Rare is the sequel that lives up to the original.
Naperville Central and Naperville North sure set the bar pretty high.
The crosstown rivals have their return engagement tonight at Naperville Central in a key DuPage Valley Conference clash.
The Redhawks rallied to beat the Huskies 24-26, 31-29, 29-27 in a classic of a first meeting Sep. 22, fighting off six match points in the second and two more in the third.
As usual, this one has big implications in the DVC.
Naperville Central (21-12, 11-1) leads Naperville North (21-7, 10-2) and West Aurora by a game, and can clinch at least a share of the DVC with a win tonight. The Redhawks wrap up their season Thursday at West Chicago, while the Huskies have Glenbard North left.
"We've never played North as close to the end of the season like this. I like that we are playing them now," Redhawks coach Brie Isaacson said. "I'm excited to see them now and I think we should be performing at our best, as I would expect North to be."
Recent injuries have forced Isaacson to shuffle her lineup.
Senior outside Kendall Ward, second on Naperville Central in kills, missed the team's matches Saturday at the Autumnfest tournament, didn't practice Monday and won't play tonight. Emilie Bischoff, plagued by injuries this year including a hip problem and a concussion, also won't go.
In their absence Isaacson is going with a modified 6-2 offense. Alysia Baznik is the Redhawks' L2 swinging on the left, instead of right-side all three front-row rotations, and also hits when playing right-back. Abbie Williamson is now setting on four rotations, instead of three.
"I'm grateful we had Saturday," Isaacson said, "because I was able to change the lineup and play three matches instead of having to figure it out tomorrow against North."
Naperville Central-Naperville North isn't the only match tonight involving rivals that will decide conference races.
At Waubonsie Valley, the Warriors (21-12, 5-0 Upstate Eight Valley) play host to Neuqua Valley (19-15, 5-0). To the winner is awarded the championship of the UEC Valley -- which would be the first conference title for Neuqua. The bridesmaid Wildcats haven't won a regional, either. Coincidentally Waubonsie denied them the first of those last year.
"We've been runner-up a bunch," Neuqua coach Kelly Simon said.
Never strangers, these two teams are even more familiar with each other this year. Neuqua beat Waubonsie at the Benet Invite in August, and the two teams split a pair of matches in September at the Warrior Blast.
"They beat us last year on our senior night," Simon said, "and tomorrow night is their senior night. We want to come in and compete. The bottom line is consistency. Whichever team executes best on the court will win, and that's how it should be."
Big night for Devils' Davis:
Hinsdale Central's long-awaited win over Lyons Township last Tuesday was a memorable one for Ally Davis. The Red Devils' Michigan-bound senior outside threw down a career-high 24 kills in the three-set win. It was Hinsdale's first win over Lyons in coach Sheralynn Kellough's 12 years at the school -- and as Kellough said, "maybe our first win over Lyons ever." Davis hit at a .460 percentage with just 1 error in 50 attempts.
"We had other kids doing their job which made it tougher for Lyons to know we were going to Ally," Kellough said. "Ally needed to execute, which she did nicely. It was a great team effort."
True to form for the inconsistent 16-12 Red Devils, they followed that landmark win with a two-set loss at 10-16 Downers Grove South two nights later.
With the playoffs around the corner, Kellough has let her kids know the up-and-down stuff must stop. Hinsdale Central has a big week ahead, playing York for a shot at its first West Suburban Silver title since the 1970s tonight, then getting rival Hinsdale South Thursday.
Hinsdale played for a piece of the Silver title in its last conference match the last two years, only to fall short both times.
"We're in the same situation," Kellough said. "These last two weeks are major weeks for us. We're hoping they can be a springboard into the playoffs."
Raiders make most of court time:
Multi-sport athletes are commonplace at Glenbard South, and a quick look at the Raiders volleyball roster affirms that trend.
They are more than holding their own without a heavy club presence.
Glenbard South is 20-9, riding a seven-match winning streak heading into tonight's match with Metro Suburban Conference leader Timothy Christian. The Raiders' last loss came to Timothy Christian (29-3), which itself has not dropped a match since Labor Day.
These girls aren't just successful in volleyball. Junior outside Jane Trzaska is an All-Area softball player for a Glenbard South team that took third at state last spring. Junior setter Sam Howard and senior Melissa Nelson were state qualifiers in track last year, and junior Theresa Scheet started at point guard for the Raiders' basketball team. Sophomore Tarah Valdez, Glenbard South's kills leader, plays basketball and softball and junior setter Nicole Schutte and junior Meg Schmalandt play soccer.
"We share them during the summer," Glenbard South coach Chad Grant said. "They come as much as they can."
Rare is the team with so few club volleyball kids that possess the talent these Raiders do. Grant has an idea why his kids are as good as they are.
"It shows how much they are putting into volleyball while they are here," he said. "They are really focusing on volleyball when they get into that season. It tells you how coachable they are."