About the time Nazareth Academy took a 5-4 lead in Game 2 of Tuesday's Glenbard West regional semifinal, the host Hilltoppers became noticeably more serious about the match.
The laughing stopped. Biester Gym became a little quieter. The lead quickly swung back the Hilltoppers' way for good in a 25-14, 25-15 victory.
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"People started getting a little nervous," Glenbard West senior Alec Garwood said. "We were losing for the first time in the set. It just made people a little uncomfortable not having the lead. Things got serious. We kind of buckled up, got back in the game and then started to relax a little bit more toward the end of the game."
"They know where they've been," added Hilltoppers coach Christine Giunta-Mayer. "They know where they want to go. And I think they just said to each other, guys, let's just stop. It's time to get going. And then we got five or six (points) in a row off that."
The No. 2 Hilltoppers advance to meet seventh-seeded Benet at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the regional final. Benet (25-11) defeated Wheaton North 25-17, 25-19 in the second match Tuesday.
The Hilltoppers started slowly in the first game against Nazareth, a little more slowly in the second, each time regrouping for the victory. Neither time surprised Giunta-Mayer, even though the Roadrunners were just seeded 18th.
"The kids played well today," she said. "Very collected effort, smooth. Everybody played. A good way to get things going for the postseason.
"As long as they're smooth and they're communicating and talking, I'm OK with slow starts. This is a breakaway team. They start slow, they find a way to speed it up with each other. I'm OK with that. I'm really happy with how they performed."
Glenbard West (30-6) earned its 30th victory of the season for only the second time in program history.
"I've got four sophomores on the floor, so it's remarkable that they've all come together and found a way to figure it out," Giunta-Mayer said. "It's been pleasant. This has been a great group of kids. We've been very lucky."
"It's a really great feeling," Garwood added. "I'm so happy to be a part of it, to be a part of the history here. I wouldn't want anything else in the world. I love my team, I love playing with these guys and I'm really hoping we continue this run, get up to 32, 33 wins this season."
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