Rolling Meadows senior Jenny Vliet said the Mustangs' ball control improved greatly throughout their five games at this weekend's Early Bird girls volleyball invite at Fremd.
And with that, the Mustangs' confidence also soared.
They lost only one match -- to powerful St. Charles East (7-1) -- and wrapped up a 4-1 run by defeating Schaumburg 25-19, 25-23 for fifth place.
The Mustangs' only previous better effort in the 16-team tourney came in 2011 when they took fourth.
"This is a very good start to the season," said Vliet, who has committed to play basketball for St. Louis University. "This is big for us. We played really well against St. Charles East. I think this will get us on a roll. It was a big confidence boost for everyone."
The Mustangs improved to 5-3 overall as Vliet connected for 26 kills with 37 assists.
"Jenny (Vliet) and Sami (Kay, who had 45 assists) did a great job moving the offense around and Grace (Skorin, who had a team-high 44 digs) was all over on defense," said Mustangs coach Joe Di Silvio.
"Ashley Montanez was solid all weekend, working to get out to the pins every time and giving us a big boost when needed. She played very well in the match against Schaumburg."
Montanez (59-for-67) led the Mustangs with 30 kills, while other top hitters were teammates Lauren Sokolowski (17), Mia Harper (15) and Hannah Mickey (11),
No. 700 for Pinley: Fremd coach Curt Pinley won his 700th varsity volleyball match at Fremd (combined boys and girls) when the Vikings topped Elk Grove 25-21, 19-25, 25-23 for ninth place at the tourney.
The Vikings (4-3) also topped Mundelein 25-18, 25-21 on Saturday, as Pinley has 312 wins in 16 years as the girls coach.
"I've had great assistant coaches and great players who have dedicated themselves to do their best," Pinley said of the milestone. "I've got two former players now coaching here as assistants (2006 grad Mike Lanera and 2003 grad Elise McGinn) and to me, that says it all about the program."
Leading the Vikings on attack in the Early Bird were Carly Roberts (31 kills), Lane Hindenburg (25), Hope Schroeder (20) and Maise Koo (19), while setters Jackie Mursuli (51 assists) and Roberts (34 assists) ran the offense.
Junior defensive specialists Sarah Roberts (25 digs) and Aubrey Stegich (17) led the back row.
More Early Bird results: Kiana Lewis (33 kills), Abbie Rahn (28), Oyinkan Akinola (22) and Jada Blackwell (11) led the attack for Schaumburg (5-2) which went 3-2 in the Early Bird and placed sixth.
Blackwell also handed out 55 assists, while Megan Hayes had 19.
Sarah Stuehm paced the back row with 77 digs.
Conant (4-4), which placed 13th, was led on attack by Jenn Donnell (52 kills), DeeDee Durr (15), and Alissa Wachal (14) while Sarah Mazurek (46 assist) and Elise Ambrose (37) set the offense.
Hoffman Estates, which was 14th, was paced on attack by Clare Shaffer (22 kills) and Sarah Wille (14), while Shaffer also had 35 digs and Wille added 29.
Jacobs Invite: Hersey (1-4 in the tourney and 2-6 overall) placed eighth as sophomore Liz Fuerst led the attack with 30 kills, followed by Gabri Olhava (23), Katie Rozanski (17), Kelly Hill (15) and Courtney Stedman (10).
Stedman, who was named to the all-tourney team along with Olhava (11 blocks), also handed out 70 assists.
Katie Krebs led the Huskies' back row with 39 digs.
"It was great competition," said Hersey coach Nancy Lill.
"It's good to be challenged early season to see where we need to improve."
New Trier Invite: Wheeling (1-4 in tourney, 1-6 overall) was led by Deanna Kuzmanic, who put down 21 kills and handed out 40 assists.
Elizabeth Smith and Lani Greenberg each had 8 kills in the five-game tourney, while Sabrina Semeria contributed 30 assists.