The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys volleyball team found out the hard way last season how fine the margin between winning and losing can be in a given year.
The Bulldogs finished 13-25 overall and lost to Hinsdale Central in a regional championship in 2015. RBHS coach Dan Bonarigo believes the Bulldogs will bounce back this season.
“We struggled to win close games last season,” Bonarigo said. “We were competitive and had a lot of games that would go into three sets, but we just couldn’t pull them out.
“I definitely think we will be on the other side of that this season. I’d love to get back to 20 wins and even more. I’m optimistic that we’re going to be back there. We’re off to a good start so far.”
RBHS returns several key players this spring including senior middle hitter Maclean Nolan, junior outside hitter Erik Hartwig, and junior libero Zach Georgopolous. Collectively, they bring talent, experience and leadership to the court for the Bulldogs
“Maclean is certainly doing very well,” Bonarigo said. “He is definitely up there with many of the top middles in the state. Time will tell on how we will be using him in the season, but we know he will be making an impact.
“Hartwig played a lot of right side last year and will be taking on a big load playing the outside positions this year. He’ll be passing a lot, playing defense, and getting a lot of sets. Georgopolous has been doing a great job at the libero position as well.”
Junior setter Peter Fergusen is another returning player with varsity experience.
“Fergusen basically has been doing all of our setting this year,” Bonarigo said. “He’s been doing a really great job.
“It’s going to be about us working really hard to be successful this year. We know we have to play hard until the end of every game.”
The Bulldogs’ hard work is paying off early this season. RBHS is 5-2 and placed seventh out of 16 teams at the Joliet West Invite.
In a 25-20, 24-26, 25-16 win over visiting Reavis on March 31, Hartwig had 10 kills and 10 digs and Nolan added eight kills, five digs and five blocks. Fergusen (26 assists, 5 digs), Georgopolous (12 digs) and middle hitter Jason Bageanis (3 kills, 5 blocks) also contributed
“We’ve gotten off to a great start,” Bonarigo said. “We’re still trying to figure out who is going to do what, but we know that anyone on our team can step up.
“We have the skill that it takes to win a lot of matches. It’s going to be about staying as a team and trusting each other. Everybody wants to win, and they’re getting into their role that they need to be in on the team.”
Angelo Hernandez, setter Gabriel Espinosa, outside hitter Arturo Lopez, right side hitter Gustavo Lopez, outside hitter Lukas Kulbis, middle hitter Trevor Reis-Evett, outside hitter Jure Zaper and right side hitter Mike Torres comprise the remainder of the roster.
The Bulldogs host Leyden at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 7. RBHS will also compete in the Waukegan Invite at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 9.