After Hersey won a record-tying 10th Mid-Suburban League girls volleyball championship, the first thing Huskies standout setter Abby Fesl wanted to talk about was her team's fan support.
"Our fans were so great," she said. "To have them here backing us up really helped and we would love for them to come back when we host the regional next week."
Fesl might get her wish.
The student body turnout sure had to love what it saw in the 40th annual MSL showcase event on Thursday night.
The Mid-Suburban East champs dominated nearly start to finish with a 25-7, 25-14 triumph over MSL West champ Palatine in the Ken Carter Gymnasium in Arlington Heights.
Fesl, who also put down 3 kills, spread the wealth with her accurate sets, as Anna Mullen-Muhr (6 kills), Courtney Stedman (4), Gabriella Olhava (4), Erica Hill (2) and Liz Fuerst (2) led the attack.
"All our hitters were really on fire," said the Northern Florida-bound Fesl, who was 50-of-50 with 17 assists. "I trust them all to be able to get the kill and that really helped."
As usual, helping the Hersey back row was standout libero Taylor Schill, who got the attack rolling with her 20 digs.
"This is crazy," said Schill, who like Fesl, has been a part of four MSL title matches. "It feels good after last year when we lost at Barrington in this match. We came out so much stronger this time."
Palatine (21-9) actually had a strong start when Dayton-bound outside hitter Taylor Fricano gave her team a quick 2-0 lead with 2 kills.
But the Huskies (26-5) were unnerved, and ended up using just one service rotation (six servers) to win the set 25-7.
The Huskies got two big service runs in the set. Katie Krebs' 6 straight points made it 13-4, then Allie Mueller strung together nine in a row to close out the set on a kill by Stedman.
"I think we got a little scared when she (Fricano) got those 2 kills, but then we started pushing ourselves," Stedman said. "And our fans really got us going. That really helps."
Set 2 was tied at 13-13 when the 10-time defending East champs kicked into gear, scoring 12 of the next 13 points. It was 17-14 when Schill stepped to the service line and would remain there until the match ended on Olhava's kill.
"It was such a good win with all the fans supporting us," said Hill, who also had 3 blocks. "We were a little worried about (Fricano). But we handled it well. We tried to play our game. We picked up a lot of momentum in the first set and that carried us into the second set. It was a great feeling."
Fricano finished with 5 kills while also coming up with 6 digs in the back row.
"She's a great player and Palatine is an outstanding team," said Hersey coach Nancy Lill, who has won 9 of Hersey's 10 MSL crowns which tie Barrington. "We came out strong and were consistent. We tried to minimize what they could do by keeping pressure on them.
"Our defense was outstanding, our hitters were effective and Abby had them guessing. It was a great win and our fans were outstanding."
"I felt we had some nervous jitters," Fricano said. "We definitely could have competed. We have talent, skill and heart but it just wasn't our day."
Sixth-year coach Dan Gavin had the Pirates making their first appearance in the title match since 1998.
"We came out with a lot of raw and nervous emotion," he said. "It manifested itself after the first two points. Hersey didn't have those emotions, so credit them. They are a very difficult team to come back on because they do not make a lot of mistakes.
"When you dig yourself a hole, it's especially hard because you are counting on yourself stepping up or the other team making mistakes, and neither happened."
The Pirates will play in the Lyons tournament this weekend.
"This match stings and it will sting," Gavin said. "But the beauty of the tournament this weekend is that you can come right back and get that taste out of your mouth.
"I've never had a higher character group than these girls. I have no doubt they will rebound and get back to the level they know they can play."