As expected, top-seeded Prairie Ridge and second-seeded Crystal Lake South posted semifinal wins Tuesday night at the Class 4A Crystal Lake South girls volleyball regional.
But it wasn't easy for either the Wolves or the Gators. Both teams needed 3 sets to dispose of their opponents.
PR advanced with a 16-25, 25-10, 25-18 win over fourth-seeded Cary-Grove while the Gators withstood a late charge from third-seeded Jacobs and eventually defeated the Golden Eagles 25-19, 19-25, 25-14.
The two Crystal Lake schools will play for the regional championship Thursday at 6:30 p.m. They split their matches this season and tied for the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title.
Cary-Grove had upset on its mind in the opening match of the night.
With Mallory Wilczynski (4 kills) and Alex Larsen controlling the front line, the Trojans (19-16) cruised to an early 15-9 lead.
PR never challenged and Cary-Grove grabbed the first game on a kill by Wilczynski.
But the Wolves controlled the second and third games outscoring the stunned Trojans 50-28.
Led by 3 kills each by Kennedy McNeil and Taylor Otto, the Wolves seized control of the game jumping out to an early 10-1 lead. PR's biggest lead was 16, 23-7, after a kill by Maddie Drain. Otto's kill tied the match at 1-1.
In Game 3, Drain's kill gave the Wolves a 18-10 lead. But the Trojans battled back and got to within 3 of PR, 21-18, on a kill by Abby Schebel.
That was as close as the Trojans would get. A kill by Caitlin Brauneis, who was nursing a sprained ankle, gave the Wolves the game and the match.
Otto led the Wolves with 10 kills while McNeil and Drain (7 blocks) contributed 9 kills each. MacKenzie Humm distributed the ball for 27 assists.
"We try to lose the first game to psyche the other team out," joked PR coach Stefanie Otto. "We came out with little energy and it hurt us. We turned it around the second and third games. We have a bunch of competitors on this team and they push hard."
Alex Larsen, playing in her last high school match, had 7 kills for the Trojans, who had played in the last three state championship matches.
"We had momentum in the first game but we can't contain it for an entire match," said Cary-Grove coach Patti Langanis. "We have massive amounts of inconsistencies during a match and teams take advantage of that in the state series."
CL South d. Jacobs: Alyssa Ehrhardt's career came to an end. The Toledo-bound senior collected 15 kills with 5 blocks and 4 aces as the Golden Eagles lost in 3 sets.
"She had a great night tonight and a great career," said Jacobs coach Lisa Dwyer. "She will be missed."
After dropping the first set to South (27-9), Jacobs (27-10) rebounded to win the second set. With the score tied at 19 the Golden Eagles, led by 2 kills and aces from Ehrhardt, scored the final 5 points to win the game and tie the match at 1-1.
The Gators came out with a sense of urgency in the deciding third game. Holding a slim 11-7 lead, the Gators grabbed control of the match by scoring 10 straight points. Kylie Portera and Nicole Slimko had 3 kills apiece as South took an insurmountable 14-point 21-7 lead.
A kill by Avalon Nero gave the Gators the game and match.
"Both teams really wanted it in the third game," said South coach Jorie Fontana. "Both teams didn't want their seasons to end. Our kids really focused in the third game and came through with the season on the line.
Carly Nolan and Nicole Jurkash led a balanced Gator attack with 9 kills each.
"It was a tough match," said Jurkash. "Jacobs is a great team. We are glad to win and get another chance to play PR"
Maris Smith backed Ehrhardt with 6 kills.
"The girls played awesome and never gave up," said Dwyer. "We broke down a little in the third game. But the girls had a fantastic season."