ROCKTON - The Hononegah boys volleyball team may lack experience. But they do their best to make up for it with enthusiasm.
The high-energy Indians defeated NIC-10 rival Belvidere 25-21, 29-31, 25-2 in a wild match that lasted nearly 90 minutes.
It was a big win for Hononegah, who is trying to finish in the top three in conference play for the second straight season despite losing 10 seniors from last year's team.
Indians coach Andrea Nelson, in her second year guiding the squad, said the team has come together nicely.
"Our goal this year is to be a 'we' team instead of a 'me' team," Nelson said. "That's what I keep stressing to the guys. We've really switched our attitudes about playing together, understanding matchups and being more volleyball savvy."
The Indians, now in the fifth year of the program, face an immediate challenge in comparison to their NIC-10 brethren. Unlike schools in the Rockford Public School District, feeder schools into Hononegah do not offer a boys volleyball program.
Though Nelson would like that to change as soon as possible, it doesn't appear as though any momentum is building towards adding the program at the middle school level.
"There are a lot of ways that make it difficult for us," Nelson said. "Our freshman teams come in and really struggle and they get frustrated. I tell them that the team they are facing have been playing together for two or three years. They are still learning the game and trying to rely on their athleticism to carry them through."
The Indians followed a similar, and dangerous formula for all three games Thursday: They fell behind early, mounted a comeback in the middle of the set, and tried to grind it out at the end.
Game two featured several set points for both teams before the Bucs finally closed it out, giving them momentum heading into the final game.
They took a five-point lead before the Indians came back behind the solid play of Aaron Ackmann, Dylan Hamil and Kyle Eggers at the net.
"It's a huge win for us," Ackmann said. "It feels amazing. I feel like we can compete with anyone at the top of the conference, like Jefferson and Boylan are right now. It's a great confidence-booster heading into our next match against Boylan. We have 10 new guys on the team, but we played with a ton of energy and just kept it rolling."
Hamil said the team's ability to battle through adversity has been beneficial throughout the season.
"I think we talked and played with great teamwork tonight," Hamil said. "Teamwork is everything out there. If it's just all about yourself, your teammates aren't going to be happy for you when you do something well. Good team chemistry is really important, and I feel like we've had that since day one. When we get down, we come together and talk things out. This is just a great bunch of guys who are going out there and trying to win some games."
Eggers finished the evening with 14 kills, while Hamil added nine. Jake Depauw had 23 assists, while Owen Anderson finished with a team-high eight digs.