When the Crystal Lake South girls volleyball team met for the first time in August, the Gators set lofty goals for the 2013 season.
The main goal was to advance to the state finals for the first time in 17 years.
Three months later that dream is reality.
In convincing fashion, the Gators claimed the Class 4A Huntley supersectional, defeating Lake Zurich 25-18, 25-18 Saturday night to move to the state finals for the first time since 1996.
"Since our first meeting our main goal was to make it to state," said senior Nicole Slimko. "We pushed each other every day in practice and made sure everybody stayed positive. This is an unbelievable feeling. I am so excited. We hope to keep going."
The Gators (37-3) will play defending state champion Benet Academy in the state semifinals Friday at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University beginning at 7:30 p.m. The Redwings defeated host Normal Community 25-18, 25-20 to claim the Normal supersectional title.
Crystal Lake South, which never trailed in the match, seized control of Game 1 midway through.
With the score tied at 13, the Gators ripped off 7 straight points to take a 20-13 lead. Two kills each by Slimko and Avalon Nero keyed the pivotal run.
A kill by junior Carly Nolan gave the Gators a 1-0 lead in the match.
Crystal Lake South kept the momentum from Game 1 to start Game 2, jumping off to a 12-5 lead. A kill by Sara Mickow gave the Gators a 7-point lead.
South's biggest lead was 9, 23-14, after a kill by Nolan.
But, the Bears (35-5) refused to go quietly. Led by 2 kills each from Mallory Parsons and Sydney Glover, Lake Zurich scored 4 straight points to make the score 23-18.
The Bears couldn't get any closer as the Gators scored the final 2 points on serving errors by Lake Zurich to win the game and match.
'' We were confident and played with great consistency," said Crystal Lake South coach Jorie Fontana. "We executed well and kept the errors to a minimum."
Nolan led the Gators with 7 kills, followed by 6 kills from Slimko. Nero and Mickow collected 5 kills each, Junior setter Cassie Sivesind delivered 23 assists.
'We knew from Day 1 if we played as a team we could make it to the state finals," said Nolan. "There was no doubt in our minds."
Glover paced the Bears with 11 kills and 3 aces while Parsons collected 8 kills with 3 blocks.
"We said before the match no matter what happens we have had a great season," said Lake Zurich coach Matt Aiello. "We are one of the last eight teams in the state and that is quite an accomplishment."