Good things happen for Neuqua Valley when the volleyball is in Aaron Lauth’s hands.
Give him options, all the better.
The Wildcats’ sound ball control allowed their senior setter to run a varied offense Monday night, and the result was a 25-16, 25-22 win over West Aurora in first-round action at the Neuqua Valley Regional.
Waubonsie Valley won the night’s second scheduled match by forfeit over Montini.
Austin Neace, a 6-4 junior outside hitter, put down 12 kills, Connor Hounsell eight and middle Brian McKissick had six kills and four blocks for Neuqua, which advances to play sectional top seed Naperville Central Tuesday.
“The passing was on point,” said Lauth, who had 30 assists. “That enabled me to run the offense like I did.”
That accurate ball control hasn’t always been the case this season for Neuqua, which lost its entire starting lineup from a year ago.
“Our weakness has been our serve receive. Our passing has just not been there,” Neuqua coach Roderich Mendoza admitted. “We’ll go through stretches of games where we will pass really well because we can put the ball down, but when Aaron is setting the ball from the 10-foot line, we really don’t have too many options. [Monday] we passed really well and freed up some space on the outside.”
Tied at 9-9 in the first game, Neuqua grabbed control with a 6-1 run. Neace and Hounsell put down kills, Hounsell had a kill blocked out of bounds and Devin Furio served an ace.
West Aurora led the second game 11-10, but Neace tied it with a ferocious back-row kill. West Aurora hit a ball long and Hounsell dropped in an ace that clipped the net.
West Aurora kept things relatively close behind the work of 6-4 sophomore Justin Reynolds, but too many of those were negated by untimely errors.
“I really felt like we were sloppy,” West Aurora coach Tolis Koskinaris said.
“Neuqua came out and served aggressively, but they made some serving mistakes too [that] we really should have taken advantage of and we didn’t. It’s really how this season has gone. I feel like we’ve left some matches on the table. I feel we left this one too.”
Reynolds, who had eight kills and an ace, will be back for the Blackhawks next spring. He was one of six sophomores to suit up this spring. Also returning will be 6-6 freshman Thomas Kovanic.
“So we’ll be back,” Koskinaris said, “but it would have been nice to win a regional game going into the offseason.”
Lauth looks forward to a meeting with a Naperville Central team he’s quite familiar with.
“We have a big challenge coming up,” Lauth said. “They’re a really good team, we know them from club, it will be interesting to go out and play against some of our friends.”