In the second game of Aurora Central Catholic's trip a couple blocks down the road to rival Rosary on Wednesday night, Chargers coach Jeanne Czipri used a lineup featuring two sophomores and a freshman.
That's an inexperienced group for sure, but it was the Royals who were actually playing an even younger lineup with three freshmen.
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Those three -- setter Julia Gauthier, libero Martha Konovodoff and outside hitter Erin Burke -- played a big part in the Royals' 25-19, 25-23 victory in a noisy Rosary gym.
Konovodoff totaled 17 digs and rated a 2.5 on the team's passing scale, Burke pounded 6 kills, and Gauthier earned plenty of praise from coach Rachel Hartmann for the way she ran the 6-2 offense and got a variety of hitters involved.
"I thought all three of them together looked really good," Hartmann said. "They are stepping up for us big time.
"I'm really pleased with the freshman setter. It was nice to have the three hitters all the time. I thought Julia was doing a really good job of backing up one way but setting it all the way the other way. Running forward and setting it back. We need that. If blockers know where we're going every time we can only expect so much from our hitters."
Junior Nina Valaitis turned out to be Gauthier's favorite target with 10 kills. The junior added 2 blocks.
"We like to spread it around," Valaitis said. "It helps confuse the other team. They don't know what's coming. Our setter was doing a great job."
While the benefit of so many young players is bright futures for both teams, the down side has been some growing pains this fall. Rosary improved to 5-13 overall with the win, 1-3 in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division while Aurora Central Catholic fell to 6-17, 0-5.
Getting a win over their neighbor was a step in the right direction for a Rosary team headed to another tough tournament this week at Waubonsie Valley.
"There's a little pressure (against ACC), it's a big rivalry, but mostly it's just excitement," Valaitis said. "We have a lot of friends at ACC. It's fun playing them. We had great defense today."
Rosary led the majority of both games. In the opener, Burke tooled a ball for a 12-7 Rosary lead. The Chargers chipped away, and they had seven chances to tie the score.
The Royals won all seven of those points, and they finally pushed their lead back out at 21-19. The Chargers, who had seven hitting errors in Game 1, made a couple mistakes, and the Royals closed out the game when Valaitis and Michaela Ping went up for a block for point No. 24, then Konovodoff passed to Josephine Gallagher who set Valaitis for a kill down the line on game point.
It was a similar story in Game 2, this time the Royals opening up a slightly bigger lead at 14-7 when Valaitis put a ball away from the back row.
Again the Chargers came back, getting even at 19 on one of Rosary's seven Game 2 hitting errors.
Hartmann called timeout to settle her team down.
"There's been a lot of close games this year that really haven't gone in our favor," Hartmann said. "We just had to calm them down. The way they have been playing as soon as the other team gets a point they get real nervous."
After a kill from Annie Krogulski brought the Chargers within 23-22, Czipri thought her team had tied the game on the following point on a shot by Valaitis that the Charger coach thought went long.
Called in to give Rosary a 24-22 lead, the Chargers fought off one match point but couldn't do it a second time as Valaitis completed her big night with a kill to end the match.
"There were a few calls, I know the officials make their best judgment, I have to respect that it's a hard job," Czipri said. "I'm always going to fight for what I believe."
Ping added 5 kills for Rosary, Joanna Wedge had 2 blocks and Genevieve Talbot 6 digs.
Krogulski led the Chargers with 6 kills, Maddie Trnka had 5 and Sydney Audiffred-Zauner 4. Setter Lauren San Diego did a little bit of everything.
"They have the talent underneath them, they are just very young," Czipri said. "A lot of promise for the future. I think that's exciting for both teams.
"Tonight they were playing more as a team. That's something we've been struggling with. A lot of individuals trying to do things instead of doing things as a team and celebrating as a team and overcoming things as a team. Tonight that was our big focus to play as a team. I saw that and we achieved one of our goals tonight."