Naperville North plays the spoiler
Corinne Gajcak couldn't imagine a better way to go out on Senior Night.
Gajcak threw down match point to cap off Naperville North's back-and-forth 25-13, 14-25, 25-23 win over Naperville Central on Tuesday, all but denying the rival Redhawks a share of the DuPage Valley Conference championship.
The Huskies (21-8, 10-3) had dropped a match to the Redhawks (26-8, 11-2) at the Wheaton Classic, and a three-setter at Naperville Central. Third time proved the charm.
"It's amazing to beat them on our Senior Night," said future Iowa Hawkeye Gajcak, "and show them what we're made of. Super important to beat them, especially since they beat us twice."
After taking turns dominating the first two sets, the two teams played to 10 ties in a hotly contested third with many long rallies, the final tie 22-22. Naperville North trailed 17-14 and 18-15 but came back to grab a 22-20 lead. At 22-22 Huskies sophomore Megan Wernette drove her fifth kill of the night off a block, and a Redhawks hitting error pushed Naperville North to match point.
An Alysia Baznik tip kill from the back row over a double block, her 14th kill, momentarily kept the Redhawks alive. But Gajcak's eighth kill off a touch in the back corner finished things off.
A young Huskies team stood tall at the end.
"Our girls did an excellent job of bouncing back after that second set," Huskies coach Jennifer Urban said. "We got beat pretty badly there, and to come back and win a close match at the end against a really strong opponent shows how far we've come this season. We just showed great composure, and at the end we made great plays to win."
Naperville Central, which dropped a game behind West Aurora in the DVC chase with one match to play, was its own worst enemy. The Redhawks gave their opponent 14 points off errors in the first set. Leading 20-18 in the third, Naperville Central served long, then committed 3 straight hitting errors to go down 22-20.
"We made some uncharacteristic mistakes at the end, and it happens," Redhawks coach Brie Isaacson said. "The good teams find a way to not do that. We have to keep working hard and hope that it doesn't happen again."
Colleen Larson had 16 digs, Emily Kwak 27 assists, and Welch and Jurek 6 kills apiece for Naperville North. Up 7-5 in the first, the Huskies took control with an 8-1 run aided by 7 Redhawks errors.
The two teams will likely meet for a fourth time in regional play next Tuesday at Naperville Central, which makes this win a nice confidence-builder.
"I think going into this match we were motivated, but we didn't exactly have as much confidence as we should have," Gajcak said. "Winning this match, it gives us all the confidence in the world."
Sammy Condon had 5 kills and 2 blocks, Nikki Connors 4 kills and 2 blocks and Abbi Williamson 28 assists for the Redhawks, who never trailed in the second set and closed with a 7-0 run capped by a Baznik block and kill. Baznik's monster smash gave the Redhawks a 19-17 lead in the third that was short-lived.
Naperville Central clearly was off to start the match. At one point the ball dropped between a pair of seniors.
"I can't think of one time in four years that's happened. We just weren't as in sync as we've been recently," Isaacson said. "The sets, the hits, even the overall communication. We have to overcome that."
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