The script didn’t provide a super start for Libertyville’s girls volleyball team.
But the end result had super written all over it.
After falling behind 7-1 in the Class 4A Fremd sectional final, the No. 3-seeded Wildcats charged back for a 25-21, 25-14 victory over No. 4 Palatine to earn their first supersectional appearance since 2007 and 11th in school history.
The Wildcats (33-6) will face Prairie Ridge (30-9) on Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Hoffman Estates supersectional.
Libertyville setter supreme Cindy Zhou showed once again why she will be playing at Michigan a year from now, artistically directing an offense as balanced as it gets.
Rhiannon Prentiss (7 kills), Julia Smagacz (7 kills) and Taylor Zant (6 kills) led the way.
Zhou also put down 6 kills, most with her crafty set attacks to the corners.
“There have been great setters, but as I’ve said all the time, I think she (Zhou) is the best offensive setter I’ve seen in our area,” said Wildcats coach Greg Loika.
A block by Dayton-bound Taylor Fricano got the Pirates (27-12) rolling to their 7-1 advantage.
Included in the rally were 4 hitting errors by the Wildcats and a tip down the line by Cassie Chaplinsky for the seventh point.
“I was so confident,” said senior Kayla Kendzior, who helped spark the Pirates’ back row with 12 digs. “But after we got the lead, we kind of got too comfortable. We needed a little more energy.”
The Wildcats were full of energy for the rest of the match.
“We wanted to come out leading right away, but we let them get on a run,” Loika said. “Palatine was playing great defense. Even on Tuesday (semifinal win), Hersey started out the match digging everything on us. But then we were able to find some open spots and were able to start swinging away.”
Libertyville got to within 10-9 on a kill by Prentiss. Two service points by Casey Dolen put the Pirates ahead 13-11.
But Libertyville tied the set at 13, 14 and 15 before getting the lead for good on Zhou’s attack to the corner making it 16-15.
Zhou then made a terrific reaching save that went toward Smagacz, who send it over the net for a kill. Zhou went right back to the Akron-bound Smagacz, who drilled two more kills for a 19-15 lead.
Fricano’s kill got the Pirates to within 21-20 but the Wildcats scored the next 3 points.
Zant put down a kill off a block followed by a hitting error and ace by Vicky Liu to make it 24-21.
Fricano’s kill held off one set point before a net violation gave the set to Libertyville.
Set 2 started out back and forth. A center line violation increased Libertyville’s lead to 13-10 but Palatine got to within a point when Fricano put down a kill through a double block and Dolen served for a point.
After a side out kill by Smagacz, the Wildcats scored 11 of the next 13 points to start their celebration.
Liu served for the final 5 points, getting 2 kills, including the match winner from Prentiss.
Zhou also had 14 digs and 19 assists while Wildcats senior libero Kristen Webb, a Butler recruit, collected 22 digs and Liu 14.
“Obviously volleyball is a game of momentum,” said Zhou, a four-year varsity player. “Palatine was playing real smart but I had all the confidence in the world in our team. I know how we are capable of playing so I wasn’t worried about getting back (into the set).
“It’s really nice being my senior year that we’ve made it this far. It’s really exciting and satisfying at the same time.”
It was an exciting season for Palatine, which advanced to a sectional for the first time since 1999.
“We set out goal to win a regional so everything else has been extra special,” Kendzior said. “It’s bittersweet but its been a great season. I’m so proud of everyone. Every person stepped up in the state tournament.”
Coach Dan Gavin also directed the Pirates to their first Mid-Suburban League division championship since 1998.
“The one thing we talked about was that Libertyville is a team that does not make a lot of errors,” he said. “So we knew we were going to have to earn every point. Libertyville played tremendous and is a very deserving team to win a sectional. And obviously, this wasn’t our best match. I wasn’t going to lie to our girls about that. I have to tell them the truth. I have too much respect for them.”
Fricano led Palatine with 10 kills while Val Soderstrom put down five. Sarah Schiffner (12 assists) and Alex Heidrich (7 assists) set the offense while Chaplinsky matched Kendzior’s 12 digs and Dolen had 9.
“One match does no define an entire season,” Gavin added. “I could barely talk to the girls afterward. I couldn’t find words to tell them how proud I was of them.
“And honestly, that pride has nothing to do with volleyball. It’s the growth they have shown, the maturity they’ve shown and how far they have come. It’s just an unbelievable group of kids to be around.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.