Schaumburg girls volleyball coach Jeanette Pancratz calls the Saxons "a team at work."
"And we have been since Aug. 8, the first day of practice," said the veteran coach, who has won more than 725 matches in 22 seasons. "And we still have a lot of work left. We'll see what it brings."
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Thursday night, the Saxons' hard work brought them one of their biggest wins of the season.
They survived 3 set points in the second game before pulling out a dramatic 25-23, 28-26 triumph over visiting Fremd (16-6, 6-3) to tie the Vikings for second place in the Mid-Suburban West.
Just two days earlier, the Saxons (14-8, 6-3) lost one of their toughest matches of the season to West champion Palatine (19-4, 8-1), dropping the third set 28-26.
"That's (28-26 score) what I thinking about that during the match," said Saxons senior setter Marissa Christy (10 assists, 1 ace). "Now we're on the other side of a score like that and know what if feels like to win that way."
Christy played a major role in the win, helping the Saxons rally from the 24-21 deficit in Set 2 against Fremd.
After sophomore Jada Blackwell set junior Kiana Lewis for the big side out that made it 24-22, Christy stepped to the service.
With the help of kill by senior Kelly Koutnik (match-high 17 kills), a block by Lewis and another kill by Lewis (7 kills, 3 aces) off a set from Christy, the Saxons forged ahead 25-24.
"I always just think like it's just practice," Christy said of her big 3-of-3 service run which kept the Saxons alive at set point. "I don't let any outside nerves take over."
Fremd sophomore Lane Hindenburg gave her team new life when she out down a kill to tie the set at 25.
Christy and Lewis hooked up again for a 26-25 lead before Maisie Koo answered with a kill for the 26-26 tie.
But the Saxons put away the match with back-to-back kills by Koutnik, both coming on sets by Christy (10 for the match).
"I've just got to trust my hitters and passers," Christy said. "It's a team effort."
Sarah Stuehm and Lewis helped anchor the back row with 7 digs apiece while Koutnik had 6.
"It's just composure by everyone on the team," Pancratz said of the two 2-point set wins. "I'm so proud of the effort. day after day. the girls put in.
"They are really working on being focused and executing the game plans. Even against Palatine (Tuesday), they played all-out, right to the end."
The end of sets is what Fremd coach Curt Pinley will be stressing.
"We've just been struggling at closing time," said Pinley, whose team almost rallied from a 24-20 deficit in Set 1 before Koutnik got the set-winner.
"We ran into a good Barrington team (two-set loss on Tuesday) which is hot, and now Schaumburg is playing well. We need to close at the right time and we are just struggling with that now."
Hindenburg finished with 12 kills for Fremd while teammates Claire Brady had 11 and Koo 5. Senior setter Marilyn Lortz handed out 19 assists.
"I thought Nicole Obos did a really nice job in Set 2 with two really big digs on No. 7 (Koutnik)," Pinley said. "That brought some life to us, and I thought it might bring some momentum to us. to finish, but we just didn't do it."