JOLIET – Lockport boys volleyball coach Nick Mraz likes the determination that his team has displayed to help it open the season with a 15-1 record.
In Monday’s clash of two squads who hope to contend in the local sub-sectional, the Porters showed that same type of moxie against Plainfield South as they overcame some late deficits to rally for a first-set win and then carried that momentum into a 26-24, 25-16 victory.
Lockport, which won the Marian Catholic Invite over the weekend, has won 13 in a row since suffering its lone loss to Downers Grove North at the Marist Invite on March 25. It was the second-straight loss for the Cougars (11-3), who fell to Hersey for the championship at last weekend’s St. Charles East Invite.
“This team is gritty and we’re always going to push,” Mraz said. “We were down 24-23 and have been in that position before and we pushed back. It’s tough doing that on their home floor against a very good team who has one of the better outsides in the area in Logan Nash.
“I think the reason for our success tonight was that we got a couple of early blocks on him and then he had to think a little bit about his shots and it forced him to make some decisions. Each day we tell our guys to be happy with a win, and this was a great win. But tomorrow we’re going back to work. We’re not going to get complacent or be content since our sectional is so stacked that you have to be playing your best in May. So we’ll keep working.”
In the opener, the Porters seemingly took control with a 5-0 run, which featured two blocks as well as an ace from Felipe Valladares. They still led 17-13 following a block by Patrick Surane (3.5 blocks) and an ace by Dan Provenzano (10 assists) before the hosts rallied.
A kill and a pair of aces from Nash (10 kills) pulled South to within 17-16 and then it pulled even at 19-19. From there, neither squad owned more than a one-point lead until the Porters wrapped things up by collecting the final three points.
Nash put down four late kills to give South one-point leads, but the Porters responded with a pair of kills from Justin Elliott (five kills) to pull even at 23-23 and then won the set by receiving a kill from Kyle Dixon in between a serving error and a hitting error.
“It was a really fun and competitive match and the first game was really tight,” Surane said. “In the second game, I think we got in their heads a little bit and kind of frustrated them. Our blocking was really on and we were able to shut down one of their best players. I hope that our winning streak keeps on going.”
Lockport led throughout the final set, taking a 6-3 lead following two serving errors and a kill by Anthony Pfeiffer (eight kills, seven assists) and then expanded it to 10-4 thanks to a pair of kills by Elliott. South was unable to get any closer than four points back after that.
The Cougars closed to within 14-10 on a block from Andrew Colantone (11 assists, nine digs, three blocks) but a kill by Pfeiffer kicked off a 5-0 spurt in which Timothy Behland (11 digs) served up four points, with Dixon and Pfeiffer securing half of those with kills.
“We’re very deep at every position and I feel that if we had an injury, someone could fill that role just as well,” Dixon said. “We work very well together on the court and we all get along. They’re a very good team but we were able to shut down their biggest hitter and I think that’s kind of how we pulled it out, making them work around our block. We’re doing pretty well so I think we can go pretty far. The biggest thing is that we all get along, on the court and off.”
South also got six digs from Brandon Langys and five kills apiece from Eddie Jakubauskas and Mykkel Wilke, who also added two blocks.
“Any time that you go up against a good team like this, you have to put your best effort forward,” Cougars coach Taryn Surbaugh said. “We’re struggling a little bit right now with attitude over athleticism. My seniors have to remember that even when our athleticism is failing us a little bit, we can still pull through games if we have the right attitude. Some times that escapes us so I’m just hoping that it’s a small blip on the map and not a big one.”