Watching Timothy Christian on Tuesday night, one thought kept coming to mind.
This team has seven losses?
Glenbard South would sure need some convincing.
The host Trojans controlled large chunks of the first and third sets in Elmhurst, handing the 19th-ranked Raiders their first Metro Suburban Conference loss 25-17, 27-29, 25-14.
"They just took it to us," Glenbard South coach Chad Grant said.
"It was a lot of fun," said Trojans sophomore middle Kacie Stoll, who had a match-high 14 points. "They're one of our biggest rivals, because they've always been a really good team. It's a lot of fun to play them and win."
The bar has been set awful high at Timothy Christian. Last year the Trojans won their first-ever sectional championship to go with a conference title, a season that included a 32-match unbeaten streak.
With girls like junior setter Jenna Lodewyk and Stoll back, expectations were high. The Trojans (17-7, 5-1) might just be finding their stride, winning the Manteno Invite over the weekend and following it up Tuesday.
"I really think this group of girls is starting to click," Trojans coach Lindsey Van Schepen said. "We have enough girls returning that they have great expectations, too. We're not the same team we were at the beginning of the season. They've grown a lot."
The Trojans nearly won Tuesday in two sets. Down 24-21, they surged ahead 25-24 on a Glenbard South lift. The Raiders (16-7, 5-1) fought off three match points, Tarah Valdez delivering a pair of clutch kills, before Jane Trzaska flipped in a kill for set point.
The momentum didn't carry over. Timothy Christian never trailed in the third set, and Glenbard South hurt its own cause with 15 errors. At one point the Raiders gave away 6 straight points on errors, turning a 7-6 game into a 15-9 deficit.
"That speaks for itself," Grant said.
Other than a stretch in the second set, Glenbard South struggled to get the ball to its outsides Trzaska and Valdez. Timothy Christian set the tone at the service line, acing the Raiders 4 times in the first set.
Grant gave kudos to his opponent.
"Give them credit, they served us tougher than any team has all season," Grant said. "We've never been out of system passing like that against anybody, even some of the elite teams. It really affected us."
Stoll, a role player on last year's team as a freshman, is clearly assuming a much bigger role this year. The Trojans' tallest girl at 6 foot, Stoll had 3 kills in the first set, two of them and a block keying a decisive 5-1 run, and a couple more to boost the Trojans to a quick start in the third. Stoll's 14th kill of the night gave her team a commanding 18-10 lead in the third.
"We had a lot of energy left from that (second set)," Stoll said. "We knew what we had to do. Their hitters came on in that second set. We knew we had to put up a stronger block and our defense did an amazing job."
Senior outside Bridgitt Buikema had 11 kills -- 6 in the first set -- and 10 digs, Elena Bulthuis 8 kills and Lodewyk 32 assists. Glenbard South managed just 1 block all night. About the only thing that kept the Raiders in it in the first set were 5 Trojans service errors. Timothy Christian finished with 10.
"Last year was a lot of fun," Stoll said. "This year we came in with the attitude that this is a new season, and we're going to do the best we can. I don't think we've hit our stride yet."
Valdez finished with 13 kills, Trzaska 11 kills and 9 digs and Colleen Cooney 16 digs for Glenbard South.