IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Jay Saravis had just smacked an ace in a boys volleyball state semifinal.
The New Trier junior outside hitter raised his arms briefly and then looked down at hardwood, again briefly, at Hoffman Estates High School June 2. The service winner had given the Trevians a 21-19 lead in the second set of a three-setter with eventual state champion Lincoln-Way East.
His reaction to his ace — in a sport synonymous with deafening and histrionic post-point celebrations — was understated, mellow, cool.
Or Jay Saravis, in a nutshell.
“I’m looking ahead [after each point], looking at the broader picture,” said the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Saravis, who led NT’s 2018 club in kills with 168, including four in a 25-16, 25-18 defeat of St. Rita in a state quarterfinal June 1.
“An ace, or a point won in another way, is just a little step in volleyball,” he added. “It’s about the next point … always about the next point.”
Saravis dubbed himself “a huge surfer” after NT’s 14-25, 25-22, 25-17 semifinal loss to L-WE. He planted his bare feet to a surfboard for the first time eight years ago in California.
“Fell in love with surfing right away,” recalled the second-year varsity member.
Unfortunately for New Trier’s Trevians last weekend, LW-E’s Griffins (38-3) caught a wave of momentum midway through that semifinal and kept riding it to snap NT’s winning streak at 15 matches.
NT led 17-12 in the second set, before L-WE responded with a 6-1 run. Griffins senior libero Blake Boykin made several sensational digs to keep points alive in the match-turning stretch.
L-WE edged Neuqua Valley 20-25, 25-21, 25-22 in the title match June 2 for its second state championship in five years; NT (34-8) ended up in fourth place in its fifth straight Elite Eight appearance, falling 25-15, 25-22 to Glenbard West (38-4) in the match for third place earlier in the afternoon.
Following NT’s quarterfinal win June 1, the topic of Saravis’ tranquil demeanor came up in the post-match presser. His coaches and teammates appreciated it in practices and in matches, especially in matches, when a levelheaded, calm presence is always comforting in an emotion-packed sport.
“Jay is humble, always poised and laser-focused,” Trevians coach Sue Ellen Haak said of the Trev who contributed a team-high four digs in last weekend’s state semifinal and a pair of aces in the third-place contest.
The last subject the selfless Saravis wanted to address was Saravis, but he admitted his attack game had picked up some steam at the end of the regular season.
The team’s leader in aces (36) then quickly followed that up with a caveat:
“It’s been a whole team effort, all season,” Saravis said of the program’s fourth run to the Final Four. “We’re not a solo act.”
More than one — many more — greeted Saravis warmly in a Hoffman Estates High School lobby after the tough semifinal loss to LW-E last weekend. The throng of Jay Saravis fans was 10-12 strong, many of them family members.
Saravis hugged most of them, thanked them for attending and smiled with all of them for a group photo.
He politely left the throng to rejoin his teammates, who had congregated outside in the parking lot. They had some time to kill, a lunch to eat, before taking on Glenbard West for third place at state.
Saravis, no doubt, was thinking mostly about one thing: the next point.
Notable: New Trier senior middle and Loyola University-bound Joe D’Attomo and sophomore outside hitter Colin Heath paced the Trevians’ attack at state last weekend, striking a combined 16 kills apiece in three matches. NT senior setter Tergel Gandelger delivered 53 assists; senior hitter Marty Tatosian pounded five kills in a state semi, matching sophomore hitter Peter Brown’s kill total in the match for third place; and senior outside hitter Tennessee Fulks — second among teammates in aces this spring with 35, had a team-high six digs in NT’s defeat of St. Rita in a state quarterfinal. … New Trier boys volleyball coach Sue Ellen Haak’s career record, in 17 seasons at the school, is 488-162 (.751). Her team’s 34-8 record this spring was the program’s fifth straight season with at least 30 victories. …. New Trier and eventual state champion Lincoln-Way East met for the third straight year at state last weekend. NT beat L-WE in a three-set quarterfinal en route to its runner-up finish in 2016. “They grow the kids huge up there,” Griffins boys volleyball coach Kristopher Fiore said last weekend, referring to 6-foot-6 D’Attomo, 6-6 senior middle James Snyder, 6-5 Brown and four 6-4 Trevians. “It’s a team with huge blockers, and it’s always physical, always strong.” … Snyder, after NT’s semifinal loss to LW-E: “We fought hard. I’m proud of the way we played. No shame, no shame. But it’s a bummer.” … Haak, on her 2018 club: “High-quality guys, with a lot of role models. The team was never satisfied, always pushing to get better.”