Schilling, Glenbard West come back to beat Downers Grove South
There was great play on both sides of the net, plenty of spectacular digs and hard attacks, but down the stretch there was only one Natalie Schilling.
Glenbard West had the 6-foot-1 Duke-bound outside hitter on its side, and she made the difference as the Hilltoppers erased substantial deficits in each game before closing out the regular season with a 25-23, 25-21 West Suburban Conference crossover win at Downers Grove South.
Schilling helped the Hilltoppers (28-8) come back from 8-2 and 22-20 holes in the opener and closed out Game 1 with a kill off one of Kate Wagner's 24 assists on the night. The 20-14 Mustangs then jumped ahead 6-1 in Game 2 and later led 20-17 before Schilling and her teammates stormed back for an impressive 25-21 comeback win to complete the sweep.
"I think after they got a lot of points on us tonight we got motivated to come back and just beat them," said Schilling, who finished with 13 kills and 2 blocks. "Obviously, we'd like to start earlier, but I think it was really good practice for us going into playoffs to be able to come back from deficits."
Glenbard West coach Peter Mastrandrea, whose team opens the playoffs with a regional opener next Tuesday at Oswego East, was thrilled to see his team play well this week in wins over Hinsdale Central and then Thursday on the Mustangs' floor.
"We needed to do this on the road," he said. "We've seen improvement and we know what we have to improve on. We've been working on quicker transitions, quicker reading and quicker stopping so we don't give a team 3-4 points. I was just happy to pull out a game like that. Honestly, what a great tune-up for the playoffs. What a quality team. They're very good."
Early on the Mustangs got some strong blocking going while they were building leads, but Hilltoppers middles Robin Sackett and Patricia Stirb played well and that helped open things up for Schilling. The visitors also got a big boost from a strong defensive team effort sparked by libero Abbey Matre, who extended a number of long rallies.
"Our middles were drawing the blocks and Kate was setting some really good balls," Schilling said. "People might not all see everything, but it's really a whole team effort when you don't get a block on you.
"We were more getting into a rhythm by the end of the game. In the beginning we were more frazzled. We were in a weird state but we got a lot better."
For Downers Grove South, outside hitters Kaitlyn Vondra and Kiera James were sharp, but in the end the Hilltoppers just had too much on this night.
"It was a great, fun match, even though the outcome wasn't what we wanted," Vondra said. "It was so much fun to play in, and so intense. I love those types of games. Everyone was good (for us); the other team was just better."