Senior libero Danny Moran and his Oak Park and River Forest High School boys volleyball teammates were grateful to reach the state tournament quarterfinals for the third year in a row.
In 2021, the Huskies lost their first state match in two sets. Last season, they lost the match in a tough three-setter.
Not this time.
The Huskies won their opener June 2 to guarantee a top-four trophy. Then they rallied to win their final match the following day 25-27, 25-16, 25-18 over O’Fallon to take third place and finish a winner at Hoffman Estates.
“It’s very meaningful to us. We all wanted to put it on the line today,” Moran said. “It’s great to even make it past the [quarterfinals] and now third place. It was great for all of us, very emotional as a team, especially the last game. We’re all going to miss this season.”
The Huskies (23-7) earned their first trophy since taking fourth in 2019 and their highest finish since their last previous trophy for third in 2005.
They beat Whitney Young 25-20, 25-20 in the quarterfinals before losing to state champion Glenbard West 29-27, 25-16 in the semifinals.
Seniors Peter Zurawski, Ryan Montroy, Roan Doody, Saddiq Muhammed, Jonathan Brown, Ralph Bennet and Moran, along with juniors Quinn Bozarth, Danny McNeilly, Lincoln Beecroft and Garrett Lundgren and Ben Naber saw action in the state matches.
With Glenbard West (40-2) beating Lyons Township (35-7) in the championship, the West Suburban Conference’s Silver Division had all three top state finishers.
“It’s something we always shoot for. We won the first match handily, we fought [Glenbard West] really hard,” OPRF coach Justin Cousin said.
“You could tell they really wanted it and then just the proof in the pudding was when they came back in that third-place match. They really showed they wanted to be top three in state. Kudos to the boys for how hard they worked this season and how they worked together as a team.”
Zurawski (15 kills, 8 digs), Montroy (12 kills), Moran (11 digs), Bozarth (37 assists), McNeilly (8 kills) and Doody (5 kills, 2 blocks) helped OPRF rally past O’Fallon (31-8) after not converting two set points in the first set. Brown served for four straight points and a 16-11 lead in the third set. Zurowski’s ace opened a 19-12 lead.
“After we lost to Glenbard West, the worst we could do was get fourth. It’s still very big and a great accomplishment. We just had to get third,” Montroy said. “We were always very confident, very early on in the year. We had this vision that we’d come very far at state.”
Zurawski (236 kills), Montroy (232 kills), Moran (251 digs), Bozarth (594 assists) and Doody (42 blocks) were stats leaders this season.
Zurawski and Moran were varsity regulars in 2021. At that time, Zurawski was the setter.
“I feel like this was our time to come out and shine. We really put the work in. We knew what we could do,” Zurawski said. “We knew what we needed to do. I have experience playing here. I thought we played a really high level game.”
Zurawski has continued as setter with his 630 club team and will at Ball State University, but he switched to hitter with the emergence of Bozarth’s setting talents. Many Huskies are 630 club teammates.
“All of these guys I’ve known since seventh, eighth grade. They’ve all kind of brought me to where I am today,” Bozarth said. “We’ve been playing grass, beach, wherever we can.”
Moments after hoisting the trophy, the Huskies went to the crowd and gave it momentarily to 2022 graduate A.J. Robateau, a starter for last year’s team who has attended several matches.
“He set the foundation for what it means to work hard and want something. He was a leader by example and by his voice. He feels like family,” Cousin said. “This group is really special. They recognize and appreciate all that has come before them.”