Boys Volleyball: Shepard’s comeback sinks Oak LawnDan Taylor, of Shepard, spikes over the arms of Oak Lawn's Moises Lopez at Oak Lawn, Tuesday, May 1st, 2012 in Oak Lawn, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Shepard struggled through a six-win season in 2011.
But with the nucleus from that team returning, coach Joan Alderden was confident the growing pains would pay dividends this spring.
The Astros recorded their third consecutive victory and 10th on the season Tuesday, defeating host Oak Lawn 21-25, 25-22, 25-15 in a South Suburban Red contest.
The 1-2 punch of Kyle Joy (11 kills) and Dan Taylor (10) led the way. Pat Neylon was a superb table-setter, serving up 33 assists.
“Experience is the difference,” Alderden said. “We had eight guys returning from last year. There’s only one player who is brand new to the varsity (Jim Donohue), and he’s a club player.”
The benefits of player experience were most evident after the Astros (10-12, 6-5) dropped Game 1. Shepard quickly regrouped and opened a 19-9 lead in Game 2.
Oak Lawn did make a run, cutting the deficit to 24-22 on a kill by Sean Dunne (eight kills).
Dunne and Marc Hansen (nine kills) were major factors in the Spartans’ Game 2 uprising.
A kill by Taylor, however, put an end to the match.
“We got down to business in Game 2,” Taylor said. “We just needed to finish it off in the third game.”
That’s precisely what Shepard did.
After a block by Rob Shaughnessy gave Oak Lawn (11-17, 7-5) an early 4-2 lead, the Astros countered with a 9-0 run to take command. The closest the Spartans would get was 14-9 on a block by Dunne.
From there, Shepard pulled away behind Joy and Taylor. It was Taylor’s block on Hansen that put an end to the match.
Matt Jones provided the Astros with a consistent presence from the service line, while Kendall Clasberry and Steve Martinez contributed mightily to the victory.
The Astros’ goal is to win the remaining four matches in conference.
“We believe we can go undefeated from here on out,” Alderden said. “These kids have just started believing in themselves. I still don’t believe they’ve reached their potential.”
Oak Lawn coach Ryan Skendzel praised the Astros.
“They turned up the energy and execution and we couldn’t stop them or block them,” he said.