For senior setter Dan Trembacki and his Naperville Central boys volleyball teammates, the past couple of days have been about adjustments.
After Wheaton Warrenville South came on strong in the Neuqua Valley regional final Wednesday, the Redhawks needed to change quickly entering the decisive third game.
"We refocused and we knew we needed to come out with energy," Trembacki said. "We were able to get off to a quick start, which helped us a lot. We were able to get our energy up, and it gives us a lot of confidence."
The Redhawks scored the first two points of the third game and led the rest of the way to prevail 25-12, 25-27, 25-18.
Naperville Central (33-4), the No. 1 seed in the Hinsdale Central sectional, will play in Friday's 6:30 p.m. sectional semifinal.
Tuesday's regional semifinal started 90 minutes early to accommodate Naperville Central's graduation ceremony. When rain forced the ceremony to be postponed until Wednesday, the regional final with the No. 8 Tigers (23-14) was rescheduled for two hours earlier.
In their third game the Redhawks increased the early lead to 5-1 and held off the Tigers closing to 5-4 and then 9-8. The Redhawks scored the next three points and increased the advantage to 14-9.
Neither team scored a point while serving the rest of the way until Naperville Central junior Jack Burton's jump-serve ace for match point at 24-18. Burton ended the match with a back-row kill, his 18th of the match.
"In Game 3 we showed great poise, great determination and stuck with it," Naperville Central coach Roger Strausberger said. "(A regional title) feels great. That's what we came in talking about doing so I'm glad they've accomplished that goal. It's one step on our road."
Trembacki was busy distributing the ball primarily among Burton, Jon Chiczewski and David Wesolowski and trying to elude an increasingly potent Tigers' block. WW South had eight blocks for points over the final two games after none in the first.
Jared Wilcox, Meyer, Ben Carpio and John Hildebrand led the Tigers.
The Redhawks maintained control down the stretch with help from back-row play led by Raymond Chang, Kevin Prazak and serve-receive by Chung, Chiczewski and Burton.
"(Those three) did a great job of getting me the ball and allowing me to do stuff in our offense. Our serve receive was very good," Trembacki said. "I just try to move the ball around and give my hitters the best opportunity to put it away. We have a lot of very athletic hitters, which helps me a lot because I can move them around and mix up the offense."
Naperville Central breezed through the first game, collecting 13 kills with just 2 errors.
The previously tentative Tigers came alive in the second game following an early deficit. After taking a 19-18 lead, they never trailed again. On their third game point a block assist by Zack Meyer and Jerry Loar forced a third game, but then it began similarly to the first game.
"Calling the early timeout (down 5-1) kind of stemmed it a little bit, but at that point you're just putting fingers in dikes," WW South coach Bill Schreier said.
"For a real brief moment I thought we turned the corner. There was a play we needed to make, we didn't, and all of a sudden now it's 10-8 and then they start going again. We break (matches) into five-point games, and that third five-point game (10 to 15) did not go our way, which was unfortunate, when we needed it most."
The 6-foot-6 Wilcox, who will play at McKendree University, had 400-plus kills this season. The majority of the Tigers' lineup Wednesday was underclassmen, including sophomore Meyer.
"We played hard all year and where we're at now is a way different spot than at the beginning of the year," Schreier said. "We'll be back, and we're young. It's something that they need to remember."
Trembacki and the Redhawks are gladly adjusting to their first sectional appearance since 2008.
"The last two years we've been knocked out in the regional semis and haven't even had a chance to compete for the regional championship," Trembacki said. "It means a lot to us and it was nice to get this win. We have a very competitive sectional and it's going to be fun going forward."