Peter Zuarawski attacks the ball at the net during OPRF's 2-0 win against Leyden in May 12. (Shanel Romain/Contributor)

The Oak Park and River Forest High School boys volleyball team entered its non-conference home contest versus Leyden Township on May 12 having dropped three of four matches.

The Huskies also were shorthanded as nine players were missing due to injury and COVID-19. Despite this, they were able to roll to a much-needed two-set victory over the Eagles 25-20, 25-12.

“It’s really good to win a match handily, especially heading into the state playoffs,” said OPRF coach Justin Cousin. “Matches like this help us work on things we need to work on.”

Cousin was also happy to regain the services of senior captain A.J. Robateau, who had missed the previous two weeks. Robateau made an immediate impact for the Huskies (20-8) against Leyden with five kills, five blocks and four aces.

“We need A.J. He’s huge,” Cousin said. “A.J.’s serving helps us and he’s a fear factor for the other team.”

Robateau, a 6-foot-7 middle blocker who will play next year at Maryville University in St. Louis, was thrilled to return to the court.

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“It’s great to be back. I really enjoy playing volleyball and it was hard being away,” he said. “I want to keep myself healthy so I can play consistently.”

OPRF had other standouts against the Eagles, including Daniel Scholvin (4 kills, 3 digs); Peter Zurawski (3 kills, 2 aces, 3 blocks, 6 digs); Kevin Bullens (3 kills, 3 blocks, 10 assists); and Daniel Moran (7 digs).

The Huskies are the top seed at the upcoming IHSA Chicago Wolcott Sectional, which begins next week, and will be a heavy favorite to make a return to the state quarterfinals. But Cousin isn’t taking anything for granted.

“We just need to stay consistent and make good passes and serves,” he said. “We also need to hit the ball well into deep corners.”

The expected return of several OPRF players, including senior middle hitter Camari Bolger, will supply much-needed depth. And Cousin also feels last year’s experience, which saw the Huskies reach the state quarterfinals, will prove helpful. 

“We’re going to try to build off of that,” he said.

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