Fenwick High School boys volleyball player Aidan Butler sets up a teammate against Nazareth Academy in a non-conference match March 23. Butler had 23 assists in the Friars' 25-14, 25-14 victory. | Carol Dunning

The Fenwick High School boys volleyball team is off to a 2-1 start in 2023 after victories last week at DePaul Prep and at home against Nazareth Academy (25-14, 25-14), falling March 27 at Lane Tech in three sets.

At DePaul, senior Caleb Groll had 14 kills, senior Aidan Butler 22 assists, senior Charlie DiFranco 11 digs, and senior Dario Santoy two blocks.

Against Nazareth, Butler had 23 assists, Groll 15 kills, and sophomore Will Griswold four aces. At Lane, Groll had 18 kills and Butler 23 assists.

With 10 returnees, all seniors, Fenwick coach Kate Whitman likes what she has seen so far.

“Our strength is definitely our experience,” she said. “With so many returning seniors, we’ve got great leadership for our young players. The experience of my two captains, Butler and Groll, will drive our success this year.”

Groll, an outside hitter who will continue his career collegiately at Lindenwood University next year, was named the 2022 Chicago Catholic League White Division Player of the Year and was also the co-Lawless Player of the Year. He had 219 kills, 23 aces, 16 blocks, and 99 digs.

Butler, a setter, also made the CCL All-White Division team. He recorded 92 digs, 14 blocks, 20 aces and 27 kills in 2022.

DiFranco (41 digs in 2022) and classmates James Dubanowich (40 kills, 6 blocks), Daniel Hardy (25 kills, 7 aces, 51 digs) Frank LaMantia (29 digs), Santoy, and Gabe Tafolla (8 aces, 10 blocks) supply Fenwick with depth, while Griswold saw valuable playing time last year.

Notable scheduling highlights for the Friars are non-conference matches with Chicago Latin, Loyola Academy, Niles Notre Dame, and St. Rita along with the Brother Rice Tournament April 21-22. 

Whitman believes St. Ignatius is the team to beat in the CCL White. Fenwick plays the Wolfpack twice this spring, May 2 for Senior Night and May 17 at Ignatius.

“We are always geared up for games against St. Ignatius,” Whitman said.

The Friars, who finished 11-12 last year, want to win the conference and get a top-three seed in the IHSA sectional tournament. Whitman is optimistic about those things occurring. 

“If we can stay healthy and focused for the entire season and really come together as a team, I’m confident that we’ll reach those goals,” she said.

OPRF takes Oswego Invite title

The Oak Park and River Forest High School boys volleyball team is off to a 5-0 start this year after winning the Oswego Invitational March 25 in convincing fashion. 

In the morning session, the Huskies rolled past St. Patrick 25-15, 25-12 and Glenbard South 25-13, 25-22.

After defeating Rockton Hononegah 25-18, 25-16 in the semifinals, OPRF was pushed to three sets for the first time this season in the title match against Geneva. The Huskies dropped the opening set 19-25, but rallied to win the next two 25-17, 25-9.

Add in a season-opening 25-14, 25-16 victory at Morton on March 20, and coach Justin Cousin couldn’t be more pleased with OPRF’s start.

“I’m very impressed with this team’s ability to bounce back,” he said.

The Huskies’ early success is taking place despite of going through a bit of a rebuild. OPRF lost four key players from last year’s 25-9 state quarterfinalists to graduation. In their place is a junior class that, while having talent, is largely lacking experience. 

But the Huskies have a few returnees, including captain and senior Peter Zurawski, a Ball State University recruit who amassed 34 aces, 80 kills, 557 assists and 108 digs in 2022.

Juniors Quinn Borzarth (83 kills, 25 blocks, 92 assists, 31 digs) and Danny McNeilly (62 kills, 11 blocks, 16 digs) also return. A pair of junior newcomers, Roan Doody and Ben Naber, look to make an impact this spring.

Juniors Lincoln Beecroft, Mateo Garcia and Garrett Lundgren along with seniors Ralph Bennet, Jonathan Brown, Ryan Montroy, Danny Moran, and Saadiq Muhammed round out the roster.

“There are many juniors that will gain experience and motivate the returning players,” Cousin said.

Non-conference scheduling highlights for the Huskies include home matches with Riverside-Brookfield and Whitney Young, a road match at Loyola Academy, and invitationals at Downers Grove South and Glenbrook North. Glenbard West and Hinsdale Central are the top teams in the West Suburban Conference’s Silver Division.

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