Boys Volleyball: McFarland, Walenga a dynamic duo for Lincoln-Way North
By Logan Malloy For Sun-Times Media May 5, 2014 11:24PM
Lincoln-Way North’s Jake Walenga digs out a shot during the championship match Saturday against Waubonsie Valley at the Marist Invitational. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 7, 2014 6:37AM
Lincoln-Way North seniors Jake Walenga and Brad McFarland are two of the most electric players in the state.
They pass. They block. They put down wicked serves. And they definitely know how to light up a crowd, hitting lasers from the front or back row.
As good as they are, Walenga and McFarland might be even more entertaining off the court.
“I really believe they need their own talk radio show,” North coach Matt Lawrence said. “They’re quirky, but they know how to be respectful with it. I think it might be something that people would like.”
Walenga and McFarland met through seventh-grade volleyball and have been close to inseparable ever since. That connection has been a boon for North, which made it to the state finals last season behind the duo’s play. McFarland led the team in kills and earned All-Area honors. Walenga was Mr. Clutch en route to the SouthtownStar’s Player of the Year award.
“We hang out literally every other day and go on bro-dates all the time,” McFarland said.
“We’re close enough where I call his parents mom and dad,” Walenga added.
The two spent a ton of court time together in the fall, but where and when might come as a surprise. Walenga and McFarland volunteered to manage North’s sophomore girls volleyball team.
“We were the comic relief in the huddles,” McFarland said. “We always say what’s on our mind and we like to mess with people.”
Lately, the seniors have been messing with opponents. The Phoenix are 26-3 and considered one of the premier teams in the state — along with Lincoln-Way East and Brother Rice.
But where East and Brother Rice have a slew of attackers, the majority of North’s offensive burden falls on Walenga and McFarland.
“We knew this year we’d be taking a higher load and more swings,” said Walenga, noting some key graduations from 2013. “We’re still as good or even better (than last year) just because of our ball control.”
Win or lose, North appears to be making the most of their time on the court.
“If you’re not going to have fun playing, what’s the point?” McFarland said. “Jake and I have been making volleyball fun ever since we started.
“We don’t want to have a totally serious practice where the guys dread coming in. We all want to have fun and I think (Lawrence) appreciates that.”
Next season will mark the first time the friends won’t be playing together since their first meeting more than six years ago. Walenga is headed to Lewis to play libero. McFarland is slated to play outside hitter for Dominican.
“I’ve had some really great kids to coach — no doubt about it — but a combination of two guys like that, you don’t come across that very often,” Lawrence said. “It’s going to be a sad day when they graduate.”
Until then, North is all smiles — and a whole lot of entertainment.