Scouting the Mid-Suburban League championship
Who: Palatine (21-8, 8-2) vs. Hersey (25-5, 10-0)
Where: Hersey's Ken Carter Gymnasium, Arlington Heights
When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
History: The first MSL match was played in 1973, when Schaumburg defeated Hersey. Hersey has since played in 17 title matches, 16 under current coach Nancy Lill, who recently won her 800th match. The Huskies have won 9 (8 under Lill), including three of the last four. Palatine has appeared in 8 title matches, the last in 1998 when the Pirates lost to Hersey. Palatine has won six championship matches, the last in 1997.
Hersey's rotation is deep as 25-year coach Nancy Lill often goes with as many as 11 players: Abby Fesl (5-10 Sr S), Taylor Schill (5-6, Sr. L), Erica Hill (6-0 Sr. MB), Allie Mueller (5-4 Sr. DS), Anna Mullen-Muhr (5-10 Sr. OH), Megan Solans (5-8 Jr. OH), Katie Krebs (5-7 Jr. DS), Carly Pisano (5-8 Jr. S), Courtney Stedman (5-10 So. OH), Gabriella Olhava (5-11 So MB), Liz Fuerst (5-10 Fr. RH-MB).
Palatine's rotation under sixth-year coach Dan Gavin has centered around Casey Dolen (5-7 Sr. L), Hannah Bridier (5-9 Jr. MB-OH), Cayla Kendzior (5-9 Sr. S/OH), Cassie Chaplinsky (5-10 Sr. (OH), Val Soderstrom (5-11 Sr. OH), Taylor Fricano (6-3 Sr. OH), Alex Heidrich (5-9 Sr. S) and Sarah Schiffner (5-9 Sr. S).
What the coaches are saying ...
"We've been in this game enough to know that the team that plays its game, passes wheel, and plays with confidence and doesn't let the whole setting and atmosphere get to them, will be successful. It's always a whole new experience for the kids in a pressure situation with a lot of people watching and last year we didn't' handle it well (lost at Barrington). We have a lot of the same players back (setter Abby Fesl and libero Taylor Schill are three-year starters), some who were on the court and some from the bench, who experienced it and are hungry to change the outcome.
Palatine obviously has an outstanding player in Taylor Fricano (Dayton-bound). We know she will get her share of kills but we will do our best to neutralize her. They are an excellent team. They're having an excellent season and Dan does a great job. It won't be an easy match. It will be a battle and we're excited about the opportunity. It comes down to whose floor game is more solid and who can minimize their errors. That team will definitely be more successful."
-- Hersey's Nancy Lill
"Patience and consistency are the key to be successful in this match. We've got to work hard to stay in our system so we can run the offense we want. And we have to be patient against their defense, recognizing that the kills will come as long as we are persistent. It's an honor to be in this match. And the girls are excited about the opportunity in front of them. Obviously Hersey is a great program with a storied history in this match. So it should be a fun match."
-- Palatine's Dan Gavin
Moving on to Division I
Hersey setter Abby Fesl and Palatine outside hitter Taylor Fricano are headed to Northern Florida and Dayton, respectively. Here's what they have to say about the MSL title match:
"What we need to do to beat Hersey is to play our game and create our own energy. In our big matches, I honestly have to say that the energy we brought helped us win most of those. For example, in our home matches Schaumburg, Lake Zurich and Barrington, which all went to three games, we were definitely the louder team on the court. We feed off each other's energy and I have to say that's what we need to bring against Hersey.
Being the first Palatine team to play in this match since 1998 makes me feel like a million bucks. To give something back to our high school is an incredible feeling. I love PHS, the staff, and the students. Saying we won the division for the first time in 14 years makes me proud to be a Pirate. I couldn't be more ecstatic. It's an honor."
-- Taylor Fricano, one of the top attackers in the state
"I think Palatine is going to come out really strong. We have to be at the top of our game. We know some of their players on their team so that will help. If we show up ready to play, I think we can do OK.
It's awesome to be in such a successful program as Hersey. Being part of an MSL championship match for the fourth straight year is unbelievable. I think it's going to be real exciting."
-- Abby Fesl, three-year starting setter and one of the top setters in the state