Girls volleyball: It's a winning combination as Stevenson sinks Libertyville
You want speed and power? Jori Radtke can do that.
You want smarts and strategy? Radtke can do that, too.
The combination is likely what separates Radtke, a senior at Stevenson, from other top outside hitters in high school volleyball. It also might be why Radtke is headed to Northern Illinois to play volleyball on scholarship next fall.
"I'm not the tallest player, so I have to be smart," Radtke said. "I have to be smart with where I am, with my shots, with where I am on the floor.
"It's about (a volleyball IQ). I scout teams a lot, to see what they do before I play them. Being able to scout and study helps me out a lot."
Radtke clearly did her homework on Libertyville. On Thursday, she mixed up a lethal cocktail of hard-hitting power shots with off-speed shots to roll up a match-high 12 kills in leading Stevenson to a 26-24, 25-15 sweep of North Suburban Conference rival Libertyville in the Lakes sectional championship.
Stevenson, which improves to 32-7, advances to Saturday's Dundee-Crown supersectional (1 p.m.). The Patriots will face DeKalb for the right to go downstate to the Class 4A state finals.
Libertyville, which split its regular season series with Stevenson and gave the Patriots their only home loss, closes out its season with a 27-12 record.
"The success of our program the last three years has been Jori's burden," Stevenson coach Tim Crow said. "And she has welcomed that. She has performed day in and day out. She's made the people around her better. She knows big games and she helps her teammates, but she recognizes that she needs them too. It's a good situation."
A four-year starter at Stevenson, Radtke now has 517 kills on the season and almost 1,300 for her career.
"I've played against all these teams for four years. They all know me, so I have to (do different things). I really put a lot of time and effort into scouting teams to see what their defense is and what they do so that I can pick apart their weaknesses to pick spots. We watch film, we also go to games in person. I do charts."
So does Radtke do more homework for volleyball than she does for school?
"Yeah, sometimes," Radtke said with a laugh.
Radtke and her teammates weren't laughing much late in the first set. It looked like Stevenson was headed for certain defeat after Radtke hit a brick wall on a hitting attempt at the net. Seniors Haley Stevenson and Anna Lillydahl came up with a huge double block of Radtke that gave Libertyville a 23-21 lead.
The Wildcats then went up 24-21 for match point.
But somehow, the Patriots kept their cool and rolled up the next five points to get a 26-24 victory. Junior Lauren Micek did the serving and Radtke punctuated the final two points of the set with kills.
"(Getting blocked) doesn't faze her," Stevenson coach Tim Crow said of Radtke. "When you get the ball as many times as she does, you're going to get blocked. She understands that. It doesn't bother her.
"And her teammates don't get fazed because Jori doesn't get fazed. That was a tough situation (with Libertyville serving at set-point in the first set). But when your star player doesn't get down or hang her head, the other kids are like, 'Well, alright … let's go.' "
Stevenson's comeback in that first set may have taken the wind out of Libertyville's sails for good. The Wildcats didn't have nearly the success at the net in the second set that they did in the first set, especially with quick sets in the middle to senior Haley Stevenson.
"We let up, and you just can't let up against a good team," said Stevenson, who had a team-high 4 kills. "(The end of the first game) was a turning point.
"I thought we had that game (at set-point). But Stevenson got the momentum and ran with it (in the second set)."
Senior Morgan O'Brien, who will be playing on scholarship at Illinois next year, led Libertyville with 14 digs. Setter Anna Lillydahl had 10 assists and 3 blocks while Morgan DeGregor had a team-high 3 aces and 7 points.
"We made a lot of errors today," Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. "Certainly not to take anything away from Stevenson. That's a tremendous team. But when we beat them in two sets earlier this season, we played a great game with good ball control. Today, it just wasn't our day that way. Partly we were beating ourselves a little bit and then being up 24-21 (in the first set) and not being able to close out shook the nerves a little bit. It's hard to recover from that."
For Stevenson, Chloe Robinson had 7 digs and 4 aces while setter Alex Cuc had 16 assists.