Palatine edges LZ in battle of familiar coaching foes
While playing for the Illinois State's men's volleyball club team, middle blocker Dan Gavin took his sets from Matt Aiello for four years.
The two former Mid-Suburban League volleyball standouts were together on the court again Wednesday night — as high school girls volleyball head coaches.
Gavin's Pirates shook off a first-set loss to Aiello's Bears as the two teams battled pretty much neck-and-neck the rest of the way before host Palatine prevailed 20-25, 25-23, 25-23.
"It's always fun coaching against Matt," Gavin said. "His team are always physically-tough and well-coached."
The match featured a pair of D-I recruits both wearing No. 11.
Dayton-bound Taylor Fricano and teammate Val Soderstrom led the Pirates with 7 kills apiece while Rhode Island recruit Layne Self put down a match-high 14 kills for Lake Zurich (12-9).
Senior Cassie Chaplinsky (6 kills) served the Pirates to a 19-13 lead in Set 3 but Lake Zurich got to within 22-19 on a kill by junior Sydney Glover.
Back-to-back blasts by Self made it 23-23 when Gavin called his final timeout.
An ensuing block by Chaplinsky and kill by junior Hannah Bridier gave Palatine (16-4) the nonconference match.
It was Bridier's fourth kill of the match to go along with 3 blocks and 1 ace.
"I'm really proud of Hannah in the middle," Gavin said of his 5-foot-9 middle blocker who was 10-of-10 attacking. "She hasn't been getting a ton of sets but I thought she really maximized the ones she got. She was really an unsung hero."
Pirates libero Casey Dolen (8 digs) was a hero in the back row in the final two sets.
"I thought Casey struggled in the first set but she found a way to come back," Gavin said. "In my opinion, she made a play (save) midway through the second set that really turned the match."
The dig was on a ball attacked by Self.
"I thought Casey did a great job balancing the court when (Self) came around on a second-tempo set in the middle," Gavin said. "I think it really put something in (Self's) head that Casey had that part of the court covered and it made her think twice about trying the same thing later in the match. (Self) is a great hitter."
Self came up with numerous kills and clutch serves (6 aces) that gave the Bears a chance to keep their momentum.
"Kristen Walding and our libero (Ashley Dina, who had 27 digs) played great," Aiello said. "And Layne was outstanding. Every time she's on the floor, teams have three blockers against her and she still gets her 13 to 16 kills per match. Hands down, she is the best middle I have coached."
"She's really good," Dolen said of the 6-foot-1 Self. "She was the person on the other side of the net that we had to focus on."
Chaplinsky was focused on attack, going 16-of-16 and 14-of-15 serving.
"I think we just had so much energy every point," the Pirates senior co-captain said. "I thought we got into their heads with our energy."
Aiello said his team made too many mistakes in the match.
"I think we may have had as many errors as they had kills," said the former Buffalo Grove standout. "But that's a testament to Palatine. They played outstanding defense and made us work for our kills."
Junior Mallory Parsons added 9 kills for the Bears while Walding had 5 with her 32 assists. Glover also had 5 kills and right-side hitter Nicole Morrissey added 3.
"I think we are the most talented team in the area," Aiello said. "If anyone thinks I'm crazy, that fine.
"But we don't finish. We just don't finish. I have all the confidence in the world we can be the last team playing in the sectional."
Seniors Alex Heidrich (13 assist) and Sarah Shiffner (6 assists) shared the setting duties for Palatine while classmate Cayla Kendzior was 17-of-17 serving with an ace and 7 serve receives.
Fricano came up with 21 serve receives, including some sharp ones on Self's rockets.
"It was definitely a nice win," Fricano said. "I'm glad we were able to put it in the books."
"A lot of great defensive play on both sides," said Gavin, who played volleyball at Palatine. "Both teams competed hard and picked up a lot of balls."
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