The Oak Park and River Forest High School boys volleyball team advanced all the way to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs last year before bowing out to St. Charles North 22-25, 26-24, 25-27 in a riveting match. This year, the Huskies believe they can make another deep postseason run.
Although OPRF finished 21-20 overall last season, the team caught fire just in time for the state playoffs. Injuries, which caused a lack of continuity, served as the Huskies' most bothersome opponent for much of last year.
"We ran into a lot of injuries early last season," OPRF coach Don August said. "It really wasn't until the last month of the season that we were all finally healthy and playing as a solid unit. It was a different type of team, but when everyone was playing together we were a very good team."
The Huskies have lost nine seniors from last year's team, but senior outside hitter David Hancock, senior middle hitter Owen Sorensen, senior right side Andrew Wierdak, senior setter Brian Rains, senior libero Alex Pohlman and middle hitter Jimmy Dooley will serve as key starters this spring.
"Pohlman is a steady, solid player," August said. "I'm pretty confident in him. Dooley has been looking really solid in the middle so far. I expect great things and big contributions from all of our returning players."
Junior middle hitter Griffin Cusick, junior outside hitter Blake Mrozek and junior outside hitter Solli Algozino also could make an impact as varsity newcomers. Junior right side Eric Hameister, junior setter Pat Shields, and junior outside hitter Lee Schalin are also expected to contribute
"These guys have really stood out in practice," August said of his new varsity players. "All of them will see significant playing time."
Per usual, the West Suburban Conference Silver Division is stacked with elite teams. August believes the Huskies can compete with any team in the conference.
"The conference is going to be very tough this year," August said. "Glenbard West looks to be pretty strong and Lyons Township is always well coached and very competitive. Downers Grove North has a lot of experience and York has improved significantly. I like our depth, especially on the left side and in the middle. I'm confident that our guys will compete."
Implementing an entirely new starting lineup, OPRF should improve as the season wears on.
"These guys are competitors and they want to play," August said. "I know they're going to give a great effort. I think we're still learning how to play the game, but we're getting better at our decision making."
The Huskies are off to an auspicious start already with three wins in five matches at the Hoffman Estates Tournament over the weekend. OPRF notched victories over Leyden, Palatine and Hoffman Estates en route to a championship match appearance. In the final, Naperville Central defeated OPRF 22-25, 25-10, 25-11.
OPRF (3-2) notched wins against Leyden, Palatine, and Hoffman Estates over the weekend in the Hoffman Estates tournament. Wierdak led OPRF with six kills while Hancock and Sorensen had three kills apiece against the tourney champion Redhawks.
The Huskies will compete in the Wheaton Warrenville South Tournament April 3 thru April 5.