Kurth, Stevenson ace out Hersey
Maybe there is something to that cliché -- you know, the one saying it's very hard to beat a team three times in one season.
The winner the first two times they met was 31-game winner Hersey with its fearsome hitters Liz Fuerst and Gabri Olhava.
In this regional final at Stevenson on Thursday night, both the Huskies and the underdog Patriots served poorly to start with. And then everything clicked for the servers -- especially Stevenson.
Patriors junior setter Corissa Kurth had 7 serving aces as Stevenson went toe-to-toe with the second seed in the Glenbrook North sectional.
Stevenson sophomore Jori Radtke had a stunning 17 kills as seventh-seeded Stevenson ended Hersey's terrific season 25-20, 23-25, 25-21.
"We lost to Hersey twice this season,'' Radtke said. "But we had the will to win tonight. We are a young team so it took awhile to know each other."
In the first set, there was no sign early that an upset was in the making.
Hersey's lead was 12-8 early. However, with Dana Pflugradt serving, the Pats (23-13) knotted it up at 16-16.
Kurth finished off the Huskies in set one with a pair of serving points.
"This is from practice,'' Kurth said. "Our coach (Tim Crow) says it helps your team win."
Kurth finished with 27 assists.
"Our passes were great tonight,'' she added.
Kurth opened the second set at the serving line and she looked to put the Huskies away early. She registered 3 aces on the way to a quick 6-0 lead.
This time, however, the Huskies (31-6) fought back. Fuerst and Hersey sophomore middle hitter Zoe Strozewski had block kills as the Huskies tied it at 10-10. Still, after a pair of Radtke kills and another Kurth ace, the Pats looked in good shape up 19-16.
With their season the line, Fuerst scored at the serving line and Hersey forced a set three.
"Give Stevenson credit,'' said Hersey coach, Nancy Lill. "It was a match full of errors. Stevenson came in with nothing to lose. This was a poor match by us. But this was one of best seasons ever at Hersey."
Hersey seemed to grab the early momentum in set three. The Huskies had leads of 6-4 and 9-7. Again, the dangerous Kurth took to the serving line and pulled her team ahead, aided by another ace and an Anna Drozdzewicz kill.
From this point on there were seven ties. Stevenson libero Morgan Berland (22 digs) went into serve with her Pats clinging to a 1-point lead. Kills from Emily Brasier and Jacqueline Green pushed the Pats' lead up before Stevenson junior Isabella Milejczyk had an emphatic kill to end the match.
"This was almost exciting as when my team won at nationals,'' Milejczyk said. "Since we lost to Hersey the last time, we found out what our weak spots were."
Clearly the Pats' serving put the Huskies on their heels.
"We work on our serving every day,'' Crow said.
Those two previous losses to the Huskies made an impression on the winning team.
"This was a very big win,'' Berland said. "It was very exciting."
Both Fuerst and Olhava had 10 kills each for the Huskies. Setter Courtney Stedman had 21 assists, and Paige Pannozzo had 18 digs.
Brasier added 5 kills for the Patriots.