ST. CHARLES – Click and count. Click and count. As St. Charles North boys volleyball players perused the online rosters of this weekend’s IHSA state quarterfinalists, they fell into an enjoyable sequence and heartening discovery.
No other team at the state tournament at Hoffman Estates boasts as many seniors as the North Stars, who feature a dozen 12th-graders and two juniors.
Oak Park-River Forest, the North Stars’ opponent in a quarterfinal at 6 p.m. today, is one of two teams with nine seniors, the next-highest total. At Tuesday’s sectional final, Lake Park had just one, a statistic North partially credits for its debut state berth.
“It’s not the reason we won, but I think it definitely helps,” senior libero Ryan Dal Degan said. “Little situations – where other teams are getting on runs or we’re not doing things we need to do – we can just kind of relax, you know, look at each other. Figure out what we need to do together since we’ve been playing together for so long.
“Stuff just clicks easy with us.”
North (30-6) aspires to have a few more senior moments in the next two days.
Naturally, there’s the swan song sentiment that goes with those wishes, but the Upstate Eight Conference River Division champs also can back themselves up with results.
The North Stars captured early-season invitational titles at West Aurora and Marian Catholic, building steam for a feat many players tabbed as their then-career highlight in the senior night program.
Playing April 15 at perennial power St. Francis, North rallied from a 22-25 loss in Game 1 to never trail in the final two games, winning, 25-20 and 25-23.
North’s first victory against the Spartans in coach Todd Weimer’s four seasons promptly sent players shouting – even hoarse outside hitter Jonathan Orech, who collected 11 kills, 12 digs and four blocks despite the flu.
The accomplishments and wins haven’t stopped.
“We’ve been here for four years and we finally can show something for everyone. Like how long we’ve worked for four years on practice every day,” senior setter Pat Misiewicz said. “We can show what we’ve got. It’s finally here. It’s good. Finish it off.”
Dal Degan and defensive specialist Jimmy Vainisi represent the “old guard” of the senior group, having played together for three varsity seasons. The pair teamed up at St. Patrick in St. Charles before that. Dal Degan, Orech and middle hitter Zach Ziesmer serve as captains.
Indonesian exchange student Arry Rizky is the newbie, though he has played the sport for five years.
Several North Stars are teammates at Batavia-based Club Fusion South during club season. Those experiences coupled with matches each spring contribute to the North Stars’ comfort and confidence.
Right-side hitter Jack Harbaugh, one of a handful of seniors in his first full varsity season, recalls feeling no angst once the year began.
“Playing in the program for four years, we knew Weimer’s very dedicated. He’ll go to all the teams. He’ll kind of help out and guide,” Harbaugh said. “So we’re very familiar with him. We’re very familiar with all the players.”
Misiewicz found a similar camaraderie on a recent visit to NAIA Clark University in Dubuque, Iowa, where he committed last week.
His rationale for choosing Clark sounded about right.
“It was a bond. It was nice,” Misiewicz said. “I liked that they were cool dudes, and I wanted to be there.”
North won’t be in a mood to simply hang out once it reaches Hoffman Estates. While the North Stars have 12 seniors, OPRF (20-18) leads the state field with 12 all-time tournament appearances.
“We’re really excited. We really relish this opportunity,” Dal Degan said. “I’ve been talking with some of the guys and talking about did we think we’d be here at the end of the year. I don’t think anyone envisioned us having so much success, but we definitely feel like we can play with anybody in these last eight teams.”