“This game will boost up my confidence. It’s all a mental game,” Daval said.

The Warriors came back with a fight refusing to go home in only 2 sets. They went on a 7 to 1 run to finish the set and win. The Wolves were winning 24-20. All they needed was one point to finish off the Warriors and go home early but the Wolves couldn’t find a way to have the ball hit the ground on the on the teams end. They had gone into extra points and lost 25 to 27.

“I didn’t like going into a 3rd game. Especially when we were up 24 to 20 but I definitely liked how our guys responded. When the other team came back. We just had to overcome that adversity,” Coach Dru Filkins said.

The Wolves were not worried going into the 3rd set. They came in motivated and ready to win. DiCosola knew they had the capability to win and take it back in the 3rd set. Which is exactly what they did.

“We knew we had to go into the 3rd set with our heads high. We couldn’t get down. We had to stay positive and not let the loss affect us,” DiCosola said.

DiCosola started them off strong with another ace and they continued on from there. They had stayed ahead for a short time, but the Warriors were looking strong in the middle of the set winning 8 to 12. The Wolves came back in it for a short while with 3 to 0 run with AJ having 2 kills.

“When we are losing, I try not to focus on the score. Its next point next ball,” Joey said.

The Wolves were looking troubled, by the Warriors going up 12-15. Daval came in and shut that down making 3 crucial kills to tie it at 17. The team had many kills and blocks along with momentum which lead them to a 25 to 23 victory over the Warriors in the third set.

“If your teammates don’t care then you won’t win games. It has to be won together not by one person,” AJ said.

The wolves won this match because every one of them came out and gave it their all. They push each other and rely on one another.

In the hours leading up to the boys’ next match, Joey said that the team had some things to work on.

“We are still working on free ball efficiency,” Joey said, adding that the team’s strengths remain their response to the serve and the team’s right-side offense. Free ball efficiency refers to the team’s ability to easily pass a soft serve from the opposing side so that they can set up a fellow teammate for a kill, or score against the opponent.

The Willowbrook game should be a real confidence booster for the Wolves because they lost to this team last year. As their season almost comes to an end, they will try to keep this win streak going.

“I hope this win continues over,” Long said. “Keep the momentum going and win the next one.”

The Wolves’ next game is this afternoon, Thursday, May 2nd, against Plainfield South at 4:30 p.m.

Alex McPhee is a sports writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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