Dukes also won Chicago Latin School invitational crown.

By Mike Miazga


The York boys volleyball team had itself a successful season on a number of accords.

The Dukes went 23-11 overall (2-4 in West Suburban Conference Silver Division play) and won the Chicago Latin School invitational title. York also won an IHSA regional title before losing to Chicago St. Patrick in the sectional semifinals.

Coach Ken Dowdy highlighted a pair of players in John Goehl and Ryan Schaner as individuals who took things up a notch during the home stretch of the season.

“John finished the season very strong offensively and really performed well at the Latin invite and in the state series,” he said. “He continued to get better placing the ball on attack and was able to put the ball down on cross kills while being our best attacker hitting line. As tough as it probably was transitioning to hitting outside after being a setter for three years, I was impressed with his progress in that regard.”

Schaner is another player who switched positions. “We probably lead the state in regard to training setters for other positions this season,” said Dowdy. “We needed to move Ryan, our backup setter, to the middle at the end of the season, but he was outstanding in that regard. Ryan is such a positive kid and he really stepped up in learning the position and being an option offensively at the end of the season with only a few weeks of training.

“While I definitely can say he’ll be our starting setter next season, I’m sure he’d love to play middle hitter. That’s how much he enjoyed it. I really cannot say enough good things about the kid and feel very fortunate to have him back next spring. Ryan’s going to be a great leader of our program moving forward and he’s one of the nicest kids I’ve ever known.”

Speaking of blocking, Dowdy saw York up its game at the net toward the end of the season. “We really blocked well as the season ended considering it was one area of great concern earlier in the year,” he said. “Our block gave our defense an opportunity to make plays by getting touches on balls. As I’ve mentioned previously, our serve has been outstanding all year and it’s by far the best team I’ve ever coached in that regard. Our ability to keep our opponents out of system offensively contributed to our success this spring. I’m a firm believer of controlling errors on our side of the net. We committed few errors in that regard while serving at a 91% clip. Furthermore, our offense heated up at the end of the season. It was the most diverse offense we’ve ever had and it kept our opponents guessing where the set was going. We had four players with more than 100 kills and Rio Diaz, our setter, was stellar in choosing the right opportunity to dump for a kill.”

That offense included contributions from a host of Dukes players. “Michael Pennel developed this season into one of the most explosive and consistent middle hitters I have ever coached,” said Dowdy. “Our ability to run him offensively when our serve-receive was on point was the biggest key to our offense. We faced very few teams that could even begin to shut him down offensively.

“Evan Haug continued to improve as the season ended on the outside and led the team in kills (211). I cannot speak enough about what a great player and kid Dylan Kalchik has been this season on the right side. He was our most consistent pin hitter and is one of the most coachable players I’ve ever encountered. We couldn’t have experienced nearly as much success this season if we didn’t have him offensively. He’s definitely a player we are going to miss next season.”

Dowdy noted York used its defensive depth to its advantage. “For a variety of reasons we’ve had to have players step up in matches defensively as the season closed,” he said. “Fortunately, we were really deep in this area. Jack Crowley, Adrian Kocinski, RJ Lesus and Sam Jordan-Wood did a great job moving to different positions when called upon. We were fortunate to have such a great serve-receive team this season which led to our continued improvement offensively. Defensively, we had some great touches on balls we had no business getting to, especially in the regional final against Latin. While the score in the regional final may have indicated a relatively comfortable match, it wouldn’t have been so without some great digs by our defensive players.”

Dowdy also lauded the work Diaz did at the setting position. “Rio really did a great job closing out his career in our program,” he said. “His ability to ‘right the ship’ when things weren’t going well in matches and in practice was outstanding. His ability to ‘spread the wealth’ offensively contributed to our offense having improved success. He will go down as one of the best servers ever to leave our program. He served at a 94% clip with 28 aces and 161 service points. Rio is such a great player and person. I cannot imagine him not being around next year.”

Dowdy said the Dukes overcame a host of obstacles this season to achieve numerous lofty benchmarks. “While we did have eight seniors going into this season, there was a lot of inexperience offensively,” he said. “I really didn’t know what to expect from this group of kids. Needless to say, they exceeded by expectations having won two tournament championships, a regional championship and qualifying for sectionals. The team overcame a lot of adversity with the most injuries, illnesses and other obstacles that I have ever experienced.

“It seemed we never had a consistent lineup all season, yet the boys never made excuses and continued to battle through for success. More importantly, the players called upon stepped up to the challenge, resulting in the second-most wins for a team in my tenure, as well as the most tournament and playoff wins. It’s going to be a senior class I will really miss, not so much for their successes, but rather for their personalities and the outstanding kids they are. They have made their mark on our program and we are a better program because of it.”


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