It's not a formula St. Charles East wants to turn to often, but it has worked recently against two of their local rivals.
After dropping the first set Saturday to Geneva before rallying to win the next two and take third at the Mizuno Cup, the Saints pulled the same trick on Batavia Tuesday with a share of first place in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division on the line.
Batavia capitalized on the Saints being short-handed in the middle in Game 1 with a 25-19 win only to watch the Saints regroup to win the final two 25-20, 25-15.
"Sometimes we have slow starts and we have to have that extra momentum to get going back in the second set," Saints junior Megan Schildmeyer said. "After we lose the first one it really puts in our mindset that we really need to win this match. It puts more of the urgency right away. It's something we know we need to work on, starting off winning the first set."
The Saints didn't have either middle Mikaela Mosquera or Ashley Bullock on Tuesday. Mosquera hasn't played since the Saints' win over Benet while Bullock missed her first match Tuesday.
Saints coach Jennie Kull isn't sure when the two will be back but praised the work Alex Mazanke did in shifting from her normal spot on the outside to the middle.
"Once we settled down that she (Alex) can get the job done and everyone else can get the job done, they just needed to relax and play and everything worked out," Kull said. "Alex did a fantastic job filling in."
St. Charles East (22-5, 4-1), who will play Geneva again next Tuesday with the winner likely sharing the UEC River title with St. Charles North, trailed 19-7 at one point in Game 1. The Saints got as close as 21-16 before Batavia (15-12, 3-2) closed them out on Heather Meyer's kill.
After losing to the Saints 25-12, 25-17 earlier this season, the Bulldogs were fired up after taking the opening set.
"We've come a long way since then," Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne said. "We put ourselves in the situation to have the opportunity to play for a conference championship. Look at the (Class 4A Geneva) sectional (UEC River teams are seeded 2, 3, 4 and 5). This is a heck of a conference. I love the competitiveness of this conference."
The Saints didn't trail again after dropping Game 1. They served Batavia tough, taking the Bulldogs out of system and not allowing them to get their middles going as often as Game 1.
St. Charles East raced to a 9-1 lead in Game 2 with Schildmeyer in the middle of many points. Of the Saints' first 11 points, Schildmeyer had 7 kills.
Batavia did rally, getting as close as 19-18 on a Shea Stanley kill and 21-20. The Saints scored the final four points including an ace from Anne Hughes, and a block and a kill from Dana Voltolina.
The Saints also jumped out early in Game 3 and this time didn't let Batavia get close. Meagan Smith came on strong at the end with four kills late in the game including one on match point.
"I thought we had a shot in Game 2 to finish that game," Trippi-Payne said. "They made some key plays. I give their setter a lot of credit. And Megan Schildmeyer must have had a career-high in kills tonight. We couldn't stop her.
"You've got to give St. Charles credit, they rallied around each other playing without those two middles. Offensively we didn't hit as well as we needed to today. Passing broke down and that hurt us."
Meyer paced Batavia with 13 kills, Stanley had 8 kills and 13 digs, Shea Thayer 6 kills, 2 blocks, Audrey Faulhaber 28 assists and Maddie Jaudon 18 digs.
Schildmeyer (14 kills, 11 digs), Carly Jimenez (33 assists, 14 digs), Hughes (26 digs), Smith (12 kills), Chloe Rojas (17 digs) and Voltolina (8 kills) led the Saints.
Kull's day started at 4:37 a.m. with a text from assistant coach Mike Bui that he and his wife had their first child, Kayla Madison.
"There were so many crazy things and they settled in and got the job done," Kull said. "Batavia is a really good team."