This season Naperville North has gotten much of its competition from weekend tourneys, and the Huskies are looking forward to this weekend's Mizuno Cup.
But Tuesday night in a DuPage Valley Conference girls volleyball match, the Huskies needed to be sharp as visiting Wheaton North came to town and put up a good fight before falling 25-20, 25-18 as Naperville North stayed a perfect 9-0 in the DVC while improving to 18-2 overall.
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The Falcons trailed just 21-18 late in Game 1 and 22-18 in the second game, but the hosts had just too much attack and too strong a defense to come up short on this night.
"Their passing improved a lot today so they were more in system," Huskies setter Emily Kwak said about the tougher challenge Wheaton North put up. "But we were still able to keep our side in system, focus on what we were doing and keep our hitters swinging aggressive."
Kwak saw to it that many of her teammates got into the act, finishing the match with 27 assists and running a balanced offense that was led by 8 kills from Angela Jurek and 5 kills apiece from Emily Mankowski and Megan Wernette.
"We definitely had a balanced attack," Naperville North coach Jennifer Urban said. "Wheaton North is a really nice team that plays good defense, so we knew we had to play a stronger match."
The Huskies had a 14-7 lead in the opener following a kill by Turek, but the Falcons (14-11, 3-3) battled back to within three points late when Anna Grace's smash in the middle was followed by a Huskies error that made the score 21-18. But Naperville North responded with a winning tip from Turek and a block kill by Caitlin Miller and went out to close out the game.
Game 2 was similar and the Falcons trailed just 16-14 after a kill by Maddie Hutchinson, one of three Falcons to record 6 kills. But again the home team was strong down the stretch and closed out the game and the match with an ace from Wernette.
"We played a lot better against them this time and we made some adjustments," Wheaton North coach Carole Kristensen said. "You strive to beat teams like Naperville North, but when you lose you want to play well, especially this time of the season."
Mankowski, a 6-foot senior, had 6 digs to go with her 5 kills, teaming with Ellie Ivancich to provide a defensive spark.
"We want to try and go 14-0 in conference," she said. "I feel like we keep improving every practice and for me, in my first high school season on the outside, I've definitely improved as a back row player and on serve receive."
Kwak, a team captain, said the Huskies get fired up for big tourneys, and playing tough DVC foes like Wheaton North during the week helps.
"Our tournaments have been our toughest play so far," she said. "To have them at the end of the week it helps us to push through and get excited for that."