The OPRF boys volleyball team was relatively young last season, which led to a sluggish start but a successful finish. With another year under their belts – not to mention an off-season of club ball for many members – the Huskies would no doubt like to continue where last season left off and return to the Elite Eight.
Racked by six-straight losses in March last year, the Huskies managed to claw their way back into contention, eventually winning regional and sectional titles before falling to Buffalo Grove in the quarterfinals of the IHSA State Tournament. Head coach Don August is convinced that his returning starters are prepared to keep things on an even keel this season.
“It took us some time to get going last season, but we ended up in the top eight in the state and that certainly says something. We’re going to build on that success this season,” he said. “Coupled with confidence and experience this time around, I don’t foresee us having the early season troubles we ran into last year. I think we’ll be solid throughout the season.”
Five starters return from last season’s 17-22 team. Tim Schmidt heads up the cast. The 6-foot-2 junior setter tallied 32 aces and 33 blocks last season. Others returning include outside hitters Mark Brady and Ben Rains, and right side hitter Sam Hines and middle hitter Ben Keller. Brady, 6-4, led the Huskies in kills last season with 219, while Hines finished with 100 digs.
Along with the five starters returning, Eli Easty, Marty Finnegan and John Murray will be relied upon greatly this season, according to August.
“We lack somewhat that real athletic and tall player like we had last year in Charlie Kahn, so it will take some teamwork by these guys to make up for that,” he said.
Easty (6-foot) will anchor the defense at libero, while Finnegan (6-5), a three-sport athlete, spends time at middle hitter alongside Murray (6-6).
August also hopes to make use of Justin Cousins, a 6-foot junior who has “tremendous potential.”
“Justin just unloads on the ball,” said August. “He’s a powerful young man, and we just need to work on his vertical jump and his quickness a little more.”
With the talent they have returning, the Huskies should be in contention for the West Suburban (Silver) Conference title. The usual suspects are likely to stand in their way in Lyons Township, Downers Grove North and Hinsdale Central, though the Red Devils are undergoing a rebuilding year.
“I’m casually optimistic about us having a solid conference run this season,” said August, “But I’m very optimistic about doing well again in the regional and the sectional.”
The Huskies begin the season at Addison Trail on Monday, March 23, and host Schurz in their home opener the following evening (6 p.m.). The team begins conference play at Downers Grove North on April 14.