Libertyville officially won an North Suburban Conference Lake Division title on Wednesday night.
The champion Wildcats have a splendid setter in senior Cindy Zhou, who no doubt would have been very impressed with the setting work of Lake Zurich's Kristen Walding.
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Walding, a junior, started her team's serving effort against powerful Stevenson and didn't surrender that role until it was 11-2.
Lake Zurich (14-8) may have played its best match of the season and handled Stevenson 25-16, 25-22 in a match on the Patriots' home floor.
"Kristen played pretty awesomely,'' said Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello. "We put a lot of responsibility on her."
Awesome in this case was 3 kills, 2 aces, 2 blocks and 17 assists.
Lake Zurich middle hitter Layne Self (5 kills) also applauded Walding's performance.
"She's really smart,'' Self said. "She tips at the perfect time."
Stevenson (25-3) came into this Lake Division matchup as the No. 1 seed in the Fremd sectional. And yet the Pats were never in the first set as the Lake Zurich lead reached 15-5 in the first set.
"Lake Zurich played great tonight,'' said Stevenson coach Tim Crow. "They were alert and they came out to play. I hope this was a reality check for us. And maybe they will practice like they should."
Stevenson recovered from the tough first set and took a quick lead behind a kill from Liza Pflugradt (6 kills). Lake Zurich answered back behind the hard serving Rhode Island University-bound Self.
"I got my serve going during my sophomore year,'' Self said. "And I got better with it. I just try and serve hard."
The Bears opened a 14-11 lead behind a gorgeous kill from Walding.
"I'm hoping this will be kind a turning point for us,'' Walding said. "We just need to keep it up.''
Walding knows she has a special hitter in Self.
"I always know I can get her the ball,'' she said.
So where has this Lake Zurich team been this year? A team that just knocked off a top seed in a sectional.
"We have 8 losses,'' Aiello said. "So we have dealt with adversity. I was really more impressed with our game two win. We really didn't have to work in game one. Stevenson helped us. I'm happy that the girls have continued to trust the system and trust me."
Set two was close the entire way. Stevenson pulled within 20-18, but on back-to-back kills from Walding, the Bears' lead was 22-19. Jenna Radtke (8 kills) had a block kill for the Patriots cutting the lead to 24-22. That set up Self, who put the ball away and end the match.
The Bears also had help from Mallory Parsons (4 kills and 2 blocks), Nicole Morrissey (3 kills), Sydney Glover (2 kills, 1 block), Kiley McPeek (2 kills) and libero Ashley Dina (16 digs).
Stevenson had 2 kills each from Khaila Donaldson and Kara Maleski, and libero Elizabeth Shancer had 8 digs.