Getting their offensive attack going was not an easy task for the top-seeded Lake Zurich girls volleyball team on a rainy Halloween night Thursday in Highland Park.
But after struggling to a narrow 25-22 victory over No. 9 Barrington in the opening game, the Bears really got the job done in the second game as they posted a convincing 25-16 victory over the Fillies to win a Class 4A regional championship.
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Lake Zurich (33-4) advances to the Conant sectional semifinals Tuesday at 6 p.m. against No. 5 Glenbrook North, which eliminated No. 4 Libertyville.
Mid-Suburban League champion Barrington (20-17) hung tough with Lake Zurich the whole way as 2 service points by Emma French staked the Fillies to a 19-18 lead late in the first game.
A dink shot by Lake Zurich's Allie McIlwain deadlocked the score at 19-19 before Barrington regained a 20-19 edge in a very intense battle.
But that was as close as the Fillies would get the rest of the way as the Bears went on a 4-point run with 3 service points by Hannah Sweetwood making the score 23-20.
Barrington did cut the gap to 23-22, but a side out point and a service point by Kiley McPeek (4 kills) closed out the game to seal Lake Zurich's tough 25-22 triumph.
"Game 1 was tough, but it came down to the last 5 points and they (Lake Zurich) made a lot of good plays that got them the win," said Barrington coach Rob Ridenour. "I thought Lake Zurich played great, and in the first 15 points of game 2 they were unbelievable."
The Fillies actually jumped ahead to a 4-2 lead in the second game behind 3 service points by senior Emily Casaletto (11 digs).
But then came the big surge by Lake Zurich as 4 service points by McPeek culminated with a block by teammate Mickenzie Andrews for a 9-5 advantage.
The Bears' offense kept up their aggressive attacking highlighted by McIlwain's spike, 2 blocks by Kristen Walding, and a net violation by Barrington giving Lake Zurich a commanding 19-8 lead.
"We played a little tentatively in game 1 offensively and we were allowing them to stay in their system offensively," said Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello. "I told the girls we're a hitting team and you saw what happened because they were less tentative and they wanted to win."
There was no stopping the Bears after they built their big lead although the Fillies did make a late run with 2 kills by senior Christy Roney (10 kills) on 4 more service points by Casaletto cutting the gap to 21-14.
But a tap shot by Andrews put the finishing touches on the 25-16 victory to set off a wild Bears' celebration after the match.
"We just wanted to stay together as a team and have patience and I knew things would work themselves out," said McIlwain, who led the Bears with 6 kills. "We just wanted to play with a lot of emotion and in the end we just played for each other."
Walding was 47-for-47 setting with 20 assists while Barrington senior Claire Waliczek was 63-for-63 with 14 assists. Sophomore Olivia Hagan led Barrington with 16 digs while Roney added 7 digs.
Lake Zurich's Sydney Glover was very effective on offense with 5 kills with Andrews adding 3 kills and teammate Mallory Parsons chipping in 2 kills. Ashley Dina had a game-high 21 digs for the Bears.
"We started to block well because we were hitting and we were able to read them (Barrington) better," said Aiello. "When we get going we're pretty hard to deal with."
The Fillies will miss the presence of Roney looking ahead to next season.
"In game 2 we were just a step late and they got off to that big lead," Ridenour said. "We're going to miss Christy (Roney), she had over 300 kills this year and we'll miss her offense."