Wolves win opening game despite issues brought on by injured players

Senior captain Braeden Clark spikes the ball successfully on Neuqua Valley in their opening game on March 21st. “I think a big thing is keeping positivity on the court and being able to keep the team together, and as one unit so we can make sure we play as an organism,” Clark said. Photo by Grace Praxmarer.

Entering their first game Monday night, the boys’ varsity volleyball team was down three of their starting players, who were either out on injury or playing with performance-altering restrictions. But despite those obstacles and losing their first set, East overcame the challenge and started their season off strong, winning the second and third sets with a score of 25-9 in the final. 

Before that night’s game, there was no evidence to determine how East would react under pressure and given the result of JV’s match, in which they lost both sets moments before varsity stormed the court, players were definitely entering the court with oncoming nerves. 

The game started pretty consistently with each team scoring points back-to-back, but the lead slipped away from East and their nerves got the best of them. Despite that, returning senior and varsity captain Braeden Clark said the team was not fazed by the pressure from losing the first set and maintained their expectations for a victory. 

“I don’t think the goals or standards we set for ourselves as a team changed throughout the game, I expected to come in here and win,” Clark said. “It was our first time playing, so we definitely had an unstable foundation in the beginning but were able to pull it together as a team and finish the job.”

Given the number of players out on injury, including captain Esteban Daval, who played but only a very limited amount of time, and sophomore Harrison Moran, who was completely benched due to a crutch-induced injury, the team had to be ready for anything. 

The new Head Coach Matt Guerrieri said the sudden changes caused uncertainty and made it crucial for potentially non-starting players to step up.

“We’ve had some injuries here at the start of the year, so things have kind of changed really quickly and we’ve had to roll with the punches,” Guerrieri added. “There were some nerves there in the first set, it didn’t look the prettiest but after that we were able to play much better.”

Sophomore setter Bryson Stanley and a huge contributor to the teams success added that the teams injuries were not a huge setback because they knew their abilities and had a well-rounded skill set.

“We know going into the game that we were the better team and that we could beat them, so I wasn’t too concerned,” Stanley said. “I was also pretty confident because I knew with our coaching we could do really well.”

Daval is one of the multiple players suffering from an injury this early into the season, and given his experience and role as captain, he is able to reflect on the team’s ability to overcome the nerves that held them back the first set.

“We all know it was just the jitters, that’s exactly what it was. It was the first game so everyone was nervous and we were making decisions we shouldn’t have made,” Daval said. “Everyone needed to calm down, and once we did that, we started playing better.”

As the Wolves recovered from the early loss, the student section as well as the players on the bench emitted an energy that only fueled their victory. Fans stood cheering for every point the Wolves scored all the way up to their final point. 

Junior starting right-side Ryan Schuitema said the booming energy is to thank for their success as a team. 

“The energy on the court was great,” Schuitema said. “It was super helpful and motivated me to play at my full ability. I wanted to show out and win for my team.”

The Wolves hope to build a winning streak in their upcoming tournament on March 25th and 26th at Joliet West. 

Grace Praxmarer is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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