Kailey Christianson wasn't exactly planning on being a full-time player this fall for Libertyville's girls volleyball team.
But there she was on Monday night, setting up one of the Wildcats' biggest nonconference wins of the season.
Christianson handed out 24 assists as the Wildcats pulled out 25-21, 27-25 win over Mid-Suburban West co-champion Fremd (21-8) in Palatine.
Before freshman setter Peyton O'Brien rolled her ankle a few weeks ago, Christianson's role was as a serving specialist.
"I didn't ever think I'd ever be (setting a 5-1 attack on the varsity)," said Christianson, who set for the junior varsity team a year ago. "But I'm really happy for the opportunity."
Assistant coach Jenny Smith had the opportunity to coach the varsity on Monday due to the absence of head coach Greg Loika, whose wife was in labor.
"Kailey had to step in and has done a tremendous job," said Smith (Lachmann), a middle and rightside hitter for Prospect High School before playing at Carthage College. "She is thoughtful in her play calling, and she is really stepping in turning the team around. She's doing a great job.
"Peyton is back. We got her to warm up tonight and we'll get her in later this week and get her ready to go."
The Wildcats were ready to go with their serve in both sets.
An ace by Christianson got the visitors to within 12-7 after they had fallen behind 9-3.
Madison O'Brien (7 kills) served 2 aces to give the Wildcats their first lead at 16-15.
The set was then tied at every point to 20, before Libertyville gained the lead for good a block by Amanda Reinhart for a 21-20 lead.
Another block by Reinhart made it 23-20 before Fremd senior Jess Rizzo's kill down the line made it 23-20.
But a side out kill and an ace by libero Morgan DeGregor wrapped up the set at 25-21.
"That's a really good ballclub," said Fremd coach Curt Pinley of Libertyville. "I thought they did a good job. They were one of the best serving teams we've played all season.
"They just kept us on our heels the entire match. So kudos to them. I thought we played well. It was a well-played match on both sides. I think the difference was a little bit our serve receive and they were a little more aggressive than us."
The second set was tight most of the way.
A kill by senior Anna Valente (5 kills) gave Libertyville a 9-7 lead which increased to 17-13 on 2 service points from junior Maddie Spaulding.
But Fremd came back to tie it at 19-19 on a kill by junior Heidi Sayre.
Back-to-back kills by senior Jess Mazur got Fremd into a 21-21 tie and the Vikings then took advantage of 2 hitting errors by the Wildcats for a 23-21 lead.
Sayre's tip gave Fremd a 24-22 lead but Libertyville got a tip by junior middle blocker Maggie Evers and a kill by Kellie Hopper to tie it at 24.
The score was even at 25 before a block by Evers and net call gave the visitors the win.
Hopper (5 kills), a freshman outside hitter, also made some nifty digs during the final points to help get the Wildcats to the win.
"I love the way she (Hopper) plays" said Smith, who is the Wildcats boys volleyball coach. "She really guts it out."
DeGregor finished with 16 digs.
"Morgan does a great job," Smith said of the senior libero. "Our libero from last year, Morgan O'Brien, is starting for Illinois and doing a great job. So Morgan (DeGregor) has really stepped up in that libero role where we feel like we didn't lose anything."
The Wildcats will take a 12-14 record into their senior night Wednesday against Zion-Benton.
"We're just trying to play now like we want to play in the postseason," Smith said. "Our girls played great. They are a very talented group. They came out fighting and I'm really happy with how they performed."
The Vikings return to their home floor on Thursday to host Hersey at 7 p.m. for the Mid-Suburban League championship.
"We'd rather play a match against a team of this caliber (Libertyville) in preparing for Thursday than a team that maybe isn't at our level and that we are beating easily," said Pinley, whose club was led on attack by Peyton Hooker (8 kills, 4 blocks), Sayre (5) and Rizzo (4).
Setter Sarah Straup handed out 23 assists while Maddie Aichinger and Sayre each had 8 digs and Samantha Smith 5.