There's not a whole lot of Marina Treto, Grayslake Central's petite, pesky libero.
But for four varsity seasons, she has poured every single ounce of the passion packed in her 5-foot-2 frame into Rams volleyball.
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It's been worth it, she will tell you.
"We had a lot of incoming freshmen my freshman year, and everyone just came in with a lot of positive energy," Treto said. "I could tell from the start that we were going to have a good year coming and it was just going to keep on going. I knew that the program would start to blossom right away."
It took a year.
With its freshman treat Treto on its roster three years ago, Grayslake Central's varsity went 13-24. By outlasting their stubborn-rival Grayslake North 25-23, 27-25 Tuesday night, the Rams hit the 20-win mark for the third straight season. The back-to-back-to-back feat is a first for his team, coach Jason Janczak said.
The achievement -- accomplished on the Rams' senior night -- was especially sweet for Treto and fellow seniors Anna Strickland and Maddy Smith.
"It says a lot to those seniors to be a part of that transformation, from an average program to a program that's pretty solid," Janczak said. "It's a testament to those seniors."
All three contributed for Grayslake Central (20-10), which with the win finished 8-4 in the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division, against Grayslake North (10-24, 2-9). Treto finished with a team-best 10 digs, Smith slammed 3 kills, and Strickland contributed 8 digs.
"We were all emotional in our team huddle out in the hallway,"Treto said. "We were all remembering our games, how far we've come, how many hours we've put in the gym during the summer. And we all laid it out here (on the floor) in our last home game."
It was the third time this season that the Rams bested their crosstown rival, and each match was highly competitive. Grayslake Central won in three sets at Grayslake North and prevailed in two tight sets at Lakes' tournament.
"Something about Central always pumps us up," said Grayslake North senior Kelsey Klausner, who had 4 kills, 12 digs and 2 aces. "It's always something to look forward to."
The Knights jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the opening set thanks, in part, to a pair of aces from Melanie Aikin, one from Lisa Lowry and one of Joanna Guhl's squad-best 5 kills. The Rams battled back and took the lead, but another ace by Lowry put the visitors up 23-22.
Grayslake Central then got back-to-back kills from Hannah Thomas and Meghan Brewster. Treto's ace ended an exciting Set 1.
"I've been working on my serve a lot," Treto said.
Grayslake North came out strong again in the second set, building its lead to 13-10 lead when Guhl hammered a kill.
"That's a great team," Janczak said of the Knights. "They are quick, tall and aggressive. If we give them free balls, we know we need to buckle down because their hitters with Guhl and Klausner are tough to defend against. Our game plan was to make sure we kept it aggressive against them and made sure that we kept them out of system."
Three kills by the unselfish Gabi Casper, who didn't play in the first set in order to allow Smith to play the entire time, highlighted a run of 7 straight points that swung the momentum for the Rams, putting them up 17-13.
Back came the Knights, who eventually pulled even at 22-22. The Rams finally prevailed when a Knights kill attempt landed long.
Casper, Alex Dahlstrom, Lexi Beckman and Allie Daul each had 5 kills for Grayslake Central. Brewster set 51 of 52 with 22 assists.
Besides Klausner, Aikin also had 4 kills for Grayslake North, while Alaina Geissberger posted 3 blocks. Lowry dished out 13 assists, and libero Stefani Keilwitz registered 8 digs.
"In our last practice we made up some new plays," Klausner said. "They seemed to work this game because every time we ran them we got (the ball) over or got a kill on them."
The Knights wrap up regular-season play at home against Woodstock North on Thursday on senior night, before hosting Grant in their regional opener Monday night.
"We had a really great intense match, and we've been struggling up and down, intensity-wise, for the whole season," Grayslake North coach Nikki Kirchway said. "This is something to build on for regionals, because that's what it comes down to, and we really have a shot at winning a regional for the first time for our school history."