Lincoln-Way Central’s Kyle Nilson received an unexpected message from teammate Erik LeBeau over spring break.
“I got a text from Erik saying he was hurt and to get ready to play,” said Nilson, noting LeBeau broke his toe playing sand volleyball. “It was definitely unexpected, but I was excited about the opportunity.”
Thrust into a starting role on the outside, Nilson is showing his worth. The junior posted a match-high eight kills Tuesday night at Stagg in a 25-22, 25-21 SouthWest Suburban victory.
Central coach Brian Danielson said Nilson has been among the team leaders in kills since entering the lineup.
“It was a little bit of a shock not playing at least right side to start the season,” Nilson said, “but hustling in practice and making up for it with hard work, it’s still been a good season.”
Adam Sargis contributed five kills, Mike Kulinski doled out 20 assists and Connor Hipelius had four kills and a block for Central (22-10, 4-3).
Hipelius, a three-time All-Tournament selection this season, did most of his damage in a fast-paced first set that featured nine lead changes, the last of which gave Lincoln-Way Central a 22-21 advantage it would never relinquish on a kill from Kyle Trost.
Trevor Crain paced Stagg (12-14, 2-6) with seven kills, Kamil Krzysiak had six, Tom Matonis posted four kills and four blocks and Sean Runyon had eight digs.
“We need to keep running our middles,” Runyon said. “Our middles weren’t very involved and neither was our right side, Tre Velasco, until later in the second set. He’s a big part of our offense.”
Runyon, one of the top liberos in the Southland, needs “eight or nine” digs per contest to equal his school-record of 317 digs from last season.
“I’m hoping for a few more three-set matches,” Runyon said.
In the second set, Crain cut Central’s lead 15-14 when he went off a blocker, but the Knights responded with a kill from Trost and a kill and ace from Nilson.
Central’s Neal Brown, who sat out the Knights’ last contest due to an injury, came off the bench and essentially iced the game with a kill and block on consecutive plays for a 24-20 lead.
“He’s a gamer,” Danielson said. “Neal always wants to be out there.”