Boys volleyball: Minooka fights off Belleville EastMinooka's Nick Vertin (9) spikes the ball towards Belleville East's Sam Pruett (18) and Ben Thomas (13), at Tuesday night's IHSA sectional final match between Minooka and Belleville East. | Paul James Bergstrom ~ Sun-Times Media
Belleville East had Minooka against the ropes in Tuesday night’s championship game of the Romeoville Sectional.
What the Lancers didn’t have was an answer for the man possessed, Indians senior opposite Rick Bishop.
The 6-foot-4 senior had nine of his 15 kills in the third game, and scored nine of his team’s 11 points in an 11-5 run midway through Game 3 as Minooka erased a five-point deficit and went on to secure a 15-25, 25-22, 25-23 victory and earn a berth in the state semifinals Friday at Hoffman Estates.
“I told our guys, if Rick Bishop is getting kill after kill after kill like that, you keep feeding him the ball,” said Minooka coach Janel Grzetich, who also guided the 2010 Indians to state, where they finished fourth.
“But the thing is, he not only is a talented hitter, he is smart with his hitting.”
“Not taking anything away from him (Bishop), but he really didn’t do anything the first game to hurt us,” Belleville East coach Stefanie Gaubatz said. “He really turned it on the next two games.”
Until Bishop’s third-game eruption, however, it looked for all the world like the Lancers (25-3-2) would make their first visit to state.
“We have great athletes just like Minooka, and they love volleyball,” Gaubatz said. “We struggled with our blocking. It was fine the first game, but we got back on our heels a bit in the second. Then the third was back and forth.”
After Bishop finished off Game 2 with a kill, The Indians (36-2) fell into a 13-7 hole in Game 3, thanks to a 7-0 Belleville East run featuring several Minooka hitting errors. But then Minooka, particularly junior setter Phil Hannon (27 assists) heard Grzetcich’s instruction and found the man of the night, over and over again.
“We just had to put pressure on them,” Bishop said. “If they started to get worried about me, we could go to someone else, we have so many attackers. But it is a great feeling that my teammates trust me.”