Like a relentless drumbeat the Crystal Lake South girls volleyball team kept pounding away Tuesday in a Class 4A Dundee-Crown regional semifinal.
Cary-Grove defended quite a few hot shots from the CL South hitting triumvirate of Carly Nolan, Avalon Nero and Nicole Slimko, but the cumulative effect of their powerful spikes and smart tips eventually wore down the younger Trojans for a 25-21, 25-20 victory.
Nolan finished with 11 kills, 3 aces and 11 digs. Nero had 7 kills and 2 blocks. Slimko added 3 kills and 3 blocked shots, including the game-winning spike of a Cary-Grove overpass.
" I love overpasses, they're my favorite," Slimko said.
"The ending is my favorite part," said a smiling Nolan.
The victory advances CL South (33-3) to Thursday's regional title match against Crystal Lake Central (32-4), which defeated Prairie Ridge 25-16, 25-16 in Tuesday's second semifinal. The Gators defeated CL Central in the Fox Valley Conference championship match last Thursday, 25-23, 25-20.
Junior outside hitter Abby Schebel led Cary-Grove with 8 kills and sophomore Sarah Graham added 3 kills, but the Trojans were unable to match the Gators shot for shot.
"We just don't have the firepower to contend with that, but we played with a lot of heart and I felt we stayed in the match as well as we could," said Cary-Grove coach Patty Langanis, whose team finished 21-16. "But if you keep giving the ball to Carly Nolan ... we can only shut her down a couple of times. After that she's going to score."
The Trojans used a 5-2 run late in Game 1 to pull within 22-21, fueled by Morgan Lee's tip kill, a heady setter dump by senior Meghan Seymour and a block for a point by Graham. But a Cary-Grove service error gave the Gators a sideout and a 2-point lead. The Trojans hit long on their next attempt and Slimko gave CL South a 1-0 lead by blocking a Kayli Trausch shot for game point.
Cary-Grove raced to a 6-1 lead in Game 2. Graham's tip kill put her team ahead 2-1 and she served 4 straight points to force the Gators into a timeout. When they emerged from the huddle, Nolan was a player possessed. She used a tip and consecutive spikes through the C-G block to jump start the offense.
With her team trailing 8-6, Nolan served 4 straight points, the last 3 of which were aces that flipped the score 10-8 in South's favor.
"I just tried to hit my zones," Nolan said. "(Monday) in practice we served a ton, hitting one and five. And when they went to a two-man, it was even easier to hit the zone."
Schebel's smash kept the Trojans within 10-9, but the Gators used a 7-1 run to gain separation. Consecutive blocks by Slimko and senior middle Sara Mickow started the run. The memorable point of that surge was a Nolan spike down the left sideline, made possible by a fantastic dig from junior Tori Falbo (6 digs).
"It came down to a mix of Carly and Slimko," said Seymour, a Northern Michigan commit who finished with 17 assists and 3 kills. "It was hard to figure out where the set was going to go. We tried to get up the block as quick as we could, but they were putting it in the good spots we weren't at."
Junior setter Cassy Sivesind finished with 22 assists for the Gators. Sophomore Delaney Bayer had 13 digs for Cary-Grove.