The difference between a team that knows how to win and a team that is trying to figure it out was on display at Marian Catholic.
The host Spartans are still a young program trying to figure out how to win in the world of boys volleyball.
Likewise, Lincoln-Way North is young, but the Phoenix have learned how to win.
Take Tuesday. North defeated Marian 25-14 and 30-28 in Chicago Heights.
“We played (well)," Marian junior Will Craft said. "We just have trouble closing out (games). Once we figure that out, we will get more wins.”
After the Phoenix pulled away in Game 1, they were engaged in a heated battle in Game 2. North coach Matt Lawrence credited the trio of Billy Moisan, Zak Erdmann and Jake Walenga for coming off the bench and helping the team pull out the win.
“I made some (substitutions) that created some momentum,” Lawrence said.
Both teams appeared to be on the verge of pulling out the Game 2 win as Craft had two kills to keep the Spartan hopes alive, while Walenga countered with some pretty powerful kills of his own.
In the end, it was a service error by the Spartans' Connor Fagan, followed by a game-winning block by Joseph Pognant that gave the Phoenix the win.
“He plays on my club team, so I know he is pretty good,” Pognant said of Craft. “I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
Walenga was impressive considering he is just a freshman.
“He is unbelievably polished for his age, and he wants to be good,” Lawrence said.
The Phoenix improved to 7-1 and have a highly anticipated matchup at home against Neuqua Valley on Thursday. The loss snapped the Spartans' two-match winning streak after they opened the season with five straight losses.
“We are working hard at practice," Marian coach Bob Piekarski said. "We had to start from square one so it takes time to see improvement. We play (well) at times, but we have to find a way to play like that the whole (match).”
Craft led the Spartans with five kills, while Jay Hochstetler had seven assists.
Walenga led the Phoenix with 11 kills and three aces.
“I have a lot of fun playing with the older guys,” he said.