Updated: May 27, 2014 4:03PM
Let’s hope Eisenhower is writing in pencil.
For the third time in as many years, the Cardinals will etch a new single-season win milestone into the record book.
From 19 wins in 2012 to 20 last season, Eisenhower is a 22-11 heading into the Marist Sectional as the No. 10 seed.
“It’s a testament to the program itself,” Eisenhower coach Stan Natonek said, pointing out assistant coaches Miguel Fernandez and Danielle Mikos. “Now we’re starting to get some athletes out and more kids playing club and interested in the sport.”
Natonek has a fun team.
Alec Esparza, one of the top liberos in the Southland, helps out with the volleyball team at Veterans Middle School in Blue Island.
Rob McCoy, one of the “athletes” on Natonek’s squad, is doing a bang-up job competing in just his second season. McCoy picked up the sport last year when a fellow student offered him a bag of Doritos if he attended tryouts.
Starting setter Lukasz Kupiec — one of two seniors (the other Esparza) on the roster — has done a nice job spreading the attack. One of Kupiec’s prime options on the outside is multi-sportsman Vinny Curta, who’s playing volleyball for the first time since junior high.
“This is the team that has the most confidence in themselves,” Esparza said, comparing previous seasons. “It’s a tight-knit group; we’re always trying to keep things moving forward.”
If Eisenhower can get by Richards in a Brother Rice Regional semifinal Tuesday night, it will be its first regional final appearance since 2003. Richards should be a tough test as the third meeting will be the rubber match.
But Natonek, who’s been with the program for 23 of its 25 years, said this is the most talented team he’s ever taken into the playoffs. It’s also one of the biggest.
“When you get that kind of height and blocking ability, it makes it so much easier to play defense,” Natonek said. “That’s something we’ve always been lacking. But with Rob and Khalil (Williams), there’s nobody that can really tee off or dominate against us at the net.
“Teams have to work through the block against us, then Alec can pick up those softer shots.”
Looking around the postseason
With the season series tied 1-1, Eisenhower vs. Richards is one of the Marist Sectional’s few regional semifinals certain for some drama. Most of the favorites should advance, which should make for exciting matches later on. But there’s also a juicy semifinal between No. 8 Oak Forest and No. 9 Andrew.
Oak Forest’s Jeff Sprayberry and Andrew’s Sanil Thomas are two of the most exciting players in the Southland. Both bring nasty jump-serves and can pound away from the outside. Oak Forest topped Andrew in a pair of wild three-set matches this season. The third installment is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Lincoln-Way East.