Jessie Tulacka thought Downers Grove North had a comeback in store, even if circumstances told her otherwise.
"I've seen it happen before," Tulacka said, "and I believe in our team. I knew if we set our mind to it, we could do it."
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Tulacka's faith was rewarded. The Trojans, minus injured standout Taylor Kasal, rallied from a big deficit in the third set to beat Naperville Central 20-25, 25-21, 28-26 on Tuesday in Downers Grove.
Bradley-bound outside Tulacka carried the Trojans for much of the match, as Downers Grove North bounced back from Monday's season-opening loss to Marian Catholic.
Tulacka threw down 20 kills, her 20th pulling the Trojans within 24-23 in the third set after they trailed 22-15 at one point.
"She came back after club even more polished," Trojans coach Mark Wasik said. "Bradley has a nice little recruit on their hands."
Kasal, like Tulacka a fourth-year starter, sprained her ankle in practice a week ago but is expected back for the Trojans' next match a week from now. After Tulacka's 20th kill, Karissa Brazdys blocked a ball for a 24-24 tie and Grace Marek served an ace.
Kills by Alysia Baznik and Sammy Condon got Naperville Central to match point ahead 26-25, but Brazdys blocked Baznik, the Redhawks committed an error and Trojans sophomore Katherine Mahlke put down her sixth kill for the match.
"I told them in the timeout, 'We are not going to make any more unforced errors -- let's go for it,'" Wasik said. "We were handing them points. If we were going out, we were going out aggressive."
Naperville Central, playing its season opener, was its worst enemy.
The Redhawks committed 14 service errors, 7 in the third set which allowed Downers Grove North to stay in some semblance of striking distance. The 14th error started the Trojans' comeback, after an 8-3 Redhawks run had them seemingly in control up 22-15.
The service-line struggles were a head-scratcher to Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson.
"Things that we've really been doing well in practice showed up as weaknesses for us today -- defense and serving is our strong suit," Isaacson said, "and attacking and blocking were surprisingly successful tonight. We have not served like that at all in practice. We couldn't find the court if a plane had landed on it."
Baznik had 10 kills and 19 assists and Kendall Ward 9 kills for Naperville Central, which beat Downers Grove North in regionals last year after a season-opening loss. Condon had 4 kills and 4 blocks and Nikki Connors 4 kills.
"It's the first match, and we struggled to find any consistency," Isaacson said. "It was too hard to establish any momentum. But let's give credit to Downers North that they kept fighting. At least now we weren't necessarily rewarded for the way we played and we have something to work toward."
Tulacka no doubt looks forward to being back on the same court as Kasal for a change. Tulacka missed several matches last season with a concussion, which contributed to the Trojans' 17-19 record.
"We get her back," Tulacka said, "it will be really good."