Boys volleyball improves defense

Season marks head coach’s 20th year


After losing the first set 25-14, members of the boys volleyball team celebrate scoring during the second set in a game against York on May 5. The team lost this game at the Northside Classic Invite 2-0 but won the other two against Libertyville and Lake Forest later that night. Photo by Abby Shapiro

After losing the first set in a game against New Trier on April 17, the boys volleyball team won the second set, bringing the game to a third. After receiving a serve from New Trier, the ball was set to senior Connor Durst, who ended the game with a kill down the middle of the court.

“It was definitely a very close game,” said Durst. “It went to three [sets] and we pulled away, and the third set ended up being awesome.”

It was nice to beat New Trier because the team knocked Glenbrook North out of the playoffs last year, Durst said. 

According to senior Paul Cho, despite the tallest player on the team, junior Graham Gottschild, standing at 6 feet 3 inches, the team has been able to beat taller opponents because of the skill in each position.

“I’m usually a setter, so [last year] I used to just set the ball, and I just played on the back row of defense,” said Cho. “But this year, I’m able to hit along with the other setter, [senior] Colin Schaefer.”

According to head coach Chris Cooper, there are players that can attack in every position at all times, and there is not just one person the team consistently relies on to get a kill, making it harder for opponents to focus on just one player.

“We can just move the ball around to a lot of different people,” said Cooper. “It’s kind of like a football team that has instead of just one star receiver, they’ve got four.”

According to Durst, the team focuses on defense to accommodate for the height difference against other teams.

“We’re very athletic, and we have a really good defense,” said Durst. “When the other team’s hitting, we are good at taking the ball and keeping the ball in play.”

According to Cooper, the continuity of the coaching staff contributes to the team’s success, which sets the program apart from other schools.

“That continuity and the familiarity of the kids hearing the same message all the time I think is a pretty unique thing,” said Cooper. “Every coach is going to have the same standards that we want to keep in our program and by the time [the players] get to me, it makes it really easy as a varsity coach to just worry about volleyball and not worry about all the other stuff.”

This season marks Cooper’s 20th year as the head coach of the team. Coach Penn Phillips has been coaching since 2001. Phillips has been with Cooper since the start of Cooper’s coaching career.

Durst leads the Spartans (18-5, 5-2) in kills with 3.13 per game, and Schaefer leads the team in assists with an average of  6.57 assists per game as of May 9.

Learning fundamental concepts as a freshman helps the team perform, Durst said.

“[A consistency of ideas] definitely helps and some of us play club, some of us don’t,” said Durst. “So being taught the same concepts here at school is helpful for that.”