Libertyville tops Stevenson in NSC rivalry game
It was rivalry night as Stevenson came to Libertyville's West Gym on Thursday night.
And, frankly, the Patriots got more than they bargained for in the first set of the night.
And then the two teams played one of those nip-and-tuck sets. Back and forth it went. The Pats caught the Cats at 25-24 in that second set.
Libertyville will host the sectional and, before a packed crowd, the Wildcats may have cemented a high seed, as they won the North Suburban Lake Division showdown 25-17, 27-25.
"We really struggled in that first set," Stevenson's stellar setter Corissa Kurth said. "Libertyville came out so fast. In the second set, we hung in there and got into rhythm."
Momentum was all Libertyville (19-5, 4-0) in set one. At one point, the Cats held a commanding 22-10 lead.
"We had studied them on film," Libertyville setter Anna Lillydahl said. "And I'm sure they studied us as well. So we switched around our plays."
Stevenson coach Tim Crow was hoping for a better start in this key match.
"Libertyville is a big team," Crow said. "But we were fairly sloppy at the beginning. I felt we had the momentum as we went to the second set. And we stayed within 3 or 4 points in that second set."
With libero Morgan O'Brien serving for Libertyville, the Cats opened up some breathing room in the second set. A block kill in the middle from Haley Stevenson (4 kills) had Libertyville ahead 15-12.
"This was a huge mental game for us," O'Brien said. "Stevenson really battled us in the second set. Their defense was really good."
Libertyville looked ready to put the Cats away easily in that second set. Two more block kills from Stevenson and Libertyville's lead was 20-16.
"We came out with a ton of energy tonight," Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. "But Stevenson pushed us in that second set. Give credit to our girls. We were the stronger team tonight. We made some tough plays at the net and our defense was spot on."
Stevenson (21-6, 3-2) wasn't about to surrender just yet. With Kathryn Collins serving, the Pats caught fire late. Kurth started the rally with a kill. Jori Radtke (10 kills) put one down and suddenly the set was in Stevenson's favor at 25-24.
But the home-standing Wildcats secured the final three points for their second win over the Pats this season.
Stevenson and Hannah Zerwas (8 kills) did the work at the net to put the match to rest.
"Hopefully, this will motivate us," Kurth said. "Hopefully, we will see them again in the sectional."
Kurth notched 18 assists. Stevenson outside hitter Isabella Milejczyk had 8 kills. Radtke helped the defense with 9 digs, while Morgan Berland and Chloe Robinson each had 8 digs.
Libertyville's Lillydahl passed out 21 assists. O'Brien had 15 digs. Senior Erin Dunleavy had 7 kills and 7 digs. Allison Watson added 6 kills for the Cats.