Boys Volleyball: St. Rita’s team, coach making returns to state
By Tim O’Brien For Sun-Times Media May 31, 2012 8:40PM
St. Rita's Tommy Stark (97). | Michael Jarecki~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 6, 2012 9:51AM
Upon taking over the St. Rita volleyball program this season, coach Ryan Biros was curious about what he could expect out of his team.
Before he could even lead a practice, his Mustangs players told him.
“The seniors knew how well the junior varsity had done and that we had some big hitters coming up,” Biros said. “The kids are telling me this and that, and the players knew what we could do. They had an idea what we were capable of. They’ve been great at practices and in games.”
St. Rita (25-14), the only state-qualifying team from 2011 to make a return trip this season, will meet Minooka at 2 p.m. Friday in the state quarterfinals at Hoffman Estates High School.
St. Rita lost to Glenbard West in three games at last year’s quarterfinals. The state appearance is the program’s sixth overall. St. Rita’s best finish came in 2002, when it finished fourth.
Biros was a senior on that 2002 squad. He replaced Kathleen Mixan as the coach heading into this season after Mixan took the girls coaching job at Plainfield East.
Going back to his days as a student, Biros continues to try to put the Mustangs volleyball program on the map.
“It’s been the same way since I graduated, where the (volleyball) kids don’t like people thinking it’s just a football school,” Biros said. “We try to make a name for ourselves, and we take great pride in that.”
They might also take great pride in returning to state after losing three huge cogs from last season’s team.
John Johnson (365 kills) moved from libero to outside hitter and has been a force offensively, including 21 kills in the sectional championship win over Mount Carmel.
Tommy Stark (166 kills, 67 blocks) has been a fixture at middle blocker, with Tom McDermott (829 assists) setting the offense. Kevin Banky (165 kills), Dan O’Keefe (205 kills), Billy White (153 kills) and Andrew Bartasius (249 digs) all are key contributors.
Minooka (36-2) is led by senior outside hitter Rick Bishop (268 kills, 68 blocks) and setter Phil Hannon (781 assists).
“I haven’t seen them so I’m not sure what to expect, but we’re able to do a little bit of scouting,” Biros said. “Hopefully, we can get what we need from that.”
The state atmosphere or late-game jitters should not faze St. Rita. Beating Mount Carmel at the De La Salle Sectional, the Mustangs faced match point twice and were able to fight it off, winning a three-game thriller.
“Everyone in that gym thought that Mount Carmel would win (late),” Biros said. “We have high expectations. We’re playing our best games and hopefully that continues downstate.”