When Hersey's girls volleyball players came out for the second set against Buffalo Grove on Thursday night, there was one thing on their minds.
They wanted to prove they were better than Set 1.
"We talked about making a strong statement," said senior setter Abby Fesl.
The Huskies couldn't have been much stronger.
They put away their 22nd regional crown under coach Nancy Lill and 23rd in school history with a 25-20, 25-7 victory over the No. 10 Bison and moved on to the Fremd Class 4A sectional Tuesday night in Palatine.
No. 2 Hersey (32-5) will face No. 3 Libertyville (31-6) in the 6:30 p.m. semifinal.
"The first game was a little scary," said Huskies senior libero Taylor Schill, who was all over the floor with 17 digs. "But the second was a statement game. We came out and did what we needed. I can't wait for sectionals."
After a 3-3 tie in Set 2, Schill made sure the Huskies didn't have to wait long to wrap up their fifth straight regional.
She enjoyed one of the best serving strings of her career, reeling off 11 straight points for as 14-3 lead. Included in the run were 3 kills and a block from sophomore Gabriella Olhava.
Fesl served 5 straight points in Set 2 for a 20-5 lead and Allie Mueller (2 aces, 7 digs) later ended the match with 3 straight service points.
Mueller got the match winner on a kill by Stedman, who also ended Set 1 with a kill.
"Gabriella really stepped up and played a good match, and Courtney Stedman, too," Lill said. "Those two sophomores really played big.
"And Erica Hill (senior middle) was great with her blocking. She was a wall. And look at Taylor's 11 serves in a row. It was just a good team effort all the way around.
Anna Mullen-Muhr (5 kills), Olhava (5), Stedman (5), Hill (4), Megan Solans (2) and Liz Fuerst (2) led the attack set ever so efficiently by Fesl (23 assists)
Olhava's kill gave Hersey an 8-2 lead in Set 1 but BG battled back to within 13-12 on an ace by Celine Murphy (10 digs) and a hitting error.
A tip by Hill and ace by Solans put Hersey back in front 16-12.
BG got to within 23-20 when senior middle hitter Mary Zawlocki blocked an overpass but Hersey finished the set with a big block by Olhava kill by Stedman.
"That was awesome," Stedman said of the regional title. "It was so intense. Everyone pushed their hardest and it showed. We've just got a few more steps and we can do this."
The Bison (17-19) took some nice steps late in the season
"We played the best we have all season in Set 1," Zawlocki said. "We really gave them a tough game one. In the second set, they did some things we weren't able to stop.
"But I am proud of first game. That is how I will remember this season. I'll remember how we played together in that game. That's how we played to get us to this point."
Junior Alaina Murphy led BG with 5 kills and 18 digs while classmate Sarah Rivera had 2 kill and 17 digs.
Sophomore Maria Georgoulis collected 10 assists and junior Lea Masciopinto had 14 digs. Zawlocki had a pair of blocks and Bailey North 1.
"I thought we played real well in Set 1," said first-year BG coach Matt Priban. "I thought we still played well in Set 2 but obviously not as well as we would have liked.
"These kids had a really great, great year. They really pulled together at the end of the season. We had a lot of injuries early, but they stuck together and finished strong. They left everything on the court."
And so did Hersey in Set 2.
Said Lill: "I told the girls between games, 'yeah, we won the first game, but we've got to play a heck of a lot better and erase any thoughts they might have that they can come back.' "