Boys volleyball: St Rita falls in quarterfinalsMatt Svetlecich, of Minooka, eyes a shot past St. Ritas Tommy Stark at the Boys Volleyball State Quarterfinals, Friday, June 1st, 2012 in Hoffman Estates, IL. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 1, 2012 7:24PM
Getting to the state tournament for the second straight year, St. Rita was no stranger to adversity this season, claiming comeback wins in the sectional semifinals and championship.
The Mustangs found themselves in a similar hole at Friday’s state quarterfinals at Hoffman Estates High School, but the deficit proved to be too much. St. Rita fell to Minooka in three games; 25-23, 23-25, 25-18.
“This match was what we saw a lot this season,” St. Rita coach Ryan Biros said. “The outcome was different, but we played from behind in a lot of matches. It was just a little bit too much of a deficit today.”
The only team in the quarterfinals to advance that far a year ago, St. Rita (25-15) matched its 2011 appearance with a Friday loss. John Johnson (10 kills), Dan O’Keefe (12 digs, 8 kills), Billy White (8 kills), Tom McDermott (31 assists), Tommy Stark (7 kills) and Andrew Bartasius (12 digs) paced Rita in the losing effort.
“As a program we’ve come a long way from no one knowing St. Rita to us going here in back-to-back years,” Stark said. “And as a player, I felt like I developed more because of that state experience last year.”
The Mustangs used kills from Johnson and McDermott to go up 20-16 in Game 1, but Minooka (37-2) answered. The Indians took the lead on a Ryan Bauer service run (6 service points) to go up 24-21 and, despite two quick Rita points, closed the opener with a Rick Bishop kill.
“We’ll probably all think about that for awhile because we should have taken that game,” Biros said. “This atmosphere is different from our home gym. It brings you back to some of your old habits.”
Having won Game 2 with balanced contributions from all over the court, St. Rita was unable to roll the momentum into the third game. Minooka dominated at the net, racking up six block kills, and held its biggest lead at 20-10.
“They just kept throwing up those blocks at the pin, and I was trying to hit cross (the court),” Johnson said. “Their kid was 6-foot-9 so I didn’t want to attack that. He got the best of me that game.”
White (2 kills, service ace) and Johnson (kill) sparked a mini-run late as St. Rita drew to within five points, but the struggles early proved to be too much of a deficit. Minooka closed on a Phil Hannon block and a service ace.
“We tried and played some of the best defense we’ve ever played but couldn’t come out on top,” Biros said.
The appearance at state was the sixth overall for St. Rita, which will lose Johnson, Stark and Bartasius. McDermott, White, O’Keefe, and Kevin Banky will lead a strong core for the Mustangs next season.
“I think it’s a big experience making it here these last two years,” McDermott said. “Making it three years? We’ve got that experience to hopefully push it through.”
Minooka was led by Nick Vertin’s 14 kills with Bishop (10 kills), Phil Hannon (32 assists) and Chad Warren (14 digs) contributing.