St. Charles East's 25-23, 20-25, 25-20 victory over Wheaton North Tuesday night in St. Charles felt a little better than a typical season-opening win.
That's because a year ago the Saints started the year with four straight losses, an unheard of record for Jennie Kull's perennial power.
"It was nice to get that first win, we didn't do that last year," Kull said after her team outscored the Falcons 10-3 down the stretch in Game 3 to erase a late deficit.
"I'm really pleased. I think the strength I saw today was defensively and serve-receive. It was a great effort."
St. Charles East (1-0) is sporting a new look this fall with just Carly Jimenez, Mikaela Mosquera and Anne Hughes back.
The Saints also are missing their typical go-to hitter: Eight different players had at least 2 kills Tuesday with nobody more than the 9 from Megan Schildmeyer, a converted outside hitter who sets on her club team.
They also caught a bad break in Monday's practice when Alex Mazanke, one of Kull's outsides, went down with an injury. Mazanke was on crutches Tuesday and Kull isn't sure how long she'll be sidelined.
"In the past we've had one person who can slam down the ball," said Jimenez, the Saints' senior setter who had 30 assists. "This year is really more of a team effort and I think we are really going to do well together."
Wheaton North (0-1) had the Saints on the ropes in Game 1 leading 23-20. A back-row kill from Schildmeyer gave the Saints the serve back. Jimenez set Mosquera twice in the middle for kills to tie the score at 23. Hughes did the rest with her final two serves, both dropping in just over the net catching the Falcons off-guard.
Carole Kristensen's Falcon squad responded by rallying from a 13-9 deficit in Game 2 with a 10-2 surge. Like the Saints, Kristensen worked in multiple players off her bench and got contributions from Grace Tiesman (6 kills), Annie Hutchinson (4 kills) and many more.
"We're running a totally different system, kids are playing a lot of different positions," said Kristensen who has two new setters. "It kind of threw us a little bit because there were so many net calls (the teams unofficially combined for 17). It was crazy. I've never seen anything like that. It throws the momentum of it. But the girls have been working extremely hard in practice and that's what we are emphasizing, Twelve players playing."
The teams were tied 10 times in a back-and-forth Game 3. The Saints didn't go on top for good until a Falcons lift made it 18-17. Leading just 21-20, the Saints scored the final four points capped by Schildmeyer's blast on match point.
Mosquera followed Schildmeyer with 7 kills and Jimenez and Dana Voltolina both had four. Voltolina did most of her damage late in Game 3 helping the Saints rally from 17-15 down with three late kills.
"Dana came in and did a phenomenal job today," Kull said. "She led like a senior. It was really cool. I was so impressed by that."
St. Charles North d. York: The North Stars defeated York Tuesday in a tight 3-game match, 27-29, 25-13, 27-25.
Alex Seavey, the North Stars' senior libero, led her team in the third set out of a 5-point hole with some aggressive serving. She finished the match with 11 digs.
Taylor Krage and Daley Krage hit well on the outside, Taylor with 9 kills and Daley 5.
According to North Stars coach Lindsey Hawkins, Claire Anderson put up a solid block on the right side and shut down some of York's outside hitters, tallying 4 blocks and 6 kills. Junior Emily Carroll had 3 aces and 6 blocks, while the other middle, senior Sophia DuVall, totaled 2 kills and 4 blocks. Sydney Wohlert tallied 10 assists, while Taryn DalDegan had 13 assists.
The North Stars play Bartlett Thursday.
Batavia d. Bolingbrook: The Bulldogs (1-0) also opened the year with a tight win, 26-24, 30-28.
Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne called the match "a thriller." Batavia was up 24-21 and wound up giving up 3 points before closing out set 1. In set 2, Batavia was down 24-23, 27-26 and 28-27 before rallying with several great defensive plays.
Batavia was led by Heather Meyer (11 kills, 10 digs), Audrey Faulhaber (15 assists), Shea Thayer (3 blocks) and Jancy Lundberg (3 kills, 3 aces).
The Bulldogs play at West Chicago on Thursday.