Looking for a new sport as a junior, Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Sebastian Ciszewski took the suggestion of 2022 graduate Michael Burns and tried boys volleyball for the first time.
Playing club volleyball following that high school season, Ciszewski has improved from 6-foot-5 potential all the way to MVP of the Metro Suburban Conference and will continue to play for Division III Aurora University. And he just might see Burns, who plays for Concordia.
“When I first started, I had no clue what I was doing for the most part. I was just kind of jumping and hitting the ball as hard as I could,” said Ciszewski, who plays club for 630 Volleyball.
Ciszewski was among the key contributors to the Bulldogs winning their first conference title ever with the 25-20, 27-25 victory May 16 at co-leader St. Francis in the winner-take-all showdown for the MSC crown.
RBHS, however, couldn’t replicate the feat upon its return May 23. The Bulldogs lost to the Spartans 25-17, 22-25, 25-14 on their home court in the St. Francis Regional semifinals.
Seniors Iggy Bielobradek (7 kills, 5 digs, 5 service points, 16 serve receptions), Landon Harazin (14 assists, 10 digs, 4 points), Thomas Dixon (14 serve receptions) and Ciszewski (6 kills, 3 blocks, 5 points) and juniors Liam Reilley (10 digs, 2 aces, 19 serve receptions), Sam Shelven (3 kills) and Angel Herrera (4 blocks, 2 kills) led the Bulldogs (23-14), the No. 12 seed in the Oswego Sectional.
“I do think it was a revenge match for them. They wanted to beat us because we beat them at their home on Senior Night,” Ciszewski said. “The first time we played them, we came in as underdogs, wanting to show we’re a better team. The second time, I think there was a little bit of too much confidence. Maybe we came in there a little bit cocky and beat ourselves.”
RBHS won the first meeting behind defense — 10 blocks for points and 36 digs — despite a .134 attack percentage. That dropped to .083 in the regional with five blocks and 34 digs even with an additional set.
No. 5 St. Francis also reduced attack and service errors from the first meeting. The Spartans lost to No. 4 Hinsdale Central in last week’s regional final.
“[In the regional] we made some unforced errors in critical spots that gave them some big runs,” RBHS coach Dan Bonarigo said. “We found ourselves in big deficits in sets one and three, and it’s hard to come back from those.”
Bielobradek, Harazin, Reilley and Dixon also earned All-MSC honors.
Ciszewski had team highs of 204 kills with a .381 attack percentage and 92 total blocks. Other category leaders were Harazin (573 assists), Reilley (208 digs and 412 service receptions) and Harazin and senior Ricardo Ulloa (20 aces each).
The Bulldogs won 20 matches for the first time since 2019. Their 25-17, 25-18 victory over Addison Trail on May 12 was the 300th coaching victory for Bonarigo, who started in 2008.
“You look at kind of 20 wins as a mark of a successful season,” Bonarigo said. “We dropped some matches I don’t think we should have dropped. I’m very pleased with the level of teams we were able to compete with.”