Since Dan Bonarigo took over in 2008 as the Riverside-Brookfield boys volleyball coach, the Bulldogs have produced markedly improved results each season. If Bonarigo and the Bulldogs continue their promising pattern of play, opponents better look out this spring.
RB turned in a historic, record setting campaign last year with a 28-11 record (highest win total in a single season in program history) along with first-ever accomplishments like a regional title and a sectional championship game appearance. The Bulldogs’ inspired postseason run ended with a 23-25, 27-29 setback against St. Rita in the aforementioned sectional final.
Individually, Elliot Louthen set school records in assists for match, single season and career with impressive totals of 33, 644, and 1,770 aces, respectively, along with his other all-time RB mark of 111 aces. Alex Dziagwa set records for blocks in a single season (61 blocks) and career (96 blocks).
While record-setters Louthen and Dziagwa and the other seniors from last season will be missed, skilled setter Rich Green leads a talented cast of returning Bulldogs intent on building off the program’s recent power surge. An excellent defender and server, Green set a record of his own- a state record for most aces (14) in a match- against Harper in a regional semifinal last year. He also served 42 points during that memorable performance.
Several other senior standouts like middle hitter Jack McCarthy, middle hitter Joe Sauer, outside hitter Brian Brown and right side hitter Kovas Kulbis are penciled in as the Bulldogs’ other leaders. Bonarigo is excited about an influx of new talent, particularly outside hitter Jack Gibson, outside/right side hitter Mitch Malloy and libero Jake Fieseler who are all juniors.
“We expect to be as competitive as we were last year,” Bonarigo said. “We want to win a second regional title and advance to another sectional championship but win [the sectional] this time.”
Although RB doesn’t compete in a conference, the Bulldogs annually play a very challenging schedule. This season’s loaded slate is no exception with tough tests against OPRF, St. Patrick, Leyden, Hinsdale South and Hinsdale Central among others.
The Bulldogs open the season at Morton on Thursday, March 22 (6 p.m.). RB will then compete that weekend in the Joliet West Tournament on Saturday, March 24.
“Our team’s strength is going to be defense [both at the net and in the backcourt] and service,” Bonarigo said. “The key to our team being successful this year will be our passing. If we can consistently pass well, I think our offense will be pretty tough.”