Photo by Jeff Vorva
Sandburg graduate John Hodul barely played his first three seasons at Lewis University but is one of the top hitters on the volleyball team this year.
Orland Park’s John Hodul’s volleyball career at Lewis University is almost over and it’s been an unusual journey.
The Flyers host Lindenwood in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association quarterfinals Saturday and probably have to win the whole tournament to get into the NCAA Division I/II Tournament. A second-place finish means the Flyers cross their fingers for an automatic bid, and that’s no given this year.
The 6-foot-9 Sandburg alum heads into the weekend playing 98 sets as a middle hitter and racked up 107 kills and a team-tying best .406 hitting percentage to go with 92 blocks.
The first three years he was with the team, Hodul was an afterthought of the afterthoughts as he headed into this season playing just 21 sets.
Most players with that low amount of playing time would quit or transfer rather than wait around all these years for a payoff that may or may not come.
But Hodul admits that while standing (volleyball players usually don’t sit) with the bench players all these years hasn’t been a ton of fun, he realizes he could have worked a little harder at the sport.
“If I spent more time in the gym and less time in the lab, I probably would have played more,’’ he said.
See, this guy put his schoolwork ahead of athletics at a school with a high-level volleyball team. He is a science major and put a lot of time and effort in the laboratory at the Romeoville school helping to come up with new ideas for dyes, fragrances and paints and possibly saving paint industries billions of dollars in the process.
So he is moving on to Purdue to study some more chemistry and share the same work space with brilliant minds and Nobel Peace Prize winners. And it’s all paid for via scholarship.
The 22-year-old said he might be in school until he is 30, learning and learning and learning some more.
His love for science started early.
“When I was a little kid, my house was near a corn and soybean field,” he said. “Every year, I would see the farmer come through with a bunch of chemicals. He was spraying pesticides and herbicides. I always wondered what was in those chemicals. My father (Paul) worked with chemicals and would come home from work and we would talk about them. That’s when I knew science was a field I wanted to get into.’’
His early athletic career was baseball-heavy until his arm began wearing out. He said he was considering playing tennis at Sandburg but volleyball coaches loved his size and coaxed him to come out.
“I was the last kid picked,” he said.
But his game developed and is a strong contributor to one of the top programs in the nation.
“I would have never believed when I was 13 years old that I would be playing against a team the caliber of Penn State or Ohio State,” Hodul said. “I have a great appreciation for all of this.’’
Golf column debuts
Longtime golf writer Tim Cronin’s debut column is running this week and we will be using the column through August.
Cronin is a guy who has written books, started up magazines and websites on the subject. The Worth resident is the entrepreneur of Illinois Golfer, whose motto is “The indispensable source for golfer in Illinois.” So, with golf heating up around here (including Cog Hill now annexed to Palos Park) we hope the man will be an indispensable source for readers in our area.
For those with golf news, please flood his e-mail box (email@example.com).
My baseball picks
There has been too much good column material the last few weeks so my preseason baseball picks keep getting moved ahead. So before the season comes to an end, here they are:
I am hesitant to pick a team to win two World Series in a row, but last year I thought the Cubs’ year was going to be 2017 and I am sticking with it. They will beat the Houston Astros in the World Series just like the White Sox did in 2005.
In the American League, I pick Boston to win the East it with Baltimore as a wild card, Detroit to win the Central with Cleveland as a wild card and Houston to win the West.
In the National League, the Cubs win the Central with St. Louis gobbling up a wild-card slot. The East goes to the Mets and the West goes to the Giants and the Dodgers snag the other wild card.
Houston beats Cleveland to win the American League championship while the Cubs and Giants battle it out for the NL title with the Cubs advancing and winning it all.