OPRF senior Solli Algozino tips the ball against Riverside-Brookfield on April 30. The Huskies defeated the Bulldogs 25-18, 25-19 in the non-conference matchup. (Max Herman/Contributing Photographer)

While the Oak Park and River Forest and Riverside-Brookfield High School boys volleyball teams endured sluggish starts this season, both teams have showed signs of life in recent weeks. The two area rivals met April 30 for their annual meeting, which is always one of the most fun matches for both squads each spring.

The host Huskies defeated RBHS 25-18, 25-19 in the non-conference matchup. With the opening game already secured, OPRF pulled away from the Bulldogs in the second game with a six-point run to build a 20-12 advantage en route to victory.

OPRF senior outside hitter Blake Mrozek had nine kills and seven digs and senior setter Eric Hameister finished with 23 assists. Solli Algozino contributed seven kills and four digs for the Huskies, who improved to 7-14. Although they lost 9 of 10 matches to open the season, the Huskies were missing several key contributors for assorted reasons. Now at full strength, the Huskies are headed in the right direction.

“We played well today,” Mrozek said after the win against RBHS. “I think we started a little bit slow, but we picked it up later in each game. In the second game, we dropped off on our intensity but we picked it back up late to finish strong.

“Throughout the season, we’ve had great chemistry as a team. We have a lot of fun together and I think that’s starting to show when we play. We just need to polish up a little bit. I think the work we put in during practice will help us get better in games.”

Junior Maclean Nolan led RBHS with nine assists and four blocks. Senior outside hitter Bobby Peugh finished with four kills and four digs, while sophomore libero/defensive specialist Zach Georgopolous had nine digs.

“We had great passing,” Nolan said. “Zach Georgopolis has just been great lately. Toward the end we took some strong swings, but we needed to do that the entire game.”

The Bulldogs (7-18), who lost 10 of 12 matches in the first half of the season, struggled as well at the Hersey Invite over the weekend. RBHS went 1-4 on Saturday, with their lone win a 25-18, 25-16 decision over Conant. Nolan (six kills, five blocks) and Mike Torres (three kills, two blocks) led the way.

While the Bulldogs have shown flashes of good play, they clearly remain clearly a work in progress.

“I don’t think we’re taking it seriously enough,” Nolan said. “Our heads just aren’t there sometimes. We need to get more mentally prepared.”

The Huskies are optimistic about the remainder of the season, particularly after their solid sweep of the Bulldogs.

“Beating R-B is definitely a confidence booster,” Mrozek said. “If we just keep a positive mentality and intensity then we’ll finish off the season pretty well. We just need to keep up the intensity and teamwork.”

OPRF hosts Brother Rice on Thursday (5/7) at 5:30 p.m. The Huskies will also take part in the Glenbrook North Invite this weekend.

RBHS travels to Chicago to take on Payton Wednesday (5/6) at 5:30 p.m.

“The goal is to end the season on a positive note,” Nolan said. “Things are starting to pick up a bit and our passing has gotten a lot better. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our minds in it and finish the season strong.”

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