Zion-Benton has beaten the rest, and lost to the best this season. The trend held true Monday as the Bees (12-7 overall, 5-1 North Suburban) were hitting on all cylinders against an Antioch team that has beaten only Rockford Guilford in the first five weeks of the season.
THE TURNING POINT
Antioch never led, and the match was tied just once, at 1-1 in Game 2. Zion scored the first six points and the last nine points in Game 1 and was set up well by the service game of Dillon Appenzeller, who served 14 of those 15 points. After the red-hot start for the Bees, the Sequoits never got closer than five points in Game 1. Kyle Fitzgerald had a six-point service run in Game 2 in which Antioch muffed the return on four straight points.
Zion-Benton junior Scott Opeka (22 assists) has grown into the setter role and looked extremely comfortable distributing the ball to the Bees’ big hitters. The two biggest beneficiaries Monday were Kyle Fitzgerald (seve kills) and Zac McKelvy (five kills).
BY THE NUMBERS
Forty-five minutes was the total length of the match. The Bees looked relaxed and executed well. They have league-leader Lake Zurich on Wednesday and perennial power Vernon Hills next week. Antioch started four sophomores plus freshman Nathan Cielek in the middle, and played without one of their best hitters, Troy Mayer, who is out with a broken nose.
“We’re definitely on a positive track. Our setter, Scott Opeka, is getting better every day, and he’s making connections now with more than just one hitter. That’s been Kyle Fitzgerald for much of the season, but you saw tonight that we were able to move the ball around. If we want to go anywhere in the postseason, it’s going to have to be multiple guys getting the job done.” — Zion coach Jacob Carlson
“The amount of practice time I’ve put in with all of these guys has made a big difference. Every day, we’re in the gym after school working. It helps a ton. I’m only a junior, so the idea that this is about more than just the next few weeks adds into it. The more work I put in with the hitters, the more in sync we become. It’s a huge help to have a lot of guys who can really hit it. As a setter, you can put guys into position, but they’re the ones who get the kills.” — Scott Opeka
“We’re young, really young. We have two guys who play club, and they’re both sophomores, so they’re still learning the game. There’s so much to learn. I love winning, and of course they want to win. I want that for them, but I am seeing the little things we work on in practice showing up in the games. I don’t know when it’s all going to click together, but I hope for them it’s soon. They’re a great bunch of kids. They work hard, and they want to learn. They’re the ones who want to stay and watch film and ask questions. They want to get better, and that helps make it fun for me.” — Antioch coach Jamie Atkinson