BELVIDERE -- These Gators know comebacks.
Senior Nicole Slimko and the Crystal Lake South girls volleyball team denied Boylan Catholic a crack at a third game by rallying in Game 2 to complete a 25-22, 26-24 victory in a Class 4A Belvidere North sectional semifinal Tuesday.
In a virtual repeat of the comeback scenario that played out in last Thursday's regional championship match against Crystal Lake Central, the Gators won the first game against Boylan Catholic only to fall behind significantly in Game 2.
Just as they rallied from a 9-point deficit in the second game to defeat CL Central, CL South (35-3) dug itself out of a 7-point hole in Game 2 to sweep Boylan (32-2).
The Gators advance to Thursday's sectional title match at 7 p. m. against Warren (25-13), which defeated Huntley 25-22, 25-21.
"I've had good teams in the past, but that mental part was always lacking," CL South coach Jorie Fontana said. "But these girls fight hard and they always stay in it. It's never over, it's never too big. They dig deep."
The Gators played well as a team but senior middle blocker Nicole Slimko led the comeback with one of the finest stretches of her career. CL South trailed 19-12 when Slimko erupted. She was responsible for winning 7 of the next 13 points, including 4 kills of 1-sets from setter Cassy Sivesind. Slimko's last 2 kills tied Game 2 at 21-21 and 22-22, respectively.
Just as impressively, she notched 3 of her 6 blocks during the span, including a key stuff against senior outside hitter Lexi Varga (match-high 12 kills) and a pair of blocks against Penn State-bound setter/right side, Bryanna Weiskircher.
"We knew we were playing the girl going to Penn State," said CL South outside hitter Carly Nolan, who finished with 10 kills and 9 digs. "Right away when she found out, Slim said "I'm going to block her.' And she did. It was awesome."
The Titans were setting Varga (12 kills) and Weiskircher (10 kills) almost exclusively in the second game.
"They were going toward them as much as possible because they were the ones that were going to put it down," Slimko said. "I think we got to them."
"We kept setting Lexi because Lexi was scoring," Boylan coach Amanda Carlson said. "They made a nice adjustment on her. It happens. When you overfeed someone, you have to not be paying attention not to see that and not make an adjustment. They're a good team and they're well coached. They made an adjustment. We put forth the effort I was hoping we'd put forth, but Crystal Lake South was just a little bit better than us."
The match was tied at 24-24 when Nolan blasted a shot from the right side to give the Gators a second match point. Weiskircher's final spike attempt went wide to end it, giving the Gators the opportunity to play for the school's eighth sectional title, its first since 2008.
"It's amazing. I love my whole team," Slimko said. "It's been a great year playing together. I'm so proud to be on this team."
Avalon Nero finished with 10 digs and 4 kills, Sivesind had 19 assists and senior Hannah Wilson had 6 digs for CL South.