If the Lake Zurich girls volleyball team looked right at home Monday night at Fremd High School, there might be a reason.
The Bears' ninth win of the season, a 25-13, 25-14 over the host Vikings, was their sixth match at Fremd.
They went 3-2 and took fourth place at Fremd's Early Bird Invite 10 days ago.
"We've played more matches here than we have at home," said Bears senior outside hitter Mallory Parsons, who put down a match-high 8 kills. "The one thing we stressed about this match is that it was a Monday night match and we weren't coming off a weekend tournament.
"So we wanted to make sure we stayed patient, had intensity and played as a team."
That mission was accomplished as the Bears (9-2) controlled the tempo for most of the two games with senior setter Kristen Walding directing the attack. The Northeastern University (Boston) recruit handed out 22 assists and also kept the Vikings' defense off balance with 4 kills.
"We just wanted to come out and play together and play our game," said Walding, who also served 2 aces and had a pair of digs. "And we executed."
Walding's targets included Parsons, Sydney Glover (5 kills), Kiley McPeek (3 kills), Allie McIlwain (3 kills), McKenzie Andrews (2 kills) and Natalie Corrigan (1 kill).
"The whole group is really buying into the idea of playing as a team," said Bears coach Matt Aiello, whose team's only losses are to annual powerhouse private schools Wheaton St. Francis and Milwaukee Pius.
"We have a lot of individual talent. But they've bought into relying on each other and trusting each other. If we focus on those things, then we can be a pretty good team."
The Bears broke a 6-6 tie in Game 1 when Glover reeled off 3 straight service points, including back-to-back aces.
Moments later, Walding had the big service run. She took the Bears from a 12-8 lead to a 17-8 cushion with 2 aces along the way.
The lead grew to 22-9 when the 6-foot-1 Walding used back sets for back-to-back kills by the 6-0 Glover.
"We definitely connecting well this match," Walding said of her work with Glover, a Duquesne University (Pittsburgh) recruit. "She played real well. It was a lot of fun and she's definitely a big part of our offense."
Defense is a big part of the Bears' game, too. Libero Ashley Dina made a lot happen for the winners, collecting 22 digs.
A service error and a block by junior Maise Koo allowed Fremd (4-5) to hold off game point twice before Walding's quick set to Glover ended the opening set at 25-13.
In Game 2, Lake Zurich pulled away to an 8-3 lead on a kill by McPeek. The Bears led 23-11 after back-to-back aces by Glover.
They got to match point when Walding took a pass from the back row. While facing opposite the net, she lofted the ball backward to an open side of the Vikings' floor for a nifty kill and 24-12 lead.
Fremd held off 2 match points with a kill by senior Amy Andersen and block by junior Carly Roberts before Lake Zurich won the match when Walding blocked an overpass.
Andersen, Roberts, junior Hope Schroeder and Koo each had 2 kills for Fremd.
"They (Lake Zurich) are a very good ball club," said Fremd coach Curt Pinley. "Matt does a very good job.
"You need to play hard every point against them. I thought we did at times, but overall you've got to answer the bell every play and at times we were just out-matched and not able to do that."
Aiello said he knew the Vikes would give a strong effort.
"Curt's teams always play hard," said Aiello, a former Buffalo Grove standout volleyball player. "We just had to stay patient, play defense and eventually we'll get our kills."