It wouldn't be Halloween without a good scare.
With her team trailing York 23-21 in the decisive third game, St. Charles East girls volleyball coach Jennie Kull admitted a few negative thoughts started to creep into her head right before she called a timeout to rally the troops.
"I'll be honest -- there were times when I was thinking, 'what am I going to say to them?'" said Kull as she watched her team attempt to win its eighth straight regional title. "I've only had to do this once before. I thought, 'I haven't done this in a long time,' and then I thought, 'no, they can do this.'
"I told them at the timeout, 'I believe in you and I know you can do this,' -- and they did."
Senior outside hitter Dana Voltolina recorded the last of her match-high 15 kills before a York hitting error tied it at 23-all.
After an ace from junior defensive specialist Chloe Rojas put St. Charles East (31-6) on top 24-23, a communication breakdown by the Dukes (23-12) on match point secured the Saints' 28-26, 19-25, 25-23 Class 4A regional championship triumph Thursday night in Elmhurst.
"It was a scare," said Kull, who has now guided the Saints to 14 regional titles. "That was a little frightening."
In Game 1, the third-seeded Saints fell behind 18-12 and 23-20 and fought off 2 game points before finally prevailing on a kill from Meagan Smith (10 kills) that was made possible thanks to a pair of digs by junior libero Anne Hughes (29 digs).
Relying on the blocking of Molly Schlecht (3 kills, 4 blocks), Amy Nosek (9 kills, 4 blocks) and Liz Pronove (4 blocks), the sixth-seeded Dukes scored 7 unanswered points and closed out Game 2 with a 10-1 finish to rally from an 18-15 deficit and force a third game.
"They have a big front line," said Saints senior setter Carly Jimenez, who finished with 5 kills, 13 digs and 40 assists. "They played really great and made us fight as hard as we could."
Game 3 featured more back and forth action, as the Dukes continued to play strong at the net while the Saints dug deep to pull out the victory.
"That's what they've done all year," Kull said of her team's resiliency.
"We knew we were in the toughest regional going into it (the tournament)," added Kull. "They (the Dukes) played very well."
"At the end, we were just focused on playing our hearts out, not making mistakes and playing for each other," said Voltolina.
The Dukes also played their hearts out in defeat.
"We're a great blocking team and that took them out of their game," said York coach Patty Iverson. "We had 18 blocks -- that's huge in 3 games. That's our best blocking match ever. We couldn't come up with some of the kills we needed to come up with and we had a couple hitting errors. It could've gone either way."
Megan Schildmeyer (7 kills, 10 digs), Mikaela Mosquera (6 kills, 4 blocks), Emily Vitel (12 digs), Rojas (2 aces, 8 digs), Sydney Urban (2 kills, 3 blocks), Alex Mazanke (1 kills, 2 digs) and Ashley Bullock (1 dig) also contributed for the Saints, who will take on cross-town rival St. Charles North (30-5) in Tuesday's Geneva sectional semifinals.
"I know we can play better," said Kull. "We saw some things tonight and fortunately we get to work on them.
"At this point, we met our seed and now we're underdogs," added Kull.