In a season characterized by broken records, stellar performances and high playoff hopes, the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys volleyball team continues their hunt for a state championship.
The Bulldogs (29-8) take on area rival Lyons Township Friday, May 26 (past deadline) in a semifinal of the De La Salle Sectional.
With such lofty expectations, it’s a given the Bulldogs needed a leader this season. That role has been filled in admirably by senior outside hitter Erik Hartwig. Although Hartwig is loath to brag about his mélange of accomplishments, the numbers are undeniable.
Hartwig, who will play volleyball at Mount Mercy University in the fall, holds the RBHS single-season record for kills with 341 this season, surpassing Maclean Nolan’s 2016 total of 320. Additionally, Hartwig’s three-year varsity run has allowed him to attain the Bulldogs’ career kills record with 701.
Like most athletes, Hartwig’s journey has had a few bumps along the way. The adjustment from lower level volleyball to varsity was substantial.
The key to Hartwig’s success has been his determination.
“Erik really fits the profile of what we push, as a coaching staff, which is hard work and effort,” RBHS coach Dan Bonarigo said. “He leads by example. He works hard and does what we ask. He chases every ball down and dives on the floor if that’s what it takes.”
Hartwig’s versatility has enabled Bonarigo to use him at several positions. Hartwig kicked off his varsity career as a right side force during his sophomore year. He served as an outside hitter last year and has flourished as a middle hitter this season.
Bonarigo praised Hartwig for his unique ability to be a prominent hitter for three consecutive seasons.
Although he’s just 6-0, Hartwig is extremely athletic with a background in gymnastics and soccer.
“Erik plays like he’s a lot bigger (than his height) because he jumps so well,” Bonarigo said. “He’s just really athletic and extremely quick.”
Some of Hartwig’s ability comes from genetics. His father, Tom, who played club volleyball at Illinois State University, introduced him to the sport.
Hartwig was a quick study.
“My dad really enjoyed the sport and he passed it along to me,” Hartwig said.
Playing club volleyball before high school gave Hartwig an early edge over his opponents.
Hartwig also credits the RBHS volleyball coaching staff for accelerating his love and knowledge of volleyball.
“The coaching has made a huge difference,” Hartwig said. “Coach (Bonarigo) is very demanding of our team. He makes sure we meet a high standard.”