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Article updated: 10/29/2012 7:11 PM

Girls volleyball / Scouting Fremd sectional

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Girls volleyball / Scouting sectionals

What: Class 4A sectional

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Where: Fremd High School

Semifinals: Today, 5:30 p.m.: No. 1 Stevenson (34-3) vs. No. 4 Palatine (26-11); 6:30 p.m.: No. 2 Hersey (32-5) vs. No. 3 Libertyville (31-6)

Championship: Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Advancement: Hoffman Estates supersectional on Saturday at 5 p.m. vs winner of the Jacobs sectional (semifinals are Prairie Ridge vs. Warren and Rockford Boylan vs. DeKalb)

How they got here

Stevenson: Khalia Donaldson slammed 10 kills and registered 13 digs, and Liza Pflugradt added 11 kills and 2 aces for the Patriots who outlasted No. 3 Barrington 23-25, 25-19, 30-28 in the Lake Forest regional championship. It was the 22nd regional title for Stevenson and eighth under coach Tim Crow, who began in 2002. Anne Geocaris contributed 17 assists, 7 kills and 13 digs for the Pats while Kara Maleski also had 7 kills in the win. Jenna Radtke pounded 6 kills and posted a pair of solo blocks for Stevenson, and Elizabeth Shancer chipped in a team-best 15 digs and 2 aces.

Palatine: Sixth-year coach Dan Gavin directed the Pirates to their 11th regional crown and first since 1999 when they defeated No. 5 Glenbrook North 25-20, 16-25, 25-11 at Rolling Meadows. Val Soderstrom (6 digs, 1 block), Cassie Chaplinsky, Hannah Bridier and Taylor Fricano all put down 6 kills to lead the attack for the MSL West champs. Alex Heidrich (14 assists) and Sarah Schiffner (12 assists) set the offense. Bridier also had 3 blocks while Casey Dolen (13 digs) and Taylor Fricano (10) led the back row defense. Dolen was also a force at the service line (15-of-15) where she connected for 5 aces while Schiffner was a perfect complement, going 17-of-19 with 4 aces.

Hersey: Hersey won its own regional, defeating No. 10 Buffalo Grove for the third time 25-20 25-7. It was the Huskies' 22nd regional crown under 25-year coach Nancy Lill and 23rd in school history. Hersey senior libero Taylor Schill led Hersey with 17 digs and enjoyed one of the best serving strings of her career, reeling off 11 straight points for a 14-3 lead in Set 2. Allie Mueller (2 aces, 7 digs) later ended the match with 3 straight service points.

Anna Mullen-Muhr (5 kills), Gabriella Olhava (5), Courtney Stedman (5), Erica Hill (4), Megan Solans (2) and Liz Fuerst (2) led the attack set by Fesl (23 assists). Allie Mueller served 2 aces and had 7 digs while Celine Murphy added 10 digs.

Libertyville: Libertyville prevailed over No. 7 Lake Zurich 21-25, 25-23, 25-23 to claim the championship of the Lake Zurich regional. The Wildcats won their 20th regional and second under coach Greg Loika, who took over the program in 2009. Rhode Island-bound Layne Self put down a career-best 27 kills. 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).

The coaches' view:

Tim Crow of Stevenson: "First, we need to be consistent and take care of the back row. We will also need to continue to do the things we typically do well in the areas of serving and blocking. Finally, we need to continue to utilize all of our options offensively and handle adversity well. Palatine has a talented group that plays hard every single point. They have a dynamic outside hitter (Taylor Fricano) who can change a game at the net and with her serving. We had success the first meeting but that means nothing. Both teams are 0-0 now and that is the only thing that matters. The girls are very excited to be playing, especially after a tough win over Barrington. A number of our girls have been in this position the past two years. They love the atmosphere of sectional play and the level of play that will be needed to be successful."

Dan Gavin of Palatine: Stevenson is a very physical team with a lot of size and talent.

We must play a smart game. If we try to swing through their blocks, that is probably not a good formula for success. Like most matches, I think it will come down to ball control. Whoever executes in serve and serve receive will probably come out on top. It's always good to have experience on your side (Pirates have eight seniors). At this time of the year, I think you can throw the records outs. Everyone is good. Everyone is 0-0. The regular season is a thing of the past. The playoffs are an entirely different animal. We are playing on a court that we definitely should be comfortable (Pirates have played six matches at Fremd this season, five in the Early Bird Invite). We've been pretty balanced all season on attack. Like I said earlier in the year, the strength of our team is our 'team.'

Nancy Lill of Hersey: We are excited about the opportunity to meet Libertyville again. We beat them in an exciting opening day match, but I know both teams have improved since then. I remember speaking with Greg after the match talking about possibly meeting again. Libertyville has had an outstanding season. They are a well balanced team with a great setter and libero, a nice block and solid hitters. They are a lot like us, which makes this match up very interesting. To be successful we need to keep our focus and composure and play consistent volleyball, minimizing unforced errors. We expect to have to work hard for each point and need to play to our strengths. Our team is thrilled to be in the sectional and they can't wait for this next challenge.

Greg Loika of Libertyville: We'll need to play tough defense again, and we'll need to win the battle of serve receive and control the ball well. Abby Fesl is a great setter for Hersey, and they have several excellent weapons so we want to limit her options as much as possible. We played Hersey the first week of the season but we are both very different teams at this point. However, we let that first one get away 25-21, 18-25, 24-26. We had a couple of chances to put the match away and didn't, so the girls are very excited for the opportunity to go out and finish what we started back in August. We made many, many uncharacteristic errors the last time out, I'd venture a guess that we won't do that this time around. The girls are thrilled after our regional championship to continue playing and working. They are focused on the next task at hand. Winning on the road at Lake Zurich was probably the toughest regional test of all those advancing to Fremd as far as pressure, crowds, not being on a neutral court, etc. So we are tested and ready for the sectional. Our attackers were sharp against Lake Zurich and controlled the ball well and our back row stepped up in a huge way. We hope to continue that against Hersey.

Dan Gavin of Palatine: Stevenson is a very physical team with a lot of size and talent.

We must play a smart game. If we try to swing through their blocks, that is probably not a good formula for success. Like most matches, I think it will come down to ball control. Whoever executes in serve and serve receive will probably come out on top. It's always good to have experience on your side (Pirates have eight seniors). At this time of the year, I think you can throw the records outs. Everyone is good. Everyone is 0-0. The regular season is a thing of the past. The playoffs are an entirely different animal. We are playing on a court that we definitely should be comfortable (Pirates have played six matches at Fremd this season, five in the Early Bird Invite). We've been pretty balanced all season on attack. Like I said earlier in the year, the strength of our team is our 'team'.

-- John Leusch

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