The Huntley girls volleyball team was taken the distance by feisty visitor Grayslake North in Tuesday's 25-6, 27-29, 25-12 Fox Valley Conference crossover victory, which didn't seem like it would be the case considering how thoroughly the Red Raiders dominated the opening set.
Playing their sixth match of the season, Huntley (4-2) peppered the Knights at the start, courtesy of an efficient, multidimensional offense. Seniors Emily Westermeyer, Erin Lyman and Rachael Kisten and sophomore middle Erin Erb each showcased their ability to terminate as the Red Raiders embarked on a pair of 8-0 runs, much to the delight of the robust Raider Nation cheering section on hand for the home opener.
Grayslake North was playing its first match of the season and the jitters showed. Of Huntley's first 8 points, 4 resulted from various violations by the Knights. However, the teams exchanged roles in the second set. Grayslake North bolted to an 8-2 lead and moved to a 23-17 advantage, aided by 6 Huntley service errors.
"The nerves, I think they just got to us," said Lyman, an outside hitter who finished with 8 kills. "We came out ready to go and had all the momentum, but we got a little nervous and a little shaky. We tried to correct ourselves as best we could."
Huntley nearly pulled off the second-set comeback, winning 6 straight points to tie it, 23-23. Erb forged the tie by spiking a quick set from junior Kelsey DeWulf (31 assists) and then crushing the subsequent overpassed dig.
"We're a good comeback team, but we shouldn't have to be a comeback team," Huntley coach Karen Liss said. "We should jump out and play every point like we're down and play aggressive."
Each team fought off 2 set points until the Knights blocked consecutive Huntley swings to prevail 29-27 and send the match to a decisive third set.
"I think it was the energy on the court, our intensity," Grayslake North coach Nikki Kirchway said of the turnaround. "We kept talking. We had a lot of key plays like a couple of blocks and that really propelled us. And we had great serving that game compared to the first and the third."
The teams were tied 8-8 in the third set until a 6-0 run put Huntley in control to stay. A DeWulf tip kill and a block kill by senior Brittney Gundlach got the rally started and Kisten kept it going with a stuff kill followed immediately by a blistered spike.
"Communication was really key," said Erb, who matched Westermeyer's team-high 9 kills. "If we messed up, we'd just say we were going to get the next one. And it's always good to have the big Raider Nation behind us, too. They pumped us up even more and made it a whole lot better on the court."
Huntley did not commit a service error in the first set but committed 6 in the second set and 4 more in the third.
"You can tell what we'll be working on in practice," Liss said. "Holy cow. Missed serves? I mean, that's back to basics. Let's hope we got that out of the way."
Grayslake North senior Alaina Geissberger had 4 blocks and 3 kills, junior Nicole LeBaron had a team-high 6 kills, senior Summer Camper had 4 kills, junior Stefani Keilwitz notched 10 digs and sophomore setter Kendall Buchman finished with 12 assists for Grayslake North.
Senior defensive specialist Rachel Shores led Huntley with 8 digs.