There’s no way that senior outside hitter Connor Studer was going to forget the details from Lincoln-Way West’s rivalry match last season against powerhouse Lincoln-Way East.
He almost grimaced at the memory.
“I came out and had my worst performance of the year,” Studer said. “They had every answer for me. They blocked me on every ball. I think I only had four kills.”
That all changed Thursday night. Studer had four kills for the Warriors’ first five points as the Warriors pulled out a 25-23, 20-25, 25-23 SouthWest Suburban Conference victory.
Studer finished with 13 kills and seven digs as Lincoln-Way West (14-3, 1-0) opened the conference season with its first win over Lincoln-Way East (12-3, 0-1) since 2019.
Studer, meanwhile, was pumped up after the match.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve had in volleyball in a minute,” he said. “I started to get blocked in the third set and my teammates picked me up.”
Last spring at this time, the 5-foot-10 Studer was giving serious thought about playing libero in college because he figured he wouldn’t be playing front row due to his size.
That’s not an issue anymore. He’s giving up competitive volleyball, making the decision to concentrate on his academics by studying aerospace engineering at Alabama.
Studer, who eventually wants to work on drones with the military, will possibly play club in college. But for the remainder of his senior year, he hopes to continue to impress.
“He’s a great team captain and a great all-around player,” Jaral said of Studer. “He could be the best libero on the court if he wanted to. He’s the best hitter on the team.
“He does everything.”
Glennon knows Studer from playing with and against him in practices for Ultimate during the club season. Thursday’s performance did not surprise him.
“He sees the block very well and sees the seams,” Glennon said of Studer. “He can hit around the block. He’s a very smart hitter.”
Lincoln-Way West coach Jodi Frigo said the key to the match was her team being relaxed. She took the players out of the gym to watch a few innings of the softball game.
“I just said, ‘Let’s cheer on our girls,’” she said. “And once we set foot back in the gym, we just played.”
The Griffins, who were ranked No. 12 in the nation in this week’s USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, are now facing a two-match losing streak.
News updates from the south suburbs delivered every Monday and Wednesday
They also lost Saturday to Barrington in the Wheaton Warrenville South Tournament final.
“We have to realize we have a lot of new bodies compared to last year,” Lincoln-Way East coach Kris Fiore said. “This was a big stage and some of them played like they were new to that situation, which they were.”
Even with a big chunk of the season left, the Warriors realized that opening conference like this in Frankfort would be a big boost.
“To come here and beat them at their home gym is just great,” Jaral said. “It’s the best feeling I’ve had in high school or club volleyball.”
Studer also has some high hopes for the rest of the season.
“This gives us a focus that we can go win conference and hopefully go 8-0 this season,” Studer said. “It would be the first West team to go undefeated in conference.”
Jeff Vorva is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.