After losing four key seniors from last year's Class 4A runner-up, returning senior Ella Ridinger has gained responsibilities for Glenbard West.
Besides being a strong outside hitter like 2015, Ridinger is a secondary setter to junior Hannah Brodner, blocks, serves and plays back row.
"The coaches are expecting a lot more out of me. I like being a player to be relied on because I like the pressure on me," Ridinger said.
The pressure certainly was on for Tuesday's Addison Trail sectional semifinal, but she and several Hilltoppers rose to the occasion. The result was a hard-earned 25-14, 21-25, 25-21 victory for the No. 1 seed over No. 4 Whitney Young.
Glenbard West (28-10) plays in Thursday's 6 p.m. sectional final against No. 2 Riverside-Brookfield (32-7), a 25-22, 25-21 winner over No. 3 York (26-13).
In a thunderous third game Glenbard West had 17 kills -- 8 by senior Gabi Marquez and 4 by Ridinger -- with no errors and the Dolphins (24-12) 14 kills with one error.
The Hilltoppers pulled ahead 22-20 on a Ridinger kill followed by sophomore Katie Ryan's ace and another Ridinger kill for match point at 24-20. Another Ridinger kill ended the match.
"Pushed to the limits, baby," said Glenbard West coach Pete Mastandrea. "I just saw some earth-shattering pounds by our seniors Gabi and Ella that really said we're not going home. I admire that.
"You've got some young kids on the floor that are getting some tremendous experience and some seniors that remember last year. It's a nice little combination."
Marquez finished with 11 kills while Ridinger had 7 and 6 assists and sophomore Ellory Graff 6 kills. Brodner collected 20 assists, veteran senior libero Claire Wagner had 17 digs and Ryan had 10 service points and 9 digs.
Young had three seniors but two Northwestern recruits -- 6-3 Alana Walker and 6-2 Danyelle Williams, who each had 12 kills. They are First Alliance 17 Silver club teammates of Wagner along with York setter Sarah Rose (Marquette) and R-B's 6-8 Dana Rettke (Wisconsin), who had 14 kills Tuesday.
"It's really fun to see everyone," said Wagner, who recently decided not to play college volleyball. "The match was really tough. There was a lot of tension, but we just really pulled through at the right moments. Our coaches prepared us so well."
The smaller Hilltoppers countered with 7 blocks for points with Ridinger contributing to 5, Nina Crawford 4 and Ananda Patterson 3. They also had 10 aces, 3 each by Wagner and Graff, compared with the Dolphins' 2 blocks and 6 aces but 4 in the third game.
The Hilltoppers broke through in the first game on Ryan's 7-point serving run for a 23-13 lead. They led 8-4 in the second game but Young tied it at 14 and broke a 20-20 tie with three unanswered points.
Although a senior, Marquez hasn't attended Glenbard West since she was a freshman. She spent two years in Cookeville, Tennessee, but this school year is living with uncle C.J. McCann, her legal guardian. Marquez found out about 15 minutes before the season opener that she was eligible to play.
"I followed the (state) team, but I didn't really know that I was coming back until May," Marquez said. "I talked to Coach Mastandrea and he definitely wanted me to be a part of the team. It was something to look forward to."
York was led by its three seniors -- Rose with 21 assists and 9 digs, Sydney Bonthron with 7 kills and Kristie Paus with 5 kills. The Dukes lost in the sectional finals the previous two years, including to Glenbard West last year in three games.