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updated: 5/28/2013 10:44 PM

It's no picnic for Vernon Hills as Deerfield advances

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Practicing at the beach this week is probably out of the question.

But Deerfield outside hitter John Harlan might try to convince his coach of the merits anyway.

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He and fellow outside hitter Zach Hara jump out of the gym when they throw down kills, which they did over and over again Tuesday in leading Deerfield to a 25-22, 25-19 sweep over Vernon Hills in the championship game of the Antioch sectional.

Their secret is training at the beach, where leg muscles get a workout like no other in the unstable sand.

"We play beach a lot and that really helps with the jumping and it really helps with indoor," Harlan said. "I think maybe we could have a barbeque on the beach this week and practice there. I think I'll ask."

Whether they venture out to the beach or stay in the gym, the Warriors will be in uncharted territory. They've never before practiced this far into the season. By defeating Vernon Hills, Deerfield earned its first berth downstate in school history, for boys or girls volleyball.

The Warriors, who improve to 32-6 on the season, will face Downers Grove South, a 24-26, 25-21, 25-22 winner over Neuqua Valley, in the 5 p.m. state quarterfinal Friday at Hoffman Estates High School.

"We worked so hard to get this far," Deerfield setter Jordan Fine said. "This was the first time we had even gotten to a sectional final. I'll remember this no matter what. I want to be able to go back to my school (years from now) and see this year on the boards and say that I was part of this team."

Fine and his teammates will also be able to say that their team left little doubt on their way to state.

Against Vernon Hills, which wraps up its season with a 31-7 record, they were crisper on their serves. They had better placement on their attacks and seemed to dig up just about everything.

"It wasn't a strong serving effort for us, it wasn't a strong attacking effort and Deerfield won't let you play through that," Vernon Hills coach Chris Curry said. "You're not going to get chances to recover. They make you pay. They've got really good, smart hitters and they make very few errors with their hits."

The Warriors spread the wealth offensively. Hara had 8 kills and Harlan had 7 while right side hitter Kenison Ready had 6 kills and middles Eli Schmidt and Eric Slepian had 5 and 3 kills respectively.

"We came into this match knowing that we couldn't just ride on our outsides (Hara and Harlan) like we did (in the sectional semifinal) against Barrington," Deerfield coach Eugene Chung said. "We knew a key for us was to be able to spread the offense because Vernon Hills has a lot of good blockers."

Tyler Small led Vernon Hills with 3 blocks while Max Spiglanin had 2 blocks and a team-leading 6 kills and 6 digs. Michael Heinz and Lem Turner added 5 kills apiece. Setter Ryan Opitz had 13 assists and 6 digs.

"We just didn't bring our intensity today," Heinz said. "Our serve receive wasn't there. They (Deerfield) were very consistent with their hitting and we couldn't stop them. We made more mistakes than usual and we just didn't cope with it as well tonight.

"But overall, we had a really fun season and we bonded really well and I think that's what we're going to look back on."

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