CHICAGO HEIGHTS | It was a night dedicated to the youngsters.
Homewood-Flossmoor coach Bob St. Leger was not in attendance Tuesday at Marian Catholic for his volleyball team's match with the Spartans because, earlier in the day, his wife gave birth to a son. Bob and Margaret St. Leger welcomed Benjamin Robert, all 19 inches and 7 pounds, 11 ounces of him, to the family late Tuesday morning.
"They're in love," assistant coach Rob Prohaska reported.
At Marian, similarly warm feelings are flowing for the youngest among its volleyball players. Winners of just one game last year, the Spartans improved to 4-10 this season with a 25-14, 25-17 win over H-F that featured heavy contributions from three of the four sophomores on their roster.
Temi Onayemi had five kills and three blocks, Zak Piekarski had four kills and 19 assists, and Alan Kickert four kills and 12 digs for Marian. Those contributions helped offset a quiet night for fellow sophomore Cameron Green, who entered the match leading the team with 56 kills and 36 blocks.
"That's what we were banking on this year," coach Bob Piekarski said. "They're really growing as players."
Zak Piekarski, at 6-foot-3, is five inches taller than he was as a freshman on the varsity. Kickert (6-2), who joined the varsity at the end of last season, has grown four inches since then and Onayemi (6-2) two inches.
"We've also improved our fine skills, like passing," Zak said. "But now we're average-sized varsity players. It's evened the playing field."
But, the sophomores' contributions aren't purely physical.
"On the court, we have the attitude like we know what we're doing," Kickert said. "We encourage the other guys. Zak and I have a little bit more experience than a lot of them with club ball."
In Tuesday's first set, Marian did its best work with senior Jackson Russell (5 kills, 10 service points) serving — with Kickert and Onayemi in the front row. Each had a pair of kills among Russell's seven service points in the set, both of Onayemi's coming in a five-point spurt to make the score 23-12.
Not that Onayemi was impressed.
"They weren't hard hits," he said. "They were, like, weak."
"Temi taps?" offered assistant coach Linda Wilson.
"Yeah, Temi taps," Onayemi said.
Onayemi had another pair of kills and an ace block in an early five-point in the second set, putting the Spartans up 9-3. H-F never got closer than three points the rest of the way and fell to 3-10 on the year despite getting some good play from Morgan Bohlman (4 kills), Thomas Knetl (11 assists) and Kaleb Johnson (10 digs).
"We just weren't mentally into the game," Prohaska said. "We had six individuals out there instead of a full team."