Softball: Libertyville returns to winning ways
Libertyville's Emilie Teitz, seen here during earlier action this spring, finished with 11 wins. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:31PM
Standing 6-foot-5, Carmel Catholic’s Zach Rappe is hard for anyone to miss.
And any good volleyball coach is going to make it his business not only to facilitate an introduction but to invite him to open gyms. This certainly was the case for Corsairs coach Kevin Nylen, who noticed Rappe right away when he was a freshman.
“I kept seeing him in the hallways and thought, ‘Holy cow, we need this kid in volleyball.’ When he showed up for tryouts, I was (excited),” Nylen said.
Although Rappe did not have any significant volleyball experience prior to high school, his height made up for any rookie mistakes. This season, he was the only junior to start on Carmel’s senior-dominated squad.
“We knew he would play a significant role on the team,” said senior setter Alex Dunlap. “He blocked great and hit really well when we needed him to.”
Nylen said this was a breakthrough season for Rappe.
“He was a solid player as a sophomore; we were hoping he would gain confidence and come into his own as a junior, and that’s what we saw,” Nylen said. “When he (plays) with confidence, he can be very good.”
Rappe bonded with fellow middle blocker, 6-foot-7 senior Will Collazo.
“Will really helped bring him along in all phases of the game,” Nylen said.
Nylen was an effective blocker all season, and the Corsairs will ask him to take on a greater role in the attack next year.
Recap: The Corsairs’ season came to an end with a 25-20, 25-20 loss to Stevenson in a regional final.
“Ultimately, they were the better team, but we hung right with them,” Nylen said.
Carmel (23-11) made Stevenson earn the victory.
“We had so many fans make the drive to come see us, and it was really exciting,” Dunlap said. “That motivated us, and we played a championship style of game. Stevenson just made fewer errors and ended up beating us.”
There was plenty of excitement in the regional semifinals as well.
After dropping the opening set to Warren 25-14, the Corsairs rallied, winning the next two 25-21, 25-22 for the victory.
“We put ourselves in a hole, but we showed the characteristics of a good team and fought back,” Nylen said.
Carmel and Warren enjoyed quite a rivalry this season, with each team winning once in the regular season.
Carmel trailed 17-11 in the final set, forcing Nylen to call a timeout. That quick reprise helped extinguish Warren’s momentum. In turn, Dunlap said Nylen lit a fire under the Corsairs.
“He asked us if we wanted this to be our last game of high school volleyball,” Dunlap said. “He told us that he believed we would come back. We were able to play one more day, and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Banner time: Carmel was 7-1 in East Suburban Catholic Conference play, and captured its first league title since 2008.
“This group of senior stuck together through some lean times,” Nylen said. “They really wanted to win conference and add to the legacy of Carmel volleyball.”
Dunlap said the victory over highly regarded Bent was Carmel’s most impressive victory of the season — by far.
“We rallied to win the final two sets, and we played with so much energy throughout,” Dunlap said. “We were able to neutralize their two outside hitters, which was one of our main goals.”
As a result, the Corsairs will be able to hang another banner from the rafters in the Carmel gym.
“This was a special group of seniors,” Nylen said. “It’s a big deal for them to be able to put a banner up.”
As expected, Dunlap and senior libero Frankie Cohen were selected to the all-conference team. Seniors Henry Dominicis and Kevin Fitzgibbons were honored as well.
“They were ‘X factors’ at the start of the season,” Nylen said. “Henry didn’t have a ton of volleyball experience but hit the ball as hard as anyone we’ve seen all year long. Kevin worked out so hard in the weight room and had a great season. He exceeded our expectations.”