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Although the OPRF boys volleyball team is off to a rather rough 6-6 record this season, head coach Don August has reason to be optimistic. His Huskies, who have been plagued with injuries, are a work-first, relax-later group.
"I like our ability to outwork other teams," August said. "I really like the effort and intensity of this group. When we play with so much hustle and energy, the execution on the court will come because we have the talent to do it."
Actually, the Huskies have been missing a few valuable pieces. Six-foot outside hitter Ryan Ebersole has been out since the third game of the year due to an ankle sprain. Five-10 setter Ben Miller has also been missing in action due to participation in an exchange student program which has led to him spending time in Italy. Senior Jared Bernard just recently returned from a pair of sprained ankles.
"Considering we didn't have Jared and Ben in our first two matches, I thought we looked pretty solid all-around," August said. "[Then] Ryan went down with an injury so we've been missing some key guys ostensibly all season. I'm optimistic that we will have a return to full health within the next couple of weeks."
Along with the considerable impact of Ebersole, Miller and Bernard, the senior-laden Huskies feature several other skilled players. Setter Levi Algozino, middle hitter Elliot Mertz, middle hitter Owen Sorenson, middle hitter John Martin, hitter Sam Rolfes and libero John Callahan have all performed well for the relatively short-handed Huskies.
"Levi is a great setter and effective hitter as well," August said. "With Ryan out, Sam is a lead hitter and top blocker for us. Elliot is a good jumper with a fast swing. Owen offers us some size in the middle. We're a bit undersized compared to some other teams, but I like the group of players we have."
Henrique Menezes, Brian Rains, James Dooley, Adam Brady, Andrew Wierdak, David Hancock and Alex Pohlman fill out the varsity roster.
Last year, OPRF finished 25-13 and won a regional championship before bowing out of the playoffs via a loss to St. Rita in sectional play.
Over the weekend, the Huskies went 2-3 at the loaded Wheaton-Warrenville South Tournament. OPRF defeated Andrew 25-17, 25-23 as Rolfes (11 kills) and Algozino (7 kills) paced the attack.
In their signature win of the tournament, the Huskies earned a measure of revenge for last year's postseason dismissal by sweeping St. Rita 25-21, 25-23. Algozino and Bernard had six kills apiece, while Mertz and Martin added five kills each.
"Beating St. Rita was big because we could very well see them in the playoffs," August said. "I really like our chances once we get healthier and deeper into the season."
Within conference, August feels the Huskies should be in the thick of the race.
"It's a little early to tell because some teams don't play too many matches before spring break," August said. "Downers Grove North looks tough and LT had a good win [over Stevenson]. I think we're also right there."