Wilmette, Sports

Loyola defense sparks match-changing run in conquest of New Trier

How quickly — and dramatically — fortunes can change.

Loyola Academy volleyball turned the tables on host New Trier just like that on Wednesday, April 24, in Winnetka, using an 8-0 run to steal the second set and then dominate the third for a 22-25, 25-18, 25-15 victory.

Ramblers senior Jack Lopez said once the visitors’ defense figured out the Trevians, the match turned a corner.

“We stayed more disciplined, started reading a little better and we just wanted it the second and third sets,” Lopez said. “We wanted to dominate the net. We knew dominating the net would give us the win and it made them fall apart.”

Loyola senior Jack Lopez winds up on his way to 18 kills against New Trier on Wednesday.

With a one-set advantage, New Trier was holding off Loyola deep into the second set as well, taking a lead of 16-13. But after a David Wolff kill gave the Trevians an 18-17 lead, the Ramblers took over.

Loyola recorded three blocks in the next four points, and New Trier committed four hitting errors to change the momentum of the match.

“I would say that we didn’t have a lot of offensive production,” Trevians coach Sue Haak said. “When that happens, we kind of played tight and played less aggressive and we needed to go in the opposite direction. We had a little trouble scoring and we didn’t play well after that.”

Building off the 8-0, the Ramblers scored the first four points of the final set and continued to build their lead en route to a 25-15 win.

Loyola coach Lionel Ebeling said New Trier was the first team all season that took a first set from the Ramblers and maybe the large crowd in Winnetka played into his team’s slow start.

Trevians libero Griffin Firmin receives a serve in the rivalry match.

But once the Ramblers found it, they didn’t lose it.

“The second set we really settled in and we played our game, which is really disciplined defense,” Ebeling said. “Obviously guys like Jack (Lopez) and Ben (Traoo) can put the ball away and Nathan (Chi) runs an unbelievable offense, so I think it was hard for New Trier to key in on any specific person when we played a little bit more balanced.

“To end the second set, I think it was an (8)-point run. That put (New Trier) in that blender, then they are playing on their heels.”

Lopez racked up a game-high 18 kills, while Trapp added 12, and Liam Uruba (4 blocks) and Drew Bevan 5 apiece. Chi dished out 36 assists, and Stef Kins recorded 9 digs.

The Ramblers improved to an impressive 21-1 on the campaign, their only loss coming to fellow ranked team St. Francis. For his team’s dominating start, Ebeling credited the upperclassmen.

“Its the 10 seniors. We returned a team that had success last year but they are hungry, worked hard during the offseason and are playing with confidence,” he said. “That jump from junior to senior year … is amazing. And the guys are buying in and they’re coachable, which helps. But it’s the 10 seniors who all play for each other.”

Shane Sullivan (left) sets up Franklin Zoloto for the Trevians.

New Trier was led on Wednesday by Wolff, a Stanford commit, with 12 kills, and Oliver Lee (6 kills), Niki Dugandzic (5 kills) and Franklin Zoloto (4 kills) also chipped in on offense. Shane Sullivan tallied 17 assists, and Joe Jackier had 15.

The Trevians are also senior heavy, led by Wolff, Sullivan, Lee, libero Griffin Firmin, and middles Zoloto, Zach Yulish and Hudson Nachtwey.

They began the season 8-0 but have now gone 4-6 since — three of those losses coming in a single day (April 20) in a tournament at Downers Grove South.

Haak said injuries have been a factor but New Trier is healthy again and “on the cusp of turning the corner.”

“I’m not sure if we believed we could win at the end (against Loyola),” she said. “I think that is a falsehood, because we’re a really good team. We believe in them. We’ll bounce back.

She added, “We definitely have a lot of guys that can enter the lineup and do well. We’re still tweaking it. … Our middles are super strong. We weren’t able to use them well in the second and third sets, but I’d put them against anyone else’s middles.”

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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