Girls volleyball: Winning, grinning Stevenson takes third place
NORMAL -- Unlike a night earlier, smiles made their way across the faces of the Stevenson volleyball team Saturday night.
Those smiles were still there at the end, too, as the Patriots finished the best season in school history by defeating Niles West, 25-20, 21-25, 25-16, in the third-place match of the Class 4A state tournament at Redbird Arena.
"We just got together before the game and talked about it," said senior star Jori Radtke. "We just had to play like we knew how. Tonight it was about having as much fun as we could for the last high school volleyball game for some of us."
The Northern Illinois-bound Radtke steered the Patriots (33-8) to the school's first volleyball trophy with a game-high 17 kills on .333 hitting. She had five in the final stretch and added an ace to push Stevenson to a win in the third set. She finished her senior season with 552 kills.
"I really wanted to win and really wanted my teammates to win," said Radtke, who added 10 digs. "I was going to do everything in my power to do it."
Stevenson coach Tim Crow has had 10 seasons with 30 or more wins and hasn't seen many like his star hitter, who had six kills among Stevenson's first 10 points in the first set.
"She's one of the most competitive players I've ever been around even back to when I played myself in college," Crow said. "We will miss her as a player and as a person."
Stevenson, which lost to Niles West in two sets on Sept. 17, pulled away in the third set, taking advantage of mistakes by Niles West (28-10) and behind a pair of kills from sophomore outside hitter Sophie Sorenson, who finished with 13 kills and 10 digs. She pointed back to a conversation on the bus after the loss to Hersey on Sept. 19 to what spurred the Patriots the rest of the way.
"We had a long talk," Sorenson said. "We just built each other up and encouraged each other. It's so cool to see it come together."
Junior libero Chloe Robinson had a game-high 13 digs and 2 aces for Stevenson.