When it comes to regional play, Stevenson's Tim Crow knows how to get the best out of his Patriots.
They captured their fourth straight title and ninth in 12 seasons under their veteran coach on Thursday night at the Buffalo Grove Class AA girls volleyball regional.
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With the 25-23, 25-18 triumph over No. 11-seeded and host Bison, No. 3 Stevenson (30-7) advances to the Conant sectional on Tuesday night to meet No. 2 Carmel (31-7) in the 7 p.m. semifinal.
Crow thought his team played "really well" on Thursday, which was basically a well-deserved compliment to the Bison (18-19).
"Buffalo Grove is a very good team," Crow said. "The second game score doesn't demonstrate how close it was."
Stevenson reached the 30-win mark for the fourth straight season. Senior Khaila Donaldson (a Howard University recruit), who had a match-high 11 kills, and Wichita State-bound classmate Kara Maleski (2 kills, 2 blocks), have been on the last three teams.
In a tense Game 1, Donaldson helped the Pats rally from a 20-17 deficit by scoring 6 of the Pats' final 8 points with 5 kills and 1 block.
"She (Donaldson) did a nice job," said BG coach Matt Priban. "She swings from everywhere on the court. Stevenson is a very tall team. They are really good offensively and defensively."
The other 2 points in the Pats' final 8 were an ace by freshman Jori Radtke and a service error by BG.
"Jori had some tough serves," Crow said. "She was huge for us in Game 1."
"It's crazy, it's awesome," Radtke said of her first regional crown. "We started out slow with our serve in Game 1 (3 errors in their first 9 points). But then we picked up our intensity and got things going with our serve."
It was Marie Geourgoulis's serve got the Bison going from a 16-14 deficit.
The junior setter served 3 straight points, getting a kill from Colleen Nowlan, a kill by Alaina Murphy and ace to give BG a 17-16 lead.
Murphy led the Bison with 9 kills while classmate Sarah Rivera had 6, including three big ones down the stretch of Game 1.
"It was definitely a struggle with their (Stevenson's) huge block," said Murphy, whose stellar four-year varsity career came to an end. "We definitely proved that we are no longer underdogs. Beating Hersey (Mid-Suburban East champ and No. 6 seed) and staying in the match with Stevenson proves the program is turning around. All our younger players were watching so it's kind of sets a good example for them."
The Patriots built an 18-10 lead in Game 2 and went ahead 23-13 with 3 straight service points from Nicolette Zarytsky, including an ace.
Rivera's kill ended her serve to make it 23-14.
Bison serving specialist Katelyn Sommers would not let her team go down quietly.
The junior served the Bison within 23-18 before the Pats wrapped it up on a kill by Jennifer Kapov and the match winner on Donaldson's smash off a set from Alexa Bykowski.
"It's been a great two years on the varsity," said Bykowski, who collected 21 assists while her twin Peyton sparked the backrow with 14 digs. "I've had such a great team all four years here. I've had great passers, great hitters and everyone has been able to do what is needed to get the job done."
Kapov got the job down with 6 kills, including three in each game.
"Everyone played so well," Kapov said. "We've had off games. All teams do. But this match, we played really well together."
"More than anything, Buffalo Grove played its best volleyball," Donaldson said. "They really made us work. It wasn't so much our errors but just that they played phenomenal.
"If we can play at the level we did this match and continue to improve, the sky's the limit."
BG libero Lea Masciopinto collected 6 digs while Georgoulis finished with 13 assists and 7 digs.
Rivera also served 2 aces and had two big kills for the Bison's 22nd and 23rd points in Game 1.
"That was a tough one to lose in Game 1," said BG coach Matt Priban. "We lost a little focus at the end but we played really well. The girls were ready and focused.
"I'm really proud of the way the girls played these last few weeks, especially in the state playoffs. They fought real hard and never gave up. It was nice to see them so focused and making a run."