Boys Volleyball: Undefeated Lincoln-Way North knocks off Neuqua Valley
Updated: April 5, 2012 10:18PM
Lincoln-Way North isn’t the biggest team around, and with two sophomores in the starting lineup, it isn’t the most experienced.
So how do you explain the Phoenix’ 9-0 start?
“We just all play hard,” senior setter Ryan McFarland said. “We play together as a team, we’re all talking out there, all of us play together as one. It’s not one person getting all the kills. Everyone is playing together.”
Lincoln-Way North was greater than the sum of its parts Thursday at Neuqua Valley. Sophomores Jake Walenga (seven kills, 11 digs) and Brad McFarland (six kills, three blocks) combined for 13 kills and Ryan McFarland had 19 assists to lead the No. 5 Phoenix to a 25-22, 25-22 win.
“Our two sophomores are athletes and they make good plays on the ball,” Lincoln-Way North coach Matt Lawrence said. “Walenga and [libero] Zach Blasgen passed very well tonight and that allowed us to do a lot of things with our offense.
“Ryan [McFarland] was putting the ball in a good spot for them, and our passes were there so we were able to utilize them,” he added.
Passing has been another key to Lincoln-Way North’s 9-0 start, Ryan McFarland said.
“[To continue to be successful] we just got to keep passing,” he said. “That’s the key to us because we’re not a big team. We have to keep passing well like we have been all season.”
A kill by Brad McFarland and Joseph Pognant’s putaway of a Neuqua Valley overpass broke a 21-21 tie in a see-saw Game 1 and allowed the Phoenix to go up a set. Game 2 was all Lincoln-Way North until two unforced errors ignited an 11-4 run by the hosts that tied the game at 14-14.
“When things break down it’s usually our passing,” Ryan McFarland said. “We get down on ourselves and we don’t pass as well, that means everyone else gets down because they can’t get a kill and I can’t set the offense.”
But the Phoenix broke the tie with a 5-2 run that featured a kill credited to Brad McFarland when three Neuqua players let a get-me-over ball fall among them. Neuqua Valley (5-1) never got closer than 23-20 on Connor Richardson’s block.
“They had some big runs on us,” Lawrence said. “They always answered back. It didn’t matter if we were up by three or four points, they always fought back. Neuqua Valley is a good team. They always play really hard, they play great defense and they have a lot of explosive players.”
Richardson led Neuqua Valley with seven kills and a block, Thomas Stevens had five kills and Ryan Cahill added 19 assists.
“You really don’t know what your potential can be unless you’re playing some of the top teams,” Neuqua Valley coach Erich Mendoza said. “Obviously, you don’t want to lose. But it’s nice to see what happens when you play one of the best teams around. We found out that we’re a good team.”