Lyons Township High School’s Evan Markworth digs a ball during the Lions’ hard-fought loss to Oak Park and River Forest High School on May 6 in La Grange. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys volleyball team is off to a 4-4 start to the pandemic-shortened 2021 season, with their latest victory coming in three sets at Marmion Academy (25-23, 22-25, 28-26) on May 7. 

Junior middle hitter Michael Burns led the way for RBHS with 11 kills and eight blocks in the match, while senior outside hitter Tyler Miller notched eight kills and six digs.

“We’ve definitely seen some teams that have more experience than us and we’ve been competitive with them,” coach Dan Bonarigo said. “We were competitive with teams like Brother Rice and Wheaton Academy for stretches, but would give up a run of points and that would be the difference in the match. Marmion had some great players and to pull out that exciting three-set win was great for us.”

The Bulldogs lost senior Ben Malone, who would have been one of their top hitters, to a season-ending injury during his second match, prompting the rest of the team to step up. 

Junior outside hitter Kenny Fedorski  has 28 kills and 29 digs on the season, along with Miller (24 kills, four blocks) and senior setter Ben Mulaomerovic (seven kills, 29 digs), who have been contributing consistently for the Bulldogs.

“We’ve had a few guys step into that role in Malone’s place,” said Bonarigo. “Fedorski has been playing a lot of that outside hitter position and has been playing really well in his last couple matches. Miller has been playing the outside position all season and has been doing a really nice job. Mulaomerovic is a great leader and is very smart, and he really wants to implement the offense we are asking him to run and make good decisions. He’s been a really bright spot.”

Through last week, Burns had a team-high 55 kills and 17 blocks on the year, while senior middle hitter Cruz Herrera has notched 17 kills with six digs and four blocks. Senior libero/outside hitter Jordan McDonough has a team-high 40 digs on the season to go with six assists and five aces.

“Herrera is a work horse and is always ready to play his hardest,” Bonarigo said. “Burns has been our go-to guy and one of our top hitters. When our passing has broken down at times and we haven’t been able to get him the ball, that’s where we’ve struggled. He is really a force in the net and if we can get him the ball consistently, we will really have a chance to compete with a lot of teams.” 

LTHS off to 3-5 start

In his third season as head coach of the Lyons Township High School boys volleyball team, Brad Skendzel is happy to be back working with his players and developing the program after last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of our players were lucky enough to compete in club, which allowed for them to play sooner than our current high school season,” Skendzel said.

LT’s Jack Siepman (15) serves the ball on May 6, during a varsity volleyball game against OPRF at Lyons Township High School in La Grange. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

LTHS is 3-5 this year after dropping a hard-fought match on May 6 against visiting Oak Park and River Forest 22-25, 23-25. Against the Huskies, Sam Levinson led the Lions with five kills, while Jack Siepman added three aces, six assists, and two kills. 

Siepman, a senior outside hitter/setter, has been one of LTHS’ top players so far, along with senior setter Alex Kostich, senior outside hitter Evan Markworth and junior middle blocker George Taylor. 

LT’s Jack Siepman (15), left, and Sam Levnison (8) attempt to block a spiek on May 6, during a varsity volleyball game against OPRF at Lyons Township High School in La Grange. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

The Lions hope to be a factor in the West Suburban Silver, in which Skendzel sees Downers Grove North, Glenbard West and Hinsdale Central as the top contenders. 

“I think it will be a close race with many of the teams playing close matches against one another,” said Skendzel. 

While LTHS wants compete for the conference title, the Lions are already looking at what comes after the regular season – which looks like a full IHSA state tournament.

“While it is great to be practicing and playing matches, we are looking forward to postseason competition, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to compete beyond regionals,” Skendzel said.