With just one returning player from last season's squad, this fall's version of the Naperville Central girls volleyball squad is learning things as it goes along.
The lesson learned in Tuesday night's 25-22, 22-25 and 25-23 victory over visiting Glenbard North was how to win a close match when your opponent is just as capable and determined as you are.
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"We fought all the way to the end and are ready for our next match on Thursday (at Wheaton North)," said Redhawks sophomore Sam Herron, who led her team with 12 kills.
Naperville Central coach Jeff Danbom said the Redhawks, who improved to 5-0 in the DuPage Valley Conference and 9-9 overall, were competitive at last weekend's Wheaton Classic but fell in some close matches. He hopes prevailing in this battle against the Panthers will stick in the Redhawks' memory as to what needs to be done.
"You are always after the conference wins and it was very important to win on our home court," Danbom said. "Glenbard North was scrappy. They got a lot of balls dug and got a lot of blocks on us."
A kill by Herron put Naperville Central up 21-19 in Game 3. Later, a net violation by the Panthers gave the Redhawks a 23-20 advantage. The Panthers pulled to within 24-23 on a kill by Stephanie Cole, but Naperville Central hung on to take the game and match.
"I was pleased with our back row. They came up with clutch plays to get those (last four) points and that's what we needed," Danbom said.
The Panthers led for most of Game 2 and jumped out to a 5-0 advantage with the help of two aces served up by senior Stephanie Tobison, who led her team with 12 kills and 3 aces. Except for two brief moments when Naperville Central grabbed back the lead, Glenbard North kept its grip on a 2-4-point advantage.
Wins were in short supply for the Panthers at last weekend's Hersey Invitational, and coach Jennifer Farinella said the team wanted to get back on track against the Redhawks.
"They came to practice ready to work hard on Monday and it showed," she said. "We are right with every other team (in the DVC). It's a young team getting it together. We fought so hard, and I'm so proud of them."
The Redhawks controlled most of Game 1, and with it tied 12, Naperville Central's Annalise Bauers served up nine straight points for a 21-13 lead, including one of her two aces. But the Panthers made it interesting by closing out the game on a 9-4 run.
Sam Clements added 8 kills to the Naperville Central attack. Eva Schuberth had seven and Phoebe Havenaar had 5. Naperville Central finished with 8 aces, including 5 from Jill Murphy and 1 from Havenaar.