As chance would have it, Mid-Suburban West and crosstown rivals Palatine and Fremd met for fifth place in the Early Bird Invite.
That meant Pirates coach Dan Gavin went up against his former high school coach Curt Pinley for the first time in at least three matches this season.
"Curt and I were joking before the tournament," Gavin said. "Every season our teams have the potential to meet in this tournament, and most of the time it happens."
Saturday's match happened to be a dandy.
It went down to the third set, in which Palatine led 24-16.
But Fremd kept pressing, holding off 6 match points before the Pirates gained the 25-22, 19-25, 25-22 victory on a service error.
Kills by seniors Taylor Fricano and Val Soderstrom helped stake the Pirates to the 24-16 cushion in Set 3 before Fremd began to cut away at the lead.
Coincidentally, two days earlier at Barrington, the Pirates led 24-17 in Set 3 and got a scare when the Fillies held off 6 match points before falling 25-23.
"I told our girls they are trying to stress me out," Gavin with a laugh. "But at the same time, they know I believe in them and they believe in themselves.
"When we need the big play, the girls have pulled together and made it happen, and that's a good trait."
"I was getting a little nervous," said Pirates libero Casey Dolen, who collected 10 digs. "But we all trusted each other and we pulled through."
Alex Heidrich pulled the strings in the Pirates' offense, handing out 29 assists from 79 sets.
Among the 5-foot-9 senior setter's top targets against Fremd were Fricano (14 kills) and junior Hannah Bridier (5).
Fricano had 40 kills for the tourney, followed Soderstrom (19) Cassie Chaplinsky (16) and Bridier (13).
"We were really happy with our finish, our highest since coach Gavin has been in charge (six seasons)," Heidrich said. "Our team has a lot of chemistry, especially with all the older players we have. We are all friends off and on the court."
An ace by sophomore Lane Hindenburg brought Fremd to within 6-3 in Set 3 but Bridier served 6 straight points for a 12-3 Pirates' lead.
"She's (Bridier) been doing that a lot," Dolen said. "She is a good server and serving is one of the strengths of our team."
For the tourney, Fremd's attack was led by Hindenburg (120-140, 35 kills), Claire Brady (54-59, 30 kills) and Maise Koo (38-44, 16 kills).
Setter Marilyn Lortz was 272-of-286 with 102 assists.
"I thought we played well but we are still a little disappointed," Lortz said. "Palatine is a good team but everyone in the conference is looking good. We think we can do better. It was a lot of fun but we have a lot of work to do."
Pinley liked his team's consistency for the weekend.
"We've just got to work on the finer points of the game," he said. "For the most part, I was really pleased and now we have to move forward."
Palatine finished 4-1 in the tourney while Fremd went 3-2.
Conant (3-2) placed seventh and Hoffman Estates (2-3) was eighth.
Jenn Donnell led the Cougars' attack in the tourney with 45 kills while Katie Lomas had 25. Suzi Loznjakovic set the offense with 68 assists and Taylor Levitt paced the back row with 40 digs.
The Saxons' attack was paced by Kiana Lewis (33 kills), Kelly Koutnik (25), Deanna Murphy (15), Laura Desautels (12) and Jada Blackwell (8) as setter Marisa Christy had 54 assists and Blackwell 31.
Sarah Stuehm led the back row with 58 digs and Koutnik had 42.
Other area teams in the long-running event were Rolling Meadows (ninth) and Elk Grove (12th).
Morgan Keller (36 kills), Rachel Mickey (29), Jenny Vliet (25) and Ashley Montanez (21) led the Mustangs' attack which was set by Vliet (45 assists) and Sami Kay (47 assists).
Jacobs tourney: Hersey seniors Abby Fesl (82 assists) and Taylor Schill (66 digs) were named to the all-tourney team as the Huskies (6-2) took sixth place with a 3-2 record.
Hersey defeated Waukesha Memorial 16-25 25-18 15-12 in pool play but lost to Wisconsin power in the playoffs (25-13, 25-22).
The Huskies' other loss was to Cary Grove (25-16, 27-25) while they also recorded wins over Elgin (25-9, 25-8) and Evanston 25-14 23-25 25-17).
Anna Mullen-Muhr led Hersey's attack with 37 kills followed by Courtney Stedman (21), Fesl (21), Erica Hill (13) and Liz Fuerst (11).
"Two matches against Waukesha and one against Cary-Grove was great experience," said Hersey coach Nancy Lill, whose team beat Waukesha for the first time in three seasons.
New Trier tourney: Wheeling went 3-2 in the 16-team tourney, getting wins over Waukegan (25-13, 25-6), Highland Park (25-18, 22-25, 25-19) and Maine West (25-18, 25-20).
Sydney Keith (37-42, 21 kills), Emily Walker (34-43, 13 kills), Jessi Zuba (30-35, 12 kills), Deanna Kuzmanic (32-35, 12 kills), Amanda Mullin (29-33, 12 kills) and Cayla Iwaniuk (28-33, 9 kills) led the attack which was set primarily by Mullin (50 assists) and Kuzmanic (32 assists).
Sara Kern led the Wildcats' defense with 72 digs while Keith had a team-high 9 blocks.
Maine West (2-5) placed tenth in the field as Ashley Collins (17 kills), Maddie Plantz (13), Magda Czerlonko (6 kills), Julia Huinker (6) and Ariel Valles (5) led the attack.
"I like our improvement over our first two weeks," said West coach Randy Tiller, whose team went 2-3 with wins over Zion-Benton and Regina. "We're serving more aggressively (22 aces in five matches). We're reading our opponents better and that is leading to more blocks (20 in five matches)."
Tiller also said the Warriors' attackers are swinging stronger (10-plus kills in four out of the ten sets).
"Kassidy Riportella and Janna Lopez (the setters) make the most of almost any pass," the coach added. "We fought back from 6 points down to beat Regina on Brittany Collins' 9-point service run. She's developed a super jump float serve."
The Warriors battled back from 11 down against Glenbrook North to take the lead at set point.
Plantz and Bridget Burger made 7 and 6-point service runs against Zion-Benton.
Riportella led off the final set with 5 aces in a row.
"Work in the practice gym is paying off," Tiller said. "We'll keep it up because we still have a long way to go."
Harper wins two: Harper (7-1, 1-0 in N4C) defeated College of DuPage 25-17, 25-15, 25-14 and Oakton 16-25, 25-12, 25-20, 25-17.
Erinn Hellweg (10 kills) and Veronica Dabrowski (7) led the Hawks' attack against DuPage.
Madison Rodriguez served 5 aces and Valerie Bazemore had 23 assists.
Against Oakton, Hellweg put down 15 kills while Kelly Sommers had 24 digs and 39 assists.