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updated: 10/17/2012 10:11 PM

Liu helps Libertyville win NSC crown

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  • Libertyville's Julia Smagacz, left, Kristen Webb, and Vicky Liu celebrate after beating Lakes to win the NSC title Wednesday night at Libertyville.

       Libertyville's Julia Smagacz, left, Kristen Webb, and Vicky Liu celebrate after beating Lakes to win the NSC title Wednesday night at Libertyville.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Taylor Zant, right, spikes one toward Lakes' Emily Aigner during the NSC title game Wednesday night at Libertyville.

       Libertyville's Taylor Zant, right, spikes one toward Lakes' Emily Aigner during the NSC title game Wednesday night at Libertyville.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Kristen Webb raises the NSC trophy after the Wildcats defeated Lakes on Wednesday night at Libertyville.

       Libertyville's Kristen Webb raises the NSC trophy after the Wildcats defeated Lakes on Wednesday night at Libertyville.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Lakes' Alex Silvola, right, spikes one at Libertyville's Alex Basler and Rhiannon Prentiss during the NSC title game Wednesday night at Libertyville.

       Lakes' Alex Silvola, right, spikes one at Libertyville's Alex Basler and Rhiannon Prentiss during the NSC title game Wednesday night at Libertyville.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Taylor Zant spikes the ball past Lakes' Shannon Grant and Emily Aigner during the NSC title game Wednesday night at Libertyville.

       Libertyville's Taylor Zant spikes the ball past Lakes' Shannon Grant and Emily Aigner during the NSC title game Wednesday night at Libertyville.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
 

Some of Vicky Liu's Libertyville classmates apparently know zilch, nada, about No. 0.

That might be a different story now, however, after Liu, Libertyville's shortest volleyball player, was a large part of the story in the Wildcats' 25-18, 25-16 win over visiting Lakes on Wednesday night. The victory gave the Wildcats their second North Suburban Conference championship in three years.

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"I'd be walking in the hallways (wearing my volleyball jersey) and people would be like, 'Are you a benchwarmer? Because people aren't normally No. 0,' " Liu, a junior defensive specialist who's No. 0 on the roster, said with a laugh.

Her teammates know better.

"I had the choice between No. 32 and No. 0, because they were the only extra smalls (jerseys)," the 5-foot-4 Liu said. "I was like, 'Well, I was No. 32 last year, and that's kind of a big number.' (My teammates) are always (saying), 'Zero's my hero. You should pick No. 0.' So I was just like, 'OK, why not?' "

Little Vicky Liu a hero in the conference championship match on a star-studded team led by four-year varsity stars Cindy Zhou and Kristen Webb?

Why not?

Libertyville (25-5) trailed 16-15 in the opening set when Liu's ace flipped the momentum. She served for 9 straight points, including another ace, and when she was done, the Wildcats were up 24-16.

"She's an aggressive server," Wildcats coach Greg Loika said. "Sometimes it takes her a little bit to get on a roll, but when she's finding spots, she's one of our most dangerous servers, for sure. Good pace. Nice, flat float. And hard to pass."

Liu served another ace in the second set, this one extending the Wildcats' lead to 22-11.

"I was nervous for it, too," Liu said of her serves. "I know it's like any ol' game, but (the coaches) are always telling us, 'You can't miss two serves in a row.' "

Liu didn't miss a serve the entire match.

"That run (in the first set) and a couple of other serving runs cleaned up a lot of things we weren't doing well," Loika said. "It was not our best match, and I'm sure it wasn't (Lakes') best match either."

Lakes (18-6) enjoyed an early lead in the second set, as well, as a kill by Emily Aigner gave the Eagles a 9-7 advantage. But a variety of unforced errors -- including miscommunication on a pass, a missed serve, an illegal set and a lift -- ultimately prevented the Eagles from gaining any momentum back. A couple of kills by Shannon Grant staved off defeat only temporarily before a kill by the Wildcats' Jordan Bauer ended it.

"We started off a little bit shaky," said Libertyville senior outside hitter Julia Smagacz, who belted out the national anthem with her school choir classmates and then belted 5 kills to tie Zhou and Taylor Zant for the team lead. "But I thought we did a really good job of pulling back and really, really pushing toward the finish."

Alex Basler added 3 kills for Libertyville. In addition to her 5 kills, Zhou dished out 13 assists, served an ace and had a pancake dig in the opening set. Webb was her typical scrappy self, recording 21 digs.

Lakes, which fell to Lake Forest in last year's conference championship match, got 5 kills from Grant and four from Aigner. Haley Halberg served 11 of 11 with 3 aces, and Sarah Horner had 2 kills and 2 aces.

"(Lakes) served tough, so credit them for that," Loika said. "I think they served really aggressively and got us out of system a lot, especially in that first game, and put us in spots we're not used to being in."

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