Vernon Hills' boys volleyball team netted its 30th win of the season and earned a regional final berth Tuesday night.
It wasn't easy, however.
The fourth-seed Cougars outlasted No. 14 Lake Forest 25-19, 25-23 in a regional semifinal at Vernon Hills, as Max Spiglanin and Michael Heinz each pounded 7 kills, while Lemuel Turner added five.
Ryan Opitz dished out 23 assists on 59-of-60 setting for Vernon Hills (30-6), which will play No. 5 Palatine in today's 7 p.m. regional championship match.
"While it was disappointing to have such a letdown in focus and intensity in the second set, it was encouraging to see the level of defense we played once we were down 12-19," Cougars coach Chris Curry said. "We served much tougher down the stretch, limited our errors, and made smart offensive decisions."
Chris Edwards and Heinz made key contributions in the second set. Edwards delivered seven consecutive service points and played "some great defense," Curry said. Heinz stood out both defensively and offensively, as he "raised his game," Curry said. Heinz had 7 digs and hit 8 of 8 with 6 kills.
Tyler Small had 3 kills and 2 blocks for Vernon Hills.
"We'll have to play better against Palatine if we're going to win a regional," Curry said.
Palatine d. Lakes: At Vernon Hills, the fifth-seeded Pirates ended the Eagles' season with a 25-17, 22-25, 25-14 win in a regional semifinal.
Mason Solbrig and Richard Galat had 11 and 10 kills, respectively, for No. 12 Lakes, while James Olson added seven. Dalton Solbrig lofted 30 assists. Galat's 9 digs led the way defensively, while Nick Powell posted 7 digs.
"We played extremely well against a tough team," Lakes coach Wayne Schultz said. "We just lost some structure in the third set, and a good team took advantage."
Stevenson d. Libertyville: At Highland Park, Aaron Zalewski rang up 9 kills and 3 solo blocks, and Brad Tiller slammed 8 kills, as the top-seeded Patriots won their regional opener 25-11, 25-17.
Stevenson (31-4), which plays No. 8 Buffalo Grove in tonight's championship match, also received 6 kills from Brett Lerner. Setter Jonah May had 21 assists and 4 kills, while Brian Dubinsky registered 19 digs.
Zion-Benton d. Mundelein: At Lake Zurich, the Mustangs' season ended with a 25-23, 25-17 loss to the 10th-seeded Zee-Bees, who advanced to tonight's regional final against No. 2 Deerfield.
No. 7 Mundelein (19-13) received 6 kills apiece from John Lentz and Blake Burton. Burton added a pair of blocks, and Victor Magana was 63-of-63 setting with 18 assists.