BELVIDERE -- The team with the tougher mindset often prevails come tournament time, which largely explains how the Warren girls volleyball team swept Huntley in a Class 4A Belvidere North sectional semifinal Tuesday, 25-22, 25-21.
The Blue Devils used aggressive serving and a balanced offense to take leads on the Red Raiders in both games. While Huntley eventually fought back to make each game competitive, the Red Raiders were never able to get over the hump because of too many unforced errors.
"We had the scouting report and we knew that if we could get into their heads, we could make them make some errors," Warren coach Julie Filippo said. "And it happened. They made more errors and we were able to capitalize on it."
Warren (25-13) advances to face Crystal Lake South (35-3) for the sectional title on Thursday at 7 p.m.
"We knew we wanted it from the start and we played with our hearts. I'm emotional," Warren senior Allyson Mitchell said afterward. "We've won regionals twice in a row, but a sectional win is fantastic."
Warren took a 17-11 lead in Game 1, courtesy of consecutive kills by sophomore outside hitter Jenna Walczak, who finished with 7 kills on 18-of-18 attacking.
Huntley (24-14) rallied to tie the game at 21-21 on a block kill by Brittney Gundlach, but the Blue Devils notched the next 2 points on kills by Mitchell (7 kills) and Walczak. A Huntley net violation ended Game 1.
Warren took it right to Huntley in Game 2, serving aggressively. Mitchell and Lindsey Biedron each served aces during a 6-1 run start. Leading 9-3, junior setter Lauren Frericks stepped to the service line and delivered 3 of her match-high 4 aces in a 5-point span to stake the Blue Devils to a 13-3 lead.
"Back to the same problem we've had all season: if we can't pass, we can't run our offense," Huntley coach Karen Liss said. "We struggled on serve receive, and once we didn't get control of the game, we never were able to get control. When things weren't going well, we could not regroup and have somebody break us out of it. It's the same thing that's happened to us a couple of times this season. We needed one person to step up and we just didn't have it."
Not that the Red Raiders didn't try. They staged a remarkable rally to pull within 14-13, led by 2 kills from Emily Westermeyer, 2 kills and an ace by senior Erin Lyman and a kill and 2 blocks from Gundlach.
Then the inconsistent Red Raiders followed with a mishit into the tape and hitting errors from both senior outsides. Warren needed only 1 kill from Biedron during a 7-0 run that was otherwise powered by Huntley breakdowns.
"I never know which team is going to show up, so I'm glad our team showed up and (Huntley) didn't because it would have been a whole different ballgame if they played the way they played against DeKalb (to win a regional title)," Filippo said. "That was a different team and we were a different team. And we're happy."
Huntley settled for the school's 21st regional title.
"We all had the heart for it, but we allowed a couple of unforced errors that shouldn't have happened," said Huntley senior libero Rachel Shores. "These were such great teammates. I wouldn't want it any other way. One of our main goal was to win regionals, and I'll never forget that day. It was an amazing feeling. To be able to win that with all of these girls was a dream come true. It was a great way to end the season."