Glenbard West coach Pete Mastandrea takes comfort in the fact that outside hitter Natalie Schilling is only a sophomore.
Schilling provided the bulk of the offense needed for the No. 1-seeded Hilltoppers as she finished with 15 kills in a 25-21, 25-13 victory over eighth-seeded Schaumburg in Thursday's Class 4A regional final at West Chicago.
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Glenbard West (34-3) advances to Tuesday's sectional semifinal at Geneva where the Hilltoppers will face Geneva at 6 p.m.
Schilling's 15 kills were part of a 29-kill effort by the Hilltoppers.
"We knew that Schaumburg has really good hitters and we wanted to keep knocking the ball down," Schilling said. "They're an energetic team, so we wanted them to always be scrambling for the ball."
Mastandrea was quick to credit the senior class for paving the way for his young outside hitter and helping the team win its second straight regional title.
"I think our three senior captains Meg DeMaar, Caroline Jenkins and Katie Ball have done a great job grooming our young players to play way above their ages," Mastandrea said. "Schilling and Kate Wagner, our two sophomores, have played like seniors. It's been fun to watch their evolution."
Schilling finished with 8 of her 15 kills and no attack errors in Game 1, but Schaumburg (20-14) eliminated an 18-12 deficit with a 9-2 run that was started by a cross-court kill by Oyinkan Akinda.
The Saxons took the lead twice at 20-19 on a kill by Kiana Lewis and at 21-20 on a Hilltopper service error.
"The girls executed our game plan and that was a big plus," Schaumburg coach Jeanette Pancratz said. "We began our season not as a team and we ended our season as a team. We learned to trust each other, work together and overcome challenges together."
Glenbard West scored the last five points, starting with a kill by Schilling, followed by block assists from Jenkins and Abbey Winkler.
Ball followed with a service ace before Schilling had another kill and Jenkins tallied the game point on a block of Lewis' attack attempt.
Schilling scored 6 of her team's first 9 points in Game 2 including 4 kills and 2 service aces for a 9-3 lead.
A kill by Schaumburg's Abbie Rahn cut the Saxons' deficit to 11-8, but an 8-2 Hilltopper run on the strength of 3 more kills by Schilling and 2 solo blocks put her team up 19-10.
Alison Burelbach and Ball registered the final two kills to earn the match victory.