Last year was a special one for the Metea Valley girls volleyball program, yet the returning players this fall have planned all along to make 2017 extra special.
Thursday night's thrilling three-set defeat of visiting Waubonsie Valley accomplished a couple of special things, while the Mustangs are hoping for much more. In holding off the rival Warriors 25-21, 11-25, 25-21, the team matched last year's school record for wins while also staying perfect atop the DuPage Valley Conference standings at 5-0.
"It's always challenging going into a new season with only five returners," senior setter Sydney Aitchison said. "Tonight, we tied our record from last year so this year the seniors we want to leave the legacy, create a program and set a record that no one else can ever touch again. We just love this program so much and we want to leave our mark."
Of course, claiming a title in a talented, deep DVC would also go a long way toward leaving a special mark on the program, and shaking off a rough second set Thursday against the Warriors to stay unbeaten will help with that goal.
The Mustangs (26-4) fell behind 8-2 in each of the first sets. While they rallied to claim the opener following a kill by Sydney Herrmann, they took it on the chin in the second set as Cassie Chinn powered the Warriors to a convincing win to even up the match. Chinn, who led her team with 11 kills on the night, recorded five winners in the second half of the middle set as the visitors pulled away.
"It felt awesome," Chinn said. "It's one of those times the whole team is kind of clicking and then my setter is giving me great sets every time. It was a whole team effort. It was great. It was a great game, super close. It could have gone either way."
Metea Valley did a great job of shaking off that second set and pulled out the decisive third set with big efforts from a number of players, including seniors Mikaila Dowd and Kailee Bass. The Warriors (17-9, 3-2) defense did its best to contain Dowd, but the four-year varsity player still finished with 12 kills, while Bass was dominant up front with a trio of kills and 9 blocks.
"We knew that second set was not our best volleyball. Not even close," said Aitchison, who had 21 assists. "We knew we had one goal this year and in order to achieve that goal we had to come out firing that third set. We rallied and came together and believed in each other. And we believe in our program most importantly."
Mustangs coach Dave Macdonald was both excited and relieved to survive the marathon. "It was a fantastic match. Another great DVC match," he said. "It's stressful on my part. You know I've got to check my blood pressure, but it's fun. It's sad it's coming to an end with the (current) DVC but you know with the Napervilles and the Valleys it's still going to be great volleyball."