Boys volleyball: Falcons reach Class M semifinals

Joel Barlow High’s Max Matejka goes up for a kill as Masuk’s Tristan McDonough and Joseph Symochko try to block during a state Class M boys volleyball quarterfinal match on Friday, June 2. Barlow won 3-0. — Rocco Paul Valluzzo photo

Its use of a rather simple strategy has worked well for the Joel Barlow High boys volleyball team so far in the postseason.

Now in the state Class M tournament, the top-seeded Falcons can attribute their success in part to each player focusing on a specific task. Together they have added up to victory.

“We’ve had a good focus during the postseason, trying to keep everything simple because as emotions get high and everything like that, everybody tries to do too much,” said Barlow head coach Chris Lovelett. “That’s why we’re really just hammering ‘do your job.’”

Such was the case when the Falcons hosted ninth-seeded Masuk in the quarterfinals. Good communication on the court also helped in a 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-12) sweep.

It marks the fourth time the Falcons have gone to the semifinals or better in as many seasons.

Holding a close 9-7 lead in the first set, Barlow he turned up the pressure with net play by Anthony Rizzo, Reed Wilkerson and Max Matejka, and it soon became a seven-point (20-13) game. Although the Falcons faulted on their serve at set point Matt Cruz’s kill sealed the win.

Barlow never trailed in the second set but Masuk remained a threat, tying things on several occasions. Finn McCaffrey’s kill put the hosts back up at 9-8 and Austin Houser’s ace made it 12-9. He later reeled off four service points in a row and Barlow was up 2-0 in games.

Rizzo and Matejka’s kills played a big part in Barlow taking a 10-2 lead in the final set. Later, Wilkerson helped to widen the gap.

“We knew that today and going forward that we we feel we have some of the best middles (hitters) around, a lot of size at the net,” said Lovelett. “When we see matchups that we like we use them.”

Following back to back kills by Rizzo that put Barlow up 22-9, Masuk answered with several blocks by Tristan McDonough. A hitting error gave the serve back to Barlow, which sealed the win on Wilkerson’s kill.

Cruz led Barlow with 10 kills. Rizzo and Wilkerson had seven apiece.

Houser had 34 assists for Barlow.

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