When a team wins 17 of its first 19 matches, it's time to find out what and who make that team go.
With Carmel's girls volleyball team, the reasons and people behind the success are many.
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There's the big-league slugger, Gracie Schofield. And that gifted setter, Alyssa Armada, certainly can run a potent offense.
There are stellar defenders in Shauna Meagher, Sierra Kepski, Lauren Fornier and Elizabeth Tworek.
And then there are still others who make a positive impression, such as outside hitter Haley Nedelka.
"I've been waiting for her to stay healthy,'' said Carmel coach David Pazely. "She was hurt as a freshman. She tried out as a sophomore and got hurt again. Now as a senior, she is giving us huge blocks and now she pounds the ball when she gets the opportunity."
Tuesday's guest in a crowded Carmel gym was the young Wildcats from Libertyville. And with Rhiannon Prentiss and Alex Basler hitting the volleyball hard, this nonconference match went to three sets.
Carmel (17-2) had to go the distance to put away the Wildcats 25-19, 19-25, 25-18.
Oh, another Corsairs player to watch: middle hitter Ellie Rengers. She helped the home team with 5 kills and 6 blocks.
"She absolutely played well,'' Pazely said. "We couldn't have asked any more. And she intimidated Libertyville with her blocking."
Carmel's shortest player is Kepski. But her lack of height doesn't slow her down one bit.
"We both wanted it tonight,'' Kepski said. "And Libertyville plays with so much heart. But so do we. This is by far the most exciting team I've ever played on. And once we get the momentum we are hard to beat."
Set one was knotted at 8-8 until Rengers and Schofield checked in with kills. Nedelka had a kill with Tworek serving and the Corsairs took care of business.
"In that first set, our defense was everywhere,'' Pazely said. "Alyssa was setting the ball to everyone, and when you do that you are unpredictable."
And as easily as the Corsairs had taken set one, the visitors roared back in set two. A few Carmel mistakes and kills from Prentiss and Kate Jarecki and the Wildcats had some breathing room up 15-9. Prentiss led the Wildcats (8-8) with 10 kills.
"Rhiannon is our little peanut on the outside,'' said Libertyville coach Greg Loika. "She makes some nice choices. This wasn't our cleanest game but Carmel is a good team with strong weapons."
The decisive third set was anyone's early. And then Carmel junior Megan Meade went into serve. And it wasn't exactly like she was burning her serves over the net. However, when she finished her stint, she had helped her team open a 16-8 lead.
The match looked over at that point, but the Cats weren't ready to call it a night just yet. Basler notched a kill as Libertyville crawled back to within 20-15. Meagher (22 digs) did her job on the serving line with her jump serve.
Basler added 7 kills to the Wildcats' attack. Freshman Morgan O'Brien led the defensive effort for Libertyville with her 24 digs. Also helping the cause were Vicky Liu (12 digs) and Basler (11 digs). Setter Cassie Ostmeyer had 12 assists and Lizzie Apgar added 11 assists.
Schofield led a balanced Carmel squad with 8 kills. Meade had 5 kills.
Armada notched 24 assists. Tworek (17 digs), Kepski (15 digs) and Fornier (15 digs) also played well.