Leading 24-21 in the opening set of the Class 4A South Elgin regional semifinal, the No. 10 seed and host Storm looked ready to defend their home court against No. 7 Wheaton North.
The Falcons had a different plan rallying for a 26-24 win in Game 1 before controlling Game 2 with a 25-16 victory to send them to Thursday's title game against No. 2 St. Charles North. The North Stars ended the Falcons' season last year in the regional semifinals.
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An Alyssa Miner kill and a Wheaton North (22-14) error gave South Elgin (20-14) game-point, but Grace Tiesman (6 kills, 8 digs, ace) delivered a kill and Maddie Hutchinson added 2 of her 5 kills to pull the Falcons even at 24-24. Tiesman added another kill and a net violation by the Storm gave the Falcons the Game 1 win.
"We knew that we weren't playing to our potential," Hutchinson said. "We wanted to show them who was going home tonight. We just had that killer mentality."
The first game was tight until the end with neither side leading by more than 4 points, and a kill by Ashley Oandasan (4 kills, 5 digs) and an ace by Adrianna Loiacono (16 assists) followed by a pair of Wheaton North errors gave the Storm a 14-10 lead. South Elgin didn't trail again until the final two points of the game.
The Falcons committed 12 errors in the opening set, which they cut to 5 in the second.
Kelly Thornton (15 assists, 6 digs) was at the service line for the final 4 points of Game 1, and she served an ace during a 4-0 start in Game 2 which gave the Falcons the lead for good.
"We had a little bit of jitters, but we had some strong serving from Kelly Thornton," said Falcons' coach Carole Kristensen. "She was hitting a little off at the start, but she started coming through."
Hailley Cound (11 assists) had a pair of aces to give the Falcons' their largest lead of Game 2 at 21-11, and an Amanda Mordacq kill eventually ended the game. Anna Grace and Dana Ogilvie led the effort with 8 kills, and Erica Walker finished with 13 digs and 2 aces.
Renee Rush had 9 kills, 5 digs and an ace to lead the Storm. Sarah Hallas had 3 kills and a block, and Katie Innis an ace.
The Storm will graduate Oandasan, Loiacono and Bri Reum after they helped tie the program record for wins, which they helped set last season. They did that with two coaches as Adam Plach has filled in for about a month for his wife, Joni, who is expecting their second child.
"Even though this is not how you want the season to end, what they accomplished this year is really good," Adam Plach said. "It's a testament to their work ethic and teamwork."