Just because St. Charles East defeated Waubonsie Valley 25-15, 25-20 Thursday night in St. Charles doesn't necessarily mean the Saints' Jennie Kull was the coach most pleased afterward.
"I don't think we executed well," Kull said. "Waubonsie is a good team and I don't want to take anything away from them. But I've seen our team play in practice and they are a whole lot better than that."
Turns out it was Waubonsie Valley's Kristen Stuart who left St. Charles in a better mood. She was feeling a lot like Kull on Tuesday when the Warriors put up a lackluster effort against Hinsdale Central.
Stuart practiced the team hard Wednesday, then saw a lot more to like from them Thursday, especially in Game 2 when the Warriors were within 21-20 before the Saints scored the final four points.
"I was more encouraged by this match even though it was a loss," Stuart said. "I thought they played with a lot more intensity. I'm proud of them for not getting down. That's encouraging. We're building a little bit every match."
Stuart switched to a 5-1 in Game 2 for the first time this year. The Warriors scored the first five points behind Danielle Vandenberg's serving.
Four-year starter Maisey Mulvey quickly served the Saints back into a tie with 5 points. Stuart wasn't surprised having seen Mulvey and Meghan Niski give her team fits the last four years.
"She (Niski) is finally a senior," Stuart said. "She is a fantastic player. Mulvey too. They are a solid team and they have a lot of experienced players who have been on varsity a long time. That's where they have the advantage on us."
After leading throughout Game 1 and closing it on an ace from Sarah Dugan, the Saints took the lead for good in Game 2 at 8-7 on Allison Manley's kill.
St. Charles East grabbed its biggest lead at 13-8 before 3 straight kills from Lisa Studnicka closed the gap.
Waubonsie eventually pulled within 21-20 on a Lauren Lindell kill. But that experience gap Stuart mentioned was on display down the stretch when 3 Warrior hitting errors and Kathleen Dailey's kill for St. Charles East gave the Saints a 4-0 run to end the match.
Kull was pleased with the play of Mulvey and Caitlyn Ballard, one of just three juniors on the team. Everyone else is a senior, veterans who know what Kull expects to see from them.
"We struggled a little on passing and blocking," Niski said. "It's a mixture of nerves and what we are doing wrong and obviously we have a lot of time to fix it."
"For now our goals are to get the team together, we need to bond more," Mulvey said.
Studnicka led the Warriors with 8 kills and 14 digs. Rachel Minarick added 3 kills and 5 assists and Lauren Clarke 9 digs.
The Saints return to action Friday and Saturday at Conant's Invitational against the likes of St. Pius from Wisconsin, Conant, Palatine and St. Francis.
"We need to go play a little more crisp," Kull said. "This could be a good wake-up call for us. This is so early and I'm glad things like this happen now. I know we can play better."
For a good cause: Saints junior setter Erinne Barry was handing out fliers after the game to raise support for a classmate diagnosed with leukemia. The Saints are selling "Together We Will Fight" T-shirts for $10 at their home game against Batavia on Sept. 13.