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Boys Volleyball: Nate Van Dellen takes Lincoln-Way East to the top with state title

Lincoln-Way East's team celebrates their wover Warren. The Griffins Lincoln-Way East High School played Blue Devils Warren High School state

Lincoln-Way East's team celebrates their win over Warren. The Griffins of Lincoln-Way East High School played the Blue Devils of Warren High School in the state championship boys volleyball match at Hoffman Estates High School on June 7, 2014. | Geoff Scheerer/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 9, 2014 6:37AM



Nate Van Dellen claimed he didn’t feel that Lincoln-Way East’s dream season was slipping away.

“Not for a second,” Van Dellen said.

He might have been the only one.

After trailing Warren wire-to-wire in dropping the first set of the state championship match, East squandered a 16-11 lead in the second set as a block from Arvind Kouta tied the action at 20.

But Van Dellen showed his grit Saturday at Hoffman Estates. The 6-3 outside hitter sandwiched two of his match-high 18 kills around an ace for a three-point advantage and the Griffins went on to prevail 22-25, 26-24, 25-19 for the program’s first-ever state title.

Ryan Vorderer added 11 kills, Josh Phalen had 13 digs and Austin Royer dished 41 assists for East (41-1).

“We won 40 — now 41 — games together,” Van Dellen said, “and I didn’t doubt these guys for a second.

“The opportunities were there. Austin was fooling the block pretty well and I was able to capitalize.”

East becomes the ninth state champion from the Southland since the inception of the state series in 1992 and the first since Sandburg in 2011.

The Griffins are also just the second team in state history to rally from first-set defeats in the semifinals and finals — joining Oak Lawn of 1994 — after topping Lake Park in a three-set semifinal.

“They’re the most mentally tough group I’ve ever coached,” East coach Kris Fiore said. “Nothing ever really fazes them.”

Warren, which loaded up with three rugged Southland tournaments during the regular season, finished at 28-14.

Kouta dished 27 assists, hitting Mitch Maan de kok, Jeremy White and Bryant Holland for nine kills apiece, to pace Warren (28-14) — which loaded up with three rugged Southland tournaments during the regular season.

“This group of guys — what I love about them is their resilience,” Warren coach Yun Chen said. “We always fight back and we believe in each other.”

After three consecutive points from Van Dellen gave East a 23-20 lead in Set 2, Warren rallied and tied the action at 24 on a kill from White and an East error.

But Vorderer responded with a high-flying kill to make it 25-24 and Warren recorded an attack error on the next play to force a third set.

“It took awhile to figure out what was working,” Royer said. “We have such a surplus of hitters to put the ball away. I feel like these guys can put any ball away.”

It seemed that way in the third set. East roared out to a 10-3 lead on a tip from Vorderer and held off a late Warren surge to win the state title.

The Griffins posted a robust attack percentage of .487 in the third set, nabbing 21 kills on 39 attacks.

“They’re a smart team,” White said. “They place the ball well and they hit hard, too.”

East’s attack percentage was .024 in the first set and .158 in the second.

Aaron Redweik tallied seven kills for East and Carson Slager, who was huge in the semifinals against Lake Park, added six.

“All of us wanted it so bad that our confidence took over for our nerves,” Royer said. “We worked so hard to get here and it finally paid off.”



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