Kaneland nearly had a comeback for the ages.
The DeKalb girls volleyball team had 7 match points Thursday night against Kaneland in Maple Park, only to see the Knights stave off every conceivable final winner the Barbs might entertain.
Unfortunately, the Knights' attempt to send the Northern Illinois Big XII East match into a second extra session came up a point short as DeKalb junior Madison Lord had the last of her 7 kills to deny Kaneland.
With its 25-20, 26-28 and 25-23 victory DeKalb moved to 17-3 overall and 2-0 in the league; Kaneland fell to 10-4, 0-2.
"We had to push through it," said DeKalb middle hitter Courtney Bemis, who led both teams with 14 kills. "We didn't execute very well in the second game. It's important for us in the conference. It's one game at a time."
DeKalb only trailed twice, 0-1 and 1-2, in the decisive third set; the Barbs' Courtney Wagner had 4 critical blocks for kills in the final game to help stake her squad to a 24-16 lead.
But Kaneland refused to wilt.
DeKalb returned the service honors on a hitting mistake, and Jenny Lubic took command from there.
The junior setter served 6 consecutive points to bring the Knights to within 24-23.
Ellie Dunn had one of her team-high 10 kills during the run; Keri Groen added a pair of blocks to augment a pair of DeKalb mistakes that resulted in additional points.
"We were all excited," Dunn said. "We tried our hardest. The first game we kind of came out timid. We love having fun, close matches."
In the opening game, DeKalb broke free from a 10-10 deadlock with a 6-1 run to establish the largest lead of the first game.
Kaneland would close to within 21-19 on a Dunn service point, but DeKalb countered with kills from Bemis and Alexis Hammond to score 4 of the last 5 points.
"We had to know what they were doing," said Kaneland tri-captain Ashley Prost, who finished with 8 kills for the Knights.
The second game was tight throughout as Kaneland snared its largest lead of the night, 20-17, on a Dunn kill.
Kaneland faced match point, trailing 24-23, but back-to-back DeKalb hitting errors reversed the Knights' deficit.
Lord had a kill to send the second game into extra time, and the Knights once again faced elimination with the Barbs serving with a 26-25 lead.
But Dunn returned the serving honors to Lyndi Scholl, and Prost had consecutive kills to force the third set.
There were 4 early ties in the third game, but DeKalb had a 9-2 run, capped by a Nicole Schladt ace, to gain the upper hand at 17-10.
"We had to come out with more intensity (in the third set)," Kaneland coach Todd Weimer said. "We just can't start in a hole like that."
Lubic finished with 18 assists, while Shayna Tucek had a team-high 9 digs and Lauren Banbury contributed 4 blocks for the Knights.