Just as in recent years, Downers Grove North has closed this season well.
The Trojans just couldn't finish off Springfield Saturday.
A young Downers Grove North team coughed up leads in the second and third sets, dropping the championship match of the Downers Grove North Invite 21-25, 25-20, 25-23 on Saturday.
It snapped the Trojans' six-match win streak, and denied Downers Grove North (18-17) a repeat title at its tournament.
"We had to scrap tooth and nail to beat them in the first match (in morning pool play)," Trojans coach Mark Wasik said. "These young players, it's good for them to be in positions like this. Without them being in this position they're never going to learn and grow."
Katherine Mahlke had 13 kills, Grace Marek 9 and Grace Larson 8 in the final for the Trojans, who went 4-1 in the tournament and beat Wheaton North 29-27, 25-20 in the semis. Marek had 3 kills and an ace and Carolyn Nojiri, who had 20 digs for the match, an ace to allow Downers Grove North to pull away in the first set.
The Trojans led the second 20-19, but Springfield (24-8) scored the last 6 points of the set. Downers Grove North held leads of 10-4 and 16-11 in the third but couldn't close out.
"Kinda feel like you're in control, you miss a serve and go 20-20 in the second and you don't score another point," Wasik said. "That's kind of been the story of our season, is the inconsistency to execute. But Springfield's a nice steady team. We got a little tentative at the end."
Springfield, a newcomer in the tournament that lost Hinsdale Central and Whitney Young from last year's field, did well in its only trip north of Route 80 this year. The Senators, bumped up to Class 4A this year, beat Glenbard South 25-20, 18-25, 25-18 to reach the championship match.
"We needed to compete against teams like this around Chicago to get ready for regionals," said Springfield coach Meghan Withers, whose team opens regional play against nationally ranked Quincy. "We didn't know what to expect because we've never seen any of these schools."
Downers Grove North should have no trouble putting this one behind it when it opens regional play Monday against rival Downers Grove South.
"Overall the day was good," Wasik said. "We're finally on the winning side (winning record) but when you play a killer schedule like we do that's going to happen. We'll go into playing South feeling real good."
Glenbard South (25-10), coming off a big conference win over Timothy Christian, looked like a team a little flat after an emotional high. The Raiders went 3-0 in pool play, dropped their match to Springfield but came back to beat Wheaton North 26-24, 25-18 for third place. Jane Trzaska had 10 kills against Wheaton North, 45 for the tournament. Nicole Schutte had 15 assists and 2 aces against Wheaton North, and Tarah Valdez 31 kills on the day.
"We struggled blocking today and we need to clean that up," Raiders coach Chad Grant said. "We have those instances when we make our errors, they happen in a hurry and spiral. We need to get out of that. That won't work for us."
The Raiders play IMSA to open regionals, then Wheaton Academy and with two wins St. Francis.
"I feel like we can compete with (St. Francis), but we need to bring that energy we had Thursday," Grant said. "We've competed against good teams. When we play desperate, we're very good."
Wheaton North got 23 kills and 21 digs from Ali Royer over five matches and 68 digs and 10 aces from Erica Walker.