Girls volleyball: Stevenson's classic effort stops Libertyville

 
By Bill Pemstein
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/5/2015 9:34 PM
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  • The Stevenson girls volleyball team reaches out to touch the sectional plaque, including Sarah Woodstein to the right, after defeating host Libertyville in Class 4A sectional final play Thursday.

      The Stevenson girls volleyball team reaches out to touch the sectional plaque, including Sarah Woodstein to the right, after defeating host Libertyville in Class 4A sectional final play Thursday. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville coach Greg Loika comforts Erin Dunleavy after the Wildcats lost to Stevenson during the Class 4A Libertyville sectional final on Thursday.

      Libertyville coach Greg Loika comforts Erin Dunleavy after the Wildcats lost to Stevenson during the Class 4A Libertyville sectional final on Thursday. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Jacqui Widmark saves the ball out of bounds during the Class 4A Libertyville sectional final between the Wildcats and Stevenson on Thursday.

      Libertyville's Jacqui Widmark saves the ball out of bounds during the Class 4A Libertyville sectional final between the Wildcats and Stevenson on Thursday. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson defenders Jordyn Taborek, left, and Zoe Graflund team up for a block against Libertyville Thursday in Class 4A sectional play.

      Stevenson defenders Jordyn Taborek, left, and Zoe Graflund team up for a block against Libertyville Thursday in Class 4A sectional play. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville hitter Allison Watson attacks against Stevenson blockers Isabella Milejczyk, left, and Sarah Woodstein during the Class 4A sectional final Thursday at Libertyville.

      Libertyville hitter Allison Watson attacks against Stevenson blockers Isabella Milejczyk, left, and Sarah Woodstein during the Class 4A sectional final Thursday at Libertyville. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Those folks filming the Stevenson-Libertyville volleyball match on Thursday night, go ahead and put the flick up for sale and charge a thousand bucks for it.

No, it wasn't a perfectly-played match in this sectional title match at Libertyville. But the defense and blocking on both sides of the net made it an instant classic.

Put it this way: Stevenson libero Morgan Berland notched 31 digs in the three sets.

Libertyville (33-6) had beaten the Patriots twice previous meetings, both times in two sets.

Not on this night.

The hitting of Jori Radtke and Isabella Milejczyk helped propel the Patriots (31-8) to a stunning 23-25, 25-18, 25-22 victory. The Pats will head to the Grayslake Central supersectional Saturday night for a chance at going Downstate. Cary-Grove is the opponent.

This wonderful match had some shockingly amazing volleys.

"That's the best I've seen,'' said Stevenson coach Tim Crow. "Libertyville is so good. It was unbelievable. They had won 21 straight. And now we've won four in a row."

Clearly, the Wildcats were favored to start with. And to no one's surprise, the home team opened up a quick 18-10 lead.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Stevenson sophomore Chole Robinson stepped up to serve.

Radtke had one of 13 kills. Middle blocker, Sara Woodstein had back-to-back kills. Evidently the Patriots were not ready to surrender early.

"There were some unreal volleys,'' Radtke said. "But we got to everything, and their tips. Our defense was great. Plus our crowd was great."

With Erin Dunleavy serving for the Cats, Libertyville pulled out the first set. But it seemed Stevenson had the momentum.

"Momentum is a fickle thing in volleyball,'' said Libertyville coach Greg Loika. "We were blowing them off the court early, but Stevenson played a phenomenal match."

Libertyville had some leads in the second set. However, the Pats took advantage of some errors and a serving ace from Berland gave the visitors a 19-14 advantage.

"I'm so excited,'' Berland said. "It was an amazing match. We really wanted to win this."

Only six times this year had the Cats gone to three sets, but this seventh time didn't go their way. Still, it looked good early for the Cats. Senior Ashley Kroc served with her team up 4-3. Haley Stevenson and Dunleavy teamed up on a block kill. Hannah Zerwas and libero Morgan O'Brien checked in with kills, and the Cats looked in control once again at 11-5.

By the time Milejczyk notched a kill, the Pats had cut that Libertyville lead to 16-15.

"It was insane,'' Milejczyk said. "All week long, we studied their film. And this was a very high-energy match."

Crow was well aware of the great defense played by the Wildcats.

"Libertyville has the best floor game,'' Crow said. "But we played an unreal floor game. We had the two best liberos around. But tonight, Morgan (Berland) was the best player on the court."

Down the stretch, the two best teams in this sectional battled through five ties, the last one at 21-21. The powerful Radtke put the finishing touches on this match with 2 kills.

Milejczyk backed up Radtke with 12 kills while Stevenson's gifted setter, Corrissa Kurth, notched 24 assists. Radtke also contributed on defense with 15 digs.

O'Brien had 24 digs for Libertyville. Allison Watson and Zerwas each had 6 kills. Annika Hawkinson led the blocking effort with 6 and Zerwas added 4. Setter Anna Lillydahl checked in with 21 assists.

Loika's next club will count on the likes of O'Brien, Stevenson and Lillydahl. Playing their last game for this impressive club were Watson, Dunleavy, Zerwas, Hawkinson and Jacqui Widmark.

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