VOLLEYBALL — Sandburg’s Kevin Groeper knows what it’s like to have a bull’s-eye on his back.
“Everyone is out to get us,” the 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter said. “Everyone is playing their hardest. We couldn’t let that affect us. We just had to go out there and play our game and hopefully get the best outcome we could.”
New Trier tried to get the best of Sandburg Friday during the final quarterfinal match of the boys volleyball state tournament at Hoffman Estates. But Groeper and Co. took the Trevians’ best shot and woon two more matches to capture the state championship on Saturday.
Groeper had 14 kills, eight digs and two aces, Bill Siroky added three kills and four blocks and Scott Fifer added 28 assists and two aces as Sandburg (37-3) defeated New Trier 23-25, 25-18, 25-21.
Groeper toed the service line with the teams knotted at 12 apiece in Game 3. By the time his final serve drilled the net, Sandburg led 18-12. His previous serve had found nothing but floor.
“I just wasn’t happy with our lead so I just wanted to get rolling with my serves,” Groeper said. “I was just hoping to mess up their offense so we could predict where they would set the ball and it really helped us to set a nice block.”
Sandburg utilized its size and blocking ability in Game 2 to grab the momentum after New Trier closed out Game 1 on a kill by Bennett Wakenight. The Eagles, who were credited with 11 team blocks, built a quick 14-8 lead by throwing up a wall at the net.
Groeper’s kill extended the lead to 22-13, setting the stage for his heroics in Game 3.
Andrew Gates led New Trier (32-7) with 10 kills, and Wakenight and Alex Cook each had eight kills. Eric Kerr added 22 assists and Jesse Solomon added registered assists and six kills.
“Looking back it that last game and that service run that they had, it was just them being consistent,” Wakenight said. “They got the ball to their strong people and their big hitters and we just couldn’t connect defensively or offensively for that matter.”
Tommy Carmody had eight kills and Jason Fox contributed seven kills for Sandburg, which celebrated its third win over New Trier this season. But this one was a little different than the first two, Groeper said.
“There was a lot more on the line,” he said.