St. Charles East claims fifth straight regional

The two games had an eerie similarity to them.

The Glenbard West girls volleyball team was seeking its first regional championship in 26 years, but St. Charles East had too much firepower and experience for the Hilltoppers Saturday evening in Carol Stream.

Glenbard West was able to stay close early in both games, only to see the Saints methodically apply greater hitting power during the middle portion of each game.

By the time the teams reached double digits, St. Charles East, behind twin offensive standouts Sam Szarmach and Meghan Niski, was able to pull away to comfortable leads in its 25-15, 25-18 victory.

The Class 4A Glenbard North regional championship marked the fifth in succession for the fourth-seeded Saints (26-10), who advanced to the Bartlett sectional to face No. 1 West Chicago on Tuesday evening. The Wildcats escaped St. Charles North in three games at Conant on Saturday.

The fifth-seeded Hilltoppers had their season end at 26-11.

“That's been our story in all of our losses,” Glenbard West coach Peter Mastandrea said. “St. Charles' visions are beyond the regional title.”

Szarmach had half of the Saints' first 8 points with 4 kills in the opening game, and Niski made sure any Glenbard West hopes for an upset went by the wayside.

The junior outside had 6 of her match-high 10 kills in the first game; the Saints used a 14-7 run to turn a 7-6 lead into a 21-13 plurality.

The Saints' Stephanie Camper and Olivia Desormey had kills to bring St. Charles East to within two points of a first-game triumph, which became reality with back-to-back winners from Niski.

“I think we're definitely a lot more confident (the postseason is here),” Niski said. “Even though we had some bad losses in the regular season, we are here now and we're confident.”

Glenbard West has a noticeably youthful look, but seniors Laura Luczak and Emily Jenkins tutored the Hilltoppers' underclassmen with on-the-job training.

Glenbard West forged several second-game ties, but once again the Saints had too many weapons for the Hilltoppers to completely counteract.

“I think in the beginning of the game you need time to pull ahead,” said Szarmach. “We were able to get into our system.”

St. Charles East had a 15-5 burst to turn a 7-7 second game into a 22-12 lead.

Glenbard West fought back with a 6-point run, but Szarmach had a kill and ace to end the threat.

“I want to put the ball down every time,” Szarmach said.

Camper had 26 assists for the Saints, who also received 12 digs from Maisey Mulvey.

Jenkins' 6 kills and 4 blocks paced Glenbard West; Luczak added 5 kills, with Tori Clifford leading the defensive effort with 19 digs.

Caleigh Ryan had 11 assists for Glenbard West.

“This is our fourth consecutive 20-win season,” Mastandrea said. “We've got some talented younger players here. We thought this may be our chance to get over the hump.”