Rolling Meadows won all 5 round-robin matches to win the 22nd Annual Elgin Girls Volleyball Invitational Saturday, but more than one team walked away with a feeling of accomplishment.
South Elgin, Dundee-Crown -- even Elgin, which finished 0-5 in its own tournament -- left Chesbrough Field House seeing the glass half full based on tournament play.
No squad in the six-team field played better than Rolling Meadows (19-13), which added the Elgin Invite title to an earlier tournament win at Aurora Christian, where the Mustangs also went 5-0. Rolling Meadows' 19th victory in the tournament finale against Dundee-Crown matched last season's win total (19-14).
"It feels really good," senior middle blocker Rachel Mickey said. "We're definitely working better as a team. We're not focusing on ourselves as much as we used to, and we're playing a lot better."
It was a team effort for Rolling Meadows, which was led by Mickey (40 kills, 10 blocks), senior middle Morgan Keller (30 kills, 12 blocks), junior outside hitter Ashley Montanez (27 kills,) and junior setters Jenny Vliet (55 assists, 5 aces) and Sami Kay (52 assists, 2 aces),
The Mustangs won Game 1 against Dundee-Crown 25-12, but found themselves tied 8-8 in the second game by the Chargers, winners of 3 of their first 4 matches. An 8-0 run fueled by 2 Vliet aces and Mickey's tip kill put Meadows on the path to a 25-13 victory.
"Rolling Meadows went 3 games against Elgin and Highland Park and we beat those teams, so it was a little frustrating that we didn't push as much as we could against them," Dundee-Crown coach Christine Hopkins-Muehl said. "It just kind of broke down a little bit and it wasn't working for us."
Dundee-Crown leaders included Steph Magsamen (32 kills, 17 digs), Gina Pagano (19 kills, 6 aces), Jillian Hostetler (18 kills, 5 aces), Emily Michalski (15 kills, 4 blocks), Julia Parreno (11 digs, 7 aces), Franki Scarpelli (14 digs, 5 aces) and setter Cori Eischen (68 assists, 7 aces, 10 digs).
The Chargers finished 3-2 to take third overall.
"We were hoping to pull off a first or second place," Hopkins-Muehl said. "We thought it was definitely a tournament where we could have done well, but we're happy with 3-2. We'll take little baby steps for now. They've definitely been improving, so that's a positive for us."
South Elgin finished 4-1 to take second place. The solid showing lifted the Storm to a new school record for wins in a season (18), surpassing the previous record of 16 achieved twice.
"That was our motivation, to beat the school record," said South Elgin senior Rachel Murray, who led the Storm with 41 digs. "It feels like we've accomplished a lot because this is almost the same varsity team as last year, but we added a few new players. Adding them to the team has helped us achieve this goal."
South Elgin was taken the distance against Highland Park, Leyden and Elgin and swept Dundee-Crown. Rolling Meadows was the only team to defeat the Storm, 25-23, 22-25, 15-10.
South Elgin was led by senior Ali Osborne (27 kills, 4 blocks), junior Bri Reum (26 kills), senior Amanda Nadler (24 kills, 8 blocks), senior Sam Kummerer (16 aces, 6 kills), senior Karlee Bradley (38 digs) and senior setter Corbin Kehe (99 assists, 14 digs, 9 aces).
"A lot of players who don't usually step up stepped up and did a lot of good things," South Elgin coach Joni Plach said.
Elgin (2-28-2) was unable to win a match, but the improving Maroons did force eventual tournament champion Rolling Meadows, second-place South Elgin and Leyden to decisive third games, a positive sign.
"The first three tournaments we were in this season, we didn't go to one Game 3," Elgin coach Scott Stewart said. "We'd lose Game 1, roll over and die in Game 2 and move on to the next one. We're not doing that anymore."
"Our record so often does not reflect how we play," said Elgin senior Hope Demel, who led the Maroons with 51 assists, 28 kills and 14 aces. "We've been improving all year. Our teamwork has been getting better, our skills, our ball control. We really started playing together as a team. The (matches) we took to three sets were the best three we've played all year."
Leyden's lone win came against Elgin, 21-25, 25-14, 15-12. The Eagles were led by junior outside hitter Kelly Murphy (40 kills), junior middle Carly O'Kray (20 kills, 9 aces), sophomore Nikolina Jurisic (11 kills, 8 aces) and freshman outside hitter Emily Steininger (13 kills).