It was a homecoming of sorts for Elk Grove girls volleyball coach Stephanie Kezios.
And for St. Viator, well, the Lions made themselves right at home in Chicago, winning three matches before falling in the championship of the Resurrection Invite on Saturday.
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Resurrection was the home of Kezios back in the early 2000s when she played three years of varsity volleyball as a setter and right side hitter for the Bandits.
"I love it here," said Kezios, whose team (5-7) came in as the defending champion of the event. "It's better competition this season, which is great for our girls, and it's always fun for me to be home."
Lions coach Charlie Curtin, who played volleyball at Hersey, watched his team (8-4) extend its winning streak to six matches before St. Ignatius defeated the Lions 25-18, 25-20 for the title.
Senior outside hitter Megan Mueller played a key role in the Lions' four matches, connecting on 56-62 attempts for 17 kills along with 33 digs and 3 aces.
"We were just working with the mindset that we wanted to play out hearts out," Mueller said. "We want to bring all our energy all the time."
Also energizing the Lions' attack were senior Mary Cleary (51-of-60, 23 kills), junior Grace Fedus (10-of-11, 7 kills), senior Kristen Abrahamson (30-of-35. 9 kills), senior Jenny Brandt (11-of-15, 4 kills), senior Lauren Mroz (5-of-7, 5 kills) and senior Molly Ziegler (19-of-20 11 kills).
They received their cues from setters Ziegler (55 assists) and junior Kailtin O'Brien (45-of-50, 12 assists).
"Offensively, we have a lot of weapons in the front row," Mueller added. "We have been coming together as a team."
Defensively, sophomore Ellie Meyer (32 digs), Ziegler (20) and senior Kirsten Yi (13) led the way.
O'Brien served for a team-high 7 aces followed by Fedus (5), Cleary (5) and Ziegler (5).
Elk Grove (2-2 in the tourney) notched a win in its first match when it defeated Northside Prep 25-14, 25-19.
Seniors McKenzie Jordan (8-of-10, 5 kills), senior Taylor Brown (10-of-13, 4 kills) and Taylor Socha (8-9, 4 kills) led the attack for the Grens (5-7) while classmate Kerry Souder (28-of-30) handed out 15 assists.
Brown also served 4 aces and classmate Celina Wlodarski had 2 aces along with 5 digs, one behind team leader Kelly Regan (6).
The Grens' other win was a 16-25, 25-20, 15-10 triumph over Kezios' alma mater.
Against Resurrection, senior Melissa Solorio (23-of-26) put down 11 kills while Socha (10-of-13) added 5 and Brown 4. Regan collected 15 digs while senior Kelsey Conley had 9.
"It's fun to play them (Resurrection)," said Kezios, who also ran track and field for the Bandits. "When I first walked in the gym here last year (for the first time in nine years), it seemed so much smaller. But it felt good to see it again.
"My mother (Sue) coached lower level volleyball here for a while after I graduated. She still comes to all the matches."
Leyden Invite: Leyden (2-2, 4-3) took third place in its own six-team invite won by Riverside-Brookfield.
The Eagles notched wins over Westmont (12-25, 25-19, 15-13) and Willowbrook (25-16, 25-21).
Senior outside hitter Kelly Murphy led the Eagles in the four matches with 25 kills, followed by sophomore OH Emily Steininger (15) and senior middle hitter Carly O'Kray (13).
Prairie Ridge Invite: The ultra-competitive invite lineup included Cary-Grove, St. Charles East, Crystal Lake Central, Prairie Ridge and Barrington.
Those five teams who have won 14 state trophies combined over the past 13 years, including 3 state titles and seven runner-up finishes.
After 5 matches of round-robin play over seven hours, St. Charles East stood above a field loaded with perennial state powers.
The Saints finished 4-1, as did Crystal Lake Central and Prairie Ridge, but St. Charles East won the invite title based on best winning percentage.
The Saints won 9 of 11 sets. Prairie Ridge won 9 of 13 sets to place second.
Barrington (0-5) is now 2-7 overall.
"We got rolled by St. Charles in our last match," said Fillies coach Rob Ridenour. "But I think the other four matches were extremely tight. It made us a better team. We have to walk out of here and learn from that."