Meeting in the Class 4A sectional girls volleyball semifinals Tuesday night for the fourth time in 7 years, St. Charles North and St. Charles East were both hoping to extend their seasons at least 2 more days.
The second-seeded North Stars (31-5) will return to practice this afternoon after their 25-19, 25-22 victory over the third-seeded Saints (31-7) in Geneva.
It marked the North Stars' second victory in as many tries this season against their cross-town rivals but first postseason win over the Saints since 2006.
"I'm really proud of our girls for fighting back and really pushing against them tonight," said North Stars coach Lindsey Hawkins, who had lost 2 previous sectional semifinal matches to St. Charles East in 2011 and 2009.
The North Stars built leads of 16-8, 18-10, and 19-11 in the opening game before turning back a late Saints' rally.
Northern Illinois University-bound outside hitter Taylor Krage helped her team fight off the Saints with a mix of power and finesse on back-to-back kills as the North Stars turned a 22-18 lead into a 24-18 advantage.
Senior Sophia DuVall's middle kill sealed the deal in Game 1 as the North Stars also benefited from 6 Saints' service errors.
"They made a lot of errors in the first set which is uncharacteristic of them," Hawkins said of the Saints. "We knew going into the second set that they were going to clean it up and push back real hard."
After falling behind 17-13 in Game 2, the Saints clawed within a point on 3 separate occasions but could never pull even.
"We've really been working on first-ball side-outs and not allowing teams to make the runs," said Krage, who had a team-high 8 kills, including the match-point clincher. "That really showed tonight. There weren't many multiple point runs by them."
After surviving a 3-game regional championship match with Wheaton North last Thursday, the North Stars were focused on making things a little less dramatic Tuesday night.
"We definitely wanted to come out more mentally focused because we saw what happened on Thursday," said Krage.
"I think we learned a lot from that match," said Hawkins. "I keep telling them that at this point of the season every team is good and every team is fighting for their last day. It's a lot less about skill and more about heart and the will to win. If you take points off, you're going to suffer the consequences."
Sophomore Daley Krage added 5 kills while Jaclyn Taylor had 2 kills and Alex Seavey recorded a pair of aces.
"It's a magical connection out there between them," Hawkins said of the Krage sisters. "Sometimes I get goose bumps when I see them talking to each other and giving each other tips on what shots are open."
Megan Schildmeyer and Dana Voltolina paced the Saints with 7 kills apiece, while senior setter Carly Jimenez added 21 assists and 5 digs.
"Honestly I think we could've played 10 times better but you can always reflect on the what-ifs or you can accept the fact that they (the North Stars) played great," said Jimenez, who will play volleyball next year at High Point University (N.C.)
"We live and die by the serve and tonight we died by it," said Saints coach Jennie Kull of her team's 10 service errors. "It's what kept us in so many games and today it took us out of the game. You can't miss six serves in the first game and continue to miss them in the second."
Mutual respect was evident from both coaches after the match.
"I'm proud of Lindsey (Hawkins), I'm proud of the girls and I wish them the best of luck," said Kull, who coached Hawkins (then Linkimer) in high school.
"They teach their girls how to fight," said Hawkins. "I'm a product of that. She's (Kull) an awesome coach and I have a massive amount of respect for her and the program she has over there."
St. Charles North will face fourth-seeded Geneva (28-9) in Thursday's sectional championship.