Practice paid off in a big way for St. Charles East's girls volleyball team Tuesday night.
It only seems the Saints have been in the gym nonstop since a disappointing loss to rival St. Charles North on Friday. They practiced Saturday, held a clinic on Sunday, and then were back at practice Monday.
St. Charles East made some changes to its lineup, put a renewed effort on defense and blocking, and took out the frustration of a 2-match losing streak on Batavia with a 25-19, 25-8 Upstate Eight Conference River Division win.
"I think we really bounced back with intense practices and had a couple team talks that brought us together and got us on the same page as far as our common goal and what we want to do to achieve that," Saints senior libero Anna Skryd said.
"We changed up our defense a little and I think that really showed this match. We refined it and kind of polished it. And we've really been working on our blocking and pressing over the net and using it more as an offensive movement instead of defensive. I think that has been helping us."
One change for St. Charles East (10-2, 3-1) is taking a Division I setter, senior Kyra Slavik, and using her as a hitter and passer, which allows her sister McKenna Slavik to set.
The duo connected seven times in the opening set to help the Saints pull away after Batavia (9-6, 1-1) took an early lead.
Jenna Garrett set Hannah Yaconis in the middle on the first point of the match, and the Bulldogs made it 3-0 when Garrett found freshman Cordelia Smith on the outside.
Batavia was still tied at 11 after an ace by sophomore Jo Brozny, but it was all Saints after that. McKenna Slavik served eight straight points for the Saints during a run that included a block and a kill by Hannah Spicer -- the later putting away one of the longest points of the match during a rally kept alive by a scrambling dig from Skryd.
"Hannah had a great match," Saints coach Jennie Kull said. "She was composed. She passed well. She hit consistently. That was big for us."
Batavia got as close as 20-17 on Smith's ace before the Saints closed out the first set on two powerful kills by Klaudia Sowizral and Charlie Ambrose's ace on set point.
"We could have beat them in set one easily," Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne said. "Easily. A lot of free balls coming our way. I told them to put the pedal to the medal, we have to pounce on that, and they decided not to do that. It's a state of mind. I have a couple kids with chips on their shoulder because we haven't beaten East in a couple years. Well guess what? This was the year. We had our shot. We had great opportunities and our kids did not follow the game plan."
The Saints scored the first five points of the second set and never looked back. Up 13-8, Ashley Smith stepped to service line and fired back-to-back aces.
That was the start of a 12-point run by Smith to end the match. She served another ace, Sowizral blasted two more kills, but Batavia also contributed by hitting five shots out during the 12-0 finish.
"You can't hit that many balls out of bounds," Trippi-Payne said. "It's just disappointing. especially when you have some veteran players out there."
Smith led Batavia with 3 kills, Maddy Boyer had a block and Sam Juarez and Garrett both had 7 digs on a frustrating night for the Bulldogs.
"They have to believe it," Lori Trippi-Payne said. "If they don't think they are good, they are going to play like this. We played Waubonsie Valley tough, we played everybody tough. We came here and absolutely laid an egg tonight."
Calli Gentry, Ally Will and Kyra Slavik also served aces for the Saints, who were anxious to put the St. Charles North loss behind them.
"It was a lot of heartache and a lot of work this weekend," Kull said. "It was tough but it was good. Hopefully we are on our way to making some strides here. I'm excited about it.
"Tonight they were smooth. It was like a dance. It was very smooth, they were confident, they worked well together."