In order to win a North Central Community College Conference women's volleyball crown, defeating the league's premier programs is a priority.
Unfortunately for Harper College, ranked No. 6 nationally, there are a lot of premier teams in the league.
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Such as No. 1-ranked Madison Area Technical College (12-2), which paid a visit to Palatine on Thursday.
For the second time this season, Harper (11-11, 2-3) fell to Madison in four sets as the Wolfpack prevailed 25-14, 22-25, 25-18, 25-18.
The win was Madison's second of the week in league play after dispatching Joliet Junior College on Tuesday.
With the Hawks leading 8-6 early in the first set, the Wolfpack showed why it is so highly regarded in the NJCAA Division III national poll. Madison quickly turned the 2-point deficit into an 18-9 lead.
"We didn't know what to expect," Madison coach Toby Parker said of his team's slow start in the first set.
Harper coach Bob Vilsoet regretted a series of mental errors in the first set.
"Fixing a few mistakes," he said, "could change the outcome (of the game)."
Vilsoet was able to learn something of a positive nature about his squad, too: that the Hawks could come from behind against a quality opponent. After plenty of back and forth in the second set, the teams were tied at 12-12. The Wolfpack was able to break the deadlock, earning its first lead at 17-16, before the hosts responded.
With Harper trailing 14-11 in the third, 6-foot outside hitter Veronica Dabrowski (Rolling Meadows) stepped up, helping the Hawks keep pace as Madison went ahead 21-18.
This time, though, Madison was able to stop the Harper comeback.
"We have been a inconsistent team all year," Vilsoet said.