Boys Volleyball: West Aurora’s Season Ends In Thriller Against Downers South

Downers South lines up before its regional semifinal against West Aurora

West Aurora wasn’t going to end its season without a fight.

The Blackhawks fought off three match points in the second game of their regional semifinal match against Downers Grove South, but it wasn’t enough.

On the Blackhawks fourth attempt at extending their season, middle hitter James McGrath’s block attempt landed out off bounds, giving the Mustangs a 29-27 Game 2 victory.

Downers South, the No. 7 seed in the Wheaton Warrenville South sectional, won the match 25-22, 29-27 and will face second-seeded Glenbard East Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the West Aurora regional final.

“The boys were resilient. They were going to work on every point, there was no doubt about it,” West Aurora coach Tolis Koskinaris said. “In the end, Downers South was just a little bit tougher at the net than us tonight. It was a close match, it came down to a couple blocks and they did a better job than we did.”

The 11th-seeded Blackhawks dropped a back-and-forth first game that featured 14 ties and four lead changes. After his team fell behind 22-20, Downers South coach Kurt Steuer called a timeout to regroup. The Mustangs responded by winning the next five points and the game.

The Blackhawks made four errors in the final five points of the first game, and they carried over that sluggish play into the second game. The Blackhawks fell behind 9-5, but they were able to recover and stage a comeback. After getting within one point seven different times, the Blackhawks finally tied the game at 21-21. Nine points later, West Aurora took its first and only lead of the game, 26-25, on a kill by outside hitter Eric Roggeman.

However, Downers South (25-10) sophomore Mike Schmitt stole the show from that point forward. The outside hitter had three kills during the final five points of the match as the Mustangs clinched a regional semifinal victory.

“He’s stepped in and done some nice things on the outside for us,” Steuer said. “He’s proven himself to these guys, as young as he is. He’s done some big things, and we’re happy with what we’ve seen from him.”

Roggeman and outside hitter David Vasquez each had eight kills to lead the Blackhawks. McGrath added five kills and two blocks.

West Aurora finishes its season with 23 wins and 13 losses. The Blackhawks won two tournaments and set a school record for regular season wins with 22.

“I’m proud of the guys, they had a good run. Good season. We accomplished a lot of things,” Koskinaris said. “Tonight, it was two points, they were just a little bit better than us. I believe they felt they could have won this match.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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