With 6-foot seniors Morgan Sterrett and Dana Kiszkowski, Schaumburg's girls volleyball team features one of the most dynamic righty-lefty combinations in the area.
"They're great," said Saxons junior setter Michelle Candotti. "They're both seniors and it will be tough without them next season. We want to have them around for as long as possible here in the postseason."
With the righty Sterrett putting down 9 kills and the lefty Kiszkowski adding 5, the Saxons weren't going anywhere but to a sectional title on Thursday night.
The duo accounted for all but two of Candotti's 15 assists as the Saxons will play in their first sectional since 2014 and the 16th in school history by posting a 25-17, 25-16 triumph over Wheeling in the championship match of the Class 4A Niles North regional.
"They (Sterrett and Kiszkowski) both had big matches," said Schaumburg first-year coach Tim Murphy. "We were able to spread it out pin to pin. Dana did an excellent job. That was part of our game plan -- to kind of feed her a little bit and get her some early rhythm in the match."
"It's a great feeling," said Sterrett, who was called up to the varsity for the 2014 postseason. "From the beginning of the season this is the night we wanted to work for and now we are looking forward to the sectional."
The No. 6-seeded Saxons (23-14) will face No. 2 Hersey (29-8) in Monday's second semifinal (6:30 p.m.) of the New Trier sectional in Winnetka.
The first match at 5:30 p.m. will feature top-seeded and host New Trier (31-5) against No. 4 Niles West.
Candotti finished with 16 assists while junior Ari Doroskin led the winners with 5 blocks.
"Michelle (Candotti) did an excellent job," Murphy said. "She got her feet in good spots which is always important.
"When you get in these big playoff matches and start getting your feet in the wrong spots, you start getting double calls. But Michelle did a really good job getting to the net, getting to the right spot and dishing the ball appropriately."
"I think we really came out with a lot of energy," Kiszkowski said. "We had a lot of confidence from conference (co-champs in the Mid-Suburban West with Fremd). And the we won our first match of the tournament (over Buffalo Grove), which gave us confidence for this match."
The confidence showed as the Saxons took control 5-0 in each set.
The Wildcats got to within 7-6 in Set 2 but Schaumburg answered with a 3-point run off the serve of Kiszkowski and never let Wheeling closer than 3 points.
In Set 2, Sterrett served four straight points, including an ace that made it 10-1 and Wheeling never got closer than 5 points.
"What I thought Schaumburg did extremely well is never taking its foot off the gas pedal," said Wheeling coach Jason Kopkowski, who team finished at 20-18. "They kept the pressure on us serving and offensively.
"They certainly were scrappy, all the way to match point. Their first touch was deflected almost to the wall, and one of their girls was still diving after it. They didn't quit. They never let down and they deserved to win this big time."
Murphy said staying aggressive was the game plan.
"If you play soft or afraid, bad things will happen," Murphy said. " You can't wait for things to come to you. You've got to make them happen and make some plays."
As usual, senior libero Gabby Paelmo made the plays on defense, leading the Saxons with 6 digs, followed by Sterrett, Candotti and Natalie Asa with 3 apiece.
"Gabby is the heart and soul for our team," Murphy said. "You can see the energy she brings to the court and I think the other girls feed off that. Her defense the last few weeks has been second to none."
Wheeling's defense was led by junior Jazymn Veloso, a junior, who also had 6 digs along with a kill.
"Wheeling played great defense tonight," Murphy said. "They are one of those teams that just don't let balls hit the ground. That's tough to play against. It frustrates hitters."
But the Saxons kept their composure and were able to grind away on offense to pull away in each set.
"We definitely played together," Sterrett added. "We worked together and played as team. It's the best we've played so far, so I'm proud of my team."
Kopkowski was also proud of his Wildcats, who were led on attack by 5-foot-11 junior Nosa Igiehon (6 kills, 2 blocks). Junior Kamila Staniszewski added 2 blocks while classmate Ellie Welter had 1. Senior Jessica Janowski handed out 14 assists.
"It was a great season," said Kopkowski, who is in his 10th year leading the program. "We had a big change in our team from a year ago (after graduating seven seniors) so you never know what to expect.
"We had big expectations and these guys not only lived up to them, they exceeded all mine. They put themselves in a position to attain a regional championship. They put themselves in position to potentially finish second in our division. They hit the 20-win mark again (24-13 last fall) so it was great season."
Schaumburg's season will continue against MSL champ ion Hersey.
"We look forward to it," Murphy said. "Just the opportunity to win a regional and get to play in a sectional is a dream for a lot of these girls. I'm happy for all of them."