Boys Volleyball: Libertyville’s Rush solid in debut as outside hitter
Libertyville's Tyler Erlandson goes up for a spike attempt against Stevenson's Collin Ryan and Mitch Robinson during the Lake County Invitational on Saturday. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 18, 2012 1:33AM
There is no such thing as a permanent position this year for players on the Libertyville High School boys volleyball team.
A spat of injuries has resulted in players being forced to maximize their versatility and try new positions. The latest example came at the Lake County Invitational, held at Vernon Hills on Saturday. Despite only one day of practice at outside hitter, 6-foot-4 Griffin Rush found himself playing the position. He normally is an opposite hitter.
“He’s a senior and he’s confident in his ability,” said Wildcats coach Casey Aubin. “He has a high ceiling for the rest of the year as he gets more reps and game experience.”
Senior setter Teddy Kopacz was not surprised to see Griffin play well right off the bat.
“He did pretty well, especially with his blocking,” Kopacz said. “It was nice to see him get a shot at outside.”
In fact, Tyler Erlandson, the player he tied with for the team-lead in kills Saturday (7), also is a converted outside hitter.
Prior to his senior year, Erlandson was used primarily as a defensive specialist. But a late growth spurt and improving skills allowed him to make the move to outside hitter. Erlandson also had a team-high five blocks.
“He’s really become a nice weapon for us,” Kopacz said. “He’s an athletic kid and he’s picking up the position well.”
Aubin said Erlandson has proved to be a quick study.
“He has a tremendous vertical, and he has really stepped into the position and given us consistent play,” Aubin said. “It’s not only his offense but his defense as well. He’s a great athlete, and I really like the way he practices.”
Of course, it helps that Kopacz is the setter distributing the ball. He keeps Libertyville’s offense running, no matter who’s playing.
“In many ways, he has a coach’s mind for the game,” Aubin said. “It is amazing how little attention I have to pay to him in terms of his decisions about running the offense. He can get all the guys the ball and he also plays fantastic defense.”
Fabulous Friday: The Wildcats dropped both matches on Saturday, but they got the tournament off to a rousing start with a 3-0 mark on Friday.
Libertyville defeated Lakes 25-18, 25-23 and Lake Forest High School 25-17, 25-14. That set the stage for one of the day’s best matches — against Zion-Benton. The Wildcats won the first set 25-21 before dropping the second set 25-23. They jumped on the Zee-Bees early in the third set and held on for a 15-13 victory.
“We were able to stay within our game,” Aubin said.
The Wildcats limited mistakes, and at times frustrated the Zee-Bees with their steady play.
“We focused on doing the small, simple things correctly,” Aubin said. “We had pretty good ball control and we were able to get the ball to our hitters.”
Saturday setbacks: Unfortunately for the Wildcats (6-4), they couldn’t keep it going on Saturday. They wound up taking fourth place.
Of course, Vernon Hills — which won 25-18, 25-15 — and Stevenson — a 25-16, 25-20 winner — had a lot to do with that.
“We fought hard, but both Vernon Hills and Stevenson were well-disciplined and able to execute at a high level,” Aubin said.
On the schedule: The Wildcats will compete in the Palatine Invitational Friday and Saturday.
“We’re focused developing our offensive and defensive systems, and making incremental improvements each day,” Aubin said.