Huntley fell just shy on Saturday of becoming the first girls volleyball team this season to knock off undefeated Rockford Boylan and Penn State-bound setter Bryanna Weiskircher.
After rallying from a 21-15 deficit in Game 3 to beat Marian Central in the semifinals of the 29th Annual Huntley Tournament, the hosts opened the title match against Boylan on fire. The Red Raiders did nearly everything right in winning the first game, 25-12, and their momentum translated to a 7-0 lead in Game 2.
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However, little by little the momentum ebbed from Huntley (17-10) and Boylan (21-0) chipped away. The Red Raiders still led the second game 22-18, but the Titans fought off a pair of match points during an 8-2 run and eventually squared the match with a 26-24 win.
The decisive third game was just as tight. Huntley took its last lead at 22-21 when Erin Erb slammed on overpass to the floor, but the Titans won the next 3 points. The last of Emily Westermeyer's 17 kills drew Huntley within 24-23, but Weiskircher sealed championship point by dumping a teammate's pass straight down to finalize a 25-23 win.
"We really haven't been challenged a whole lot before this," Weiskircher said. "It was great to come out and play like we did with a lot of heart."
Though Huntley was unable to finish against an elite squad, a runner-up tournament finish was palatable to coach Karen Liss considering her team's high level of play, particularly in Game 1.
"That was the best we played all year," Liss said. "We knew Boylan was going to come out a lot stronger (in Game 2). I think we caught them off guard the first game. We came out early, we were loud, we were intense and we played some of our best ball all year.
"Then we jumped out early in Game 2 and just kind of lost the momentum. A couple of mistakes on serve receive, a couple of hitting errors, struggling to put the ball in. Then the same thing in Game 3. Against a team like Boylan you can't afford to make 2 or 3 mistakes in a row."
Marian Central (13-8) rebounded from the semifinal loss to Huntley by outlasting St. Ignatius in 3 games to take third place.
Montini (25-3) dropped to the gold bracket after being swept in a morning pool-play match by St. Ignatius. The Broncos were in danger of losing their ensuing match to Jacobs (14-12), which had taken a 14-10 lead in Game 3. They found a way to rally for a 25-21, 19-25, 25-19 victory without coach Steve Dowjotas, who received a red card for leaving his seat after he had been issued a yellow.
"We had to calm down, focus and play our best," Montini senior outside hitter Natalie Lopez said.
"We decided to pull together and focus more because our intensity was low," Montini senior libero Bridget Lucas said. "We weren't communicating, but we were able to turn it around and come back." Montini went on to defeat Johnsburg 25-15, 25-16 to win the gold bracket and take fifth place.
A young Jacobs team learned a lesson from that loss to Montini. The Golden Eagles led their final match against Glenbard North 24-21 in Game 3 only to see the Panthers tie it, 24-24, aided by a pair of Jacobs hitting errors.
Rather than crumble again, the Golden Eagles toughened up. Sophomore Kyla Fitzsimmons gave Jacobs the lead with an impossible-to-dig spike and junior Allie Campbell served an ace to seal the match and a 3-2 tournament record, good for seventh place.
"We just had to stay calm and do what we do best, just play volleyball," Jacobs libero Kassie Kasper said.
St. Edward (15-11) finished 11th at the 16-team tournament as coach Jaime Dovichi experimented with her lineup. The Green Wave lost to Boylan, Jacobs and Richmond-Burton. They defeated Round Lake and ended the tournament with a 25-15, 25-14 victory over fellow Elgin private school Westminster Christian.
"I think we're an above-average team playing average ball," Dovichi said. "We win the games we're supposed to but we haven't really lit that fire to win the games we're not."
Class 1A Westminster Christian held its own against Class 4A and 3A competition. The Warriors defeated Joliet Central in pool play on Friday. They lost Saturday to Sycamore and St. Edward to finish 12th.
"Overall, I think it was a good tournament for us," Westminster Christian coach Kathy Ramos said. "We played really well in our three pool play matches. I think my kids stepped it up and took it to that next level playing against those bigger schools. It's a good tournament for us to be in because it shows the team the potential we have."