Close matches against Naperville North are nothing new to Alysia Baznik.
If anything, the Naperville Central senior seems to relish them.
"It's a privilege to play in this match, and exciting," said Baznik, a four-year starter. "This match is always really important to us. It's our cross-town rival."
The senior-laden No. 7 Redhawks showed their mettle in a close third set, pulling away to beat No. 12 Naperville North 25-21, 17-25, 25-17 on Thursday at Naperville Central.
In bouncing back from a rough second set, the Redhawks (13-4, 5-1 DuPage Valley Conference) beat the Huskies (11-6, 4-2) for the second time in a week and are 7-2 against Naperville North in Baznik's four years. Naperville Central also remained a game behind West Aurora in the DVC race.
"They kept their composure in that third set, got everyone involved," Redhawks coach Brie Isaacson said, "and finished the way we like to play."
Naperville Central not only is experienced, starting six seniors, but the Redhawks have a host of hitters to go to in key spots. That showed late Thursday.
Tied 13-13 in the third, the Redhawks put the match away with a 10-3 run. Senior outsides Baznik and Kendall Ward both had 2 kills during that stretch, senior middle Sammy Condon a kill and sophomore middle Phoebe Havenaar got in on the act with a kill. Ward answered Corinne Gajcak's 14th kill for Naperville North with a big smash for a 20-16 lead. The Redhawks were never again threatened.
"We came out with a different mindset in that third set," Baznik said. "We decided to kick it in and get to work. Naperville North, they challenged us."
When the Redhawks pass well, they possess senior physicality at the net that can be hard to match.
"Unfortunately sometimes our serve receive isn't as strong," Isaacson said. "Sometimes it breaks down and when it does we become a little more predictable. When we play our best is when we get all our hitters involved. I've seen their progression as they've grown, and it's all starting to come together."
Naperville Central dominated the first set behind Baznik's 7 kills and 3 each from Ward and Condon, 10 Redhawks errors keeping things somewhat close. The Huskies had an answer in the second. Gajcak had 6 of her kills in the set, 4 coming during a 7-2 run that pushed Naperville North ahead for good 9-7. Junior middle Angela Jurek added 4 of her 8 kills during the second set.
Huskies coach Jennifer Urban appreciated how her girls bounced back to force a third set. Naperville Central needed just two sets to win their match at the Wheaton Classic last Saturday.
"That second set was probably our best of the season," Urban said. "That was exciting to see against a strong opponent."
Ward finished with 9 kills, Condon 6 kills and 4 blocks and Connors 5 kills and 2 blocks with Abbi Wiliamson setting 32 assists for the Redhawks, with Baznik adding 10 kills. Emily Kwak had 35 assists, Colleen Larson 13 digs and Becky Welch had 6 kills for Naperville North, who starts just two seniors.
"They have girls that have been playing varsity volleyball for three or four seasons. That made a difference in the third (set)," Urban said. "We're still working on finding a lineup that works for us, but we're taking steps in the right direction."