Despite having won 7 of its first 8 matches, St. Charles North girls volleyball coach Lindsey Hawkins felt something was missing last weekend during the team's 4-1 finish at the Plainfield North Tournament.
That changed Thursday during the North Stars' impressive 25-12, 25-16 nonconference victory over Naperville Central (1-1).
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"I'm very proud of them because last weekend we were kind of scrappy but up-and-down," said Hawkins. "It seemed like they weren't playing like themselves. We've had a lot of talks about it – about how every time we get in the gym we need to be here to improve.
"Today, I was really impressed with them."
Led by junior outside hitter Daley Krage (5 kills), junior right-side Jaclyn Taylor (4 kills, 2 blocks) and junior outside hitter Claire Anderson (3 kills), the North Stars (8-1) displayed a consistent hitting attack against the Redhawks.
They also unleashed a potent service game, fueled by Taryn Dal Degan, Sam Lappin and Anderson.
Dal Degan helped turn the first game around with 9 straight service points as the North Stars built an insurmountable 21-9 advantage.
"'Hawk' (Hawkins) wants us to go on the line and be real aggressive," said Dal Degan, who recorded 2 of the North Stars' 4 aces and finished with 14 service points. "It's like a deep float – that's what I like to do and pretty much what our team does.
"Sometimes I'll mix it up with a short ball to keep the other team on their toes but mainly go with the deep float (serve)."
Hawkins always treats serving as a focal point for her team.
"We've definitely been working on being an aggressive serving team," said the coach, who guided the North Stars to a share of the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title last season. "If you can't serve and you can't pass, you're not going to win.
"We're trying to be consistent behind the line and be aggressive and consistent in serve receive as well."
According to Hawkins, Dal Degan fine-tuned her service game during the off-season.
"Last year, she was kind of a weak server," said Hawkins. "We told her at the very beginning of the summer that it was something she needed to work on for this team to be successful.
"She actually changed her serve," added Hawkins. "(Assistant coach) Steph (Gianacakos) worked with her a bunch in July and since then Taryn has never looked back."
Naperville Central, led by Jessica Czarnecky (4 kills, 1 block), Camryn Murphy (3 kills, 1 block) and Phoebe Havenaar (2 kills, ace), led 10-9 in Game 2 before 4 more service points, including an ace, from Dal Degan turned the deficit into a 14-10 lead.
Four consecutive passing errors and a hitting error on match point sealed the Redhawks' fate.
"Give credit to St. Charles North," said Redhawks coach Jeff Danbom. "They passed extremely well, they hit extremely well and they put up a nice block. I felt like throughout the match that we were playing catch-up.
"We weren't putting ourselves in a proactive position on offense or defense. Against a high-caliber team, you have to play proactive volleyball. For us, it's an eye opener of where we want to be and what we need to do to get there."