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updated: 10/25/2012 10:41 PM

Libertyville rallies past Lake Zurich

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By Rusty Silber
Daily Herald Correspondent

Libertyville and Lake Zurich, for the second straight season, engaged in their own version of a girls volleyball fall classic.

The Wildcats prevailed in this one, down to the final at-bat, er, points, of the third set on Thursday night.

They need that last rally, as Rhode Island-bound Layne Self of Lake Zurich was slugging away to a career-best 27 kills.

Third-seeded Libertyville rallied over the last two sets and topped No. 7 seed Lake Zurich 21-25, 25-23, 25-23 in a Class 4A regional final hosted by the Bears.

Libertyville (31-6) earned a meeting against Hersey (32-5) in the Fremd sectional at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Wildcats lost to Lake Zurich in a regional final last year and returned the favor this time around.

"It was an outstanding to be a part of all this," Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. "We won an epic match to win the regional championship.

"I guess we can take a bit of revenge from losing last year in our place. But to come in (to Lake Zurich) with the noisy crowd, we were able to get the momentum at the end."

After the Wildcats lost the opening set to the Bears (24-13), a change in the lineup seemed to turned things around.

"We just adjusted our back row of our defense," Loika said. "On our attack, it was well balanced."

The final set was a true battle, with neither team able to lead by more than 3 points. There were 14 ties and 12 lead changes.

The last tie came at 22, after which the Wildcats scored 3 of the next 4 points. Julia Smagacz (8 kills) provided the game-winner by making it through a Bears double-block.

"Last play, I was like, I knew we needed that point right now," Smagacz said, "Cindy (Zhou) gave me an awesome set. It was like, 'I'm putting this ball down.' That's what was going through my head -- and I put it down."

Taylor Zant led the Wildcats with 10 kills. Other key contributors included Rhiannon Prentiss (6 kills and 14 digs), Alex Basler (4 kills), Zhou (4 kills, 24 assists and 14 digs) and Kristen Webb (36 digs and 4 assists).

Self's huge effort was nearly enough to lift the Bears.

"You can call it a performance for the ages -- it was something special," Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello said.

"I've never played a match with that much intensity and heart the whole time," said Self, who has nearly 500 kills according to Aiello. "We felt we were right there the entire time, and it came down to who got the last few points.

"I've never had that many (kills), and all the credit goes out to my setter (Kristen Walding)."

Self also had 6 blocks and 21 digs. Other Bears leaders were Mallory Parsons (8 kills and 16 digs), Sydney Glover (5 kills and 4 digs), Kiley McPeek (4 kills and 12 digs), McKenzie Andrews (5 kills and 4 digs), Walding (43 assists, 5 blocks, 3 kills and 11 digs) and Ashley Dina (47 digs).

Lake Zurich played without the services of Amelia Leng, who's been out with a knee injury since early in the season. But the Bears still managed to assemble winning chemistry in the latter stages of the season.

"It was a great experience for the girls to be able go through," Aiello said.

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