It's always good to have experience on your side, especially in the postseason.
While Huntley had a lone senior take the court in the semifinals of the Class 4A DeKalb sectional Monday, St. Charles East countered with six.
The Red Raiders made several more mistakes than normal, and the variety of missed serves, hitting errors and various violations were a big difference in the Saints' 25-18, 25-20 victory.
"Every big game we've played this year, we're young, and that's when it shows," Huntley coach Karen Naymola said. "It wasn't a matter of not playing hard, the girls were playing hard, but it was the timing of our mistakes. And letting that mistake turn into three or four that we normally don't make."
St. Charles East (31-7) advances to the sectional championship game at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday against St. Charles North (35-3), who beat the Saints in 2 sets early this season.
"They are a really good team," Saints coach Jennie Kull said of the North Stars. "We're the underdogs for sure. Big-time underdogs. But our kids are excited. We just want to compete and whatever happens, happens."
Huntley (26-8) led just once in the opening set, 3-2 on an ace by freshman Emma Konie.
The Saints gradually took control. Anna Skryd served an ace to make it 7-4, and Hannah Spicer found a hole for a 10-6 lead.
Skryd and Spicer are two of those experienced Saints seniors.
"Huntley is not a team to be underestimated," Spicer said. "Our defense was the strongest key tonight. All of us coming into the gym these last few practices we weren't going to let any ball drop because we knew that was what we had to do to win this game. Everybody played lights-out defense."
The Saints took their biggest lead at 22-12 when the Red Raiders hit long. Julia Johnson took a set from Taylor Jakubowski and put away a kill to bring Huntley within 24-16 before McKenna Slavik closed the set with a quick dink.
Huntley missed 3 serves in the first set and hit out 8 times.
"Tough games like this against good teams you can't afford to do that," Naymola said of the missed serves. "And then after that happens we start serving easier and it let them run their offense.
"Our offense I think is one of the fastest around and in Game 1 we didn't run much of an offense. That hurt us. Defensively we were everywhere we needed to be. Offensively we could not put a ball away. We knew where we wanted to go off the sets. I think we tried so hard to go there it took us a little out of our own offense."
The second set played out similar to the first. Trailing 13-8, Huntley fought to even the match at 16 on a 4-point service run by Konie with help from a block and kill by Loren Alberts and another Johnson kill.
Klaudia Sowizral's big swing put the Saints back up 17-16, then the Red Raiders made two straight mistakes. Spicer's kill took the Saints to match point, which Sowizral won by banging a shot off the Huntley block.
"We had talked a great deal of where she needed to go, what she needed to do," Kull said of the UConn-bound Sowizral. "She's doing well right now."
Spicer and Sowizral both had 6 kills for the Saints.
"It wasn't our best match," Kull said. "Because of their volleyball IQ, because of all the matches we've played throughout the season and our schedule, it elevates their level of knowledge of what to do in what situations. They saw things and made adjustments and that's nice to see at this time of year."
Sarah Zayas led Huntley with 16 digs, Johnson had 8 kills and Jakubowski 16 assists.
"We're going to miss (senior) Aleah (Amelio) but we are very young and I think as we mature and get used to pressure situations we're going to be a tough team next year," Naymola said.