Girls volleyball: Stevenson settles in, prevails at Palatine
After six weeks of practicing in its gymnasium, Palatine's girls volleyball team finally got to play it first home match on Monday night.
But it was visiting Stevenson which made itself feel right at home as the match progressed.
After dropping a 2-point first set, the Patriots got rolling in Set 2 and then scored a decisive win in the final set to post a 24-26, 25-17, 25-12 nonconference triumph.
It also made for a very happy birthday celebration for a pair of Patriots.
Senior Hope Havenhill turned 16 on Monday, while classmate Riana Doretti is now 18.
Patriots coach Tim Crow never had two players celebrate a birthday on the same day in his 16 years directing the program.
But he has celebrated many wins, and this one he said came down to serving.
"The difference tonight was that we had 14 aces and only 4 service errors," he said. "So our ace-to-error ratio was huge."
Junior Sophie Sorensen had some huge kills for the Pats (11-8) and finished with a match-high 13. Sophomore Lilly Cozzi added 7 while Havenhill added 4.
Sorensen and Havenhill are both southpaws. Senior setter Alex Cuc (24 assists) is in her second season setting the talented duo.
"Oh my God, they are so reliable at two different positions," Cuc said of the right side hitting Havenhill and outside hitter Sorenson.
"Being lefties, I need to keep the ball in the court more. So I can't push it out as much because it's harder for them to reach but they can play some bad sets, too."
There weren't many bad sets from Cuc's 61 attempts, which resulted in 24 assists.
When she assisted junior middle hitter Annie Armgardt for a kill that gave Stevenson a 17-16 lead in Set 2, it sparked a 8-point serving run by senior Natalie Mun.
"Natalie came in as our serving specialist and did a great job," Crow said. "She turned the second game around for us. She got us momentum by serving a bunch in a row."
Mun's ace made it 24-17 and after a side out, it was a kill from Sorenson for set point.
"Sophie missed out first 13 matches due to an injury," Crow said. "It's a nice luxury when you get a player like that back. She still is not at her 100 percent level but she is getting there."
The Pats were just getting warmed up for a third set which they broke open with a 5-point service run by senior libero Chloe Robinson (15 digs).
Her service streak made it 17-10 and soon after, Becca Sullivan strung together 4 points for a 22-10 cushion.
"That was crazy," said Havenhill, who is committed to Rochester University (N.Y.). "I think our momentum really picked up in the last game. We finally played as a team."
"We figured out where to serve, and they made some errors which kind of put pressure on them," said Crow, whose team coincidentally didn't play its first home match until its 21st match last fall. "I think our service game was really strong and were able to string some good runs about three different times so that was helpful. We're still struggling a little in serve receive so that is something we will continue to work on."
Cuc also had 2 aces, 2 kill and 2 digs.
"Honestly, I think we were kind of playing scared, timid and not too clean in the first two sets," she said. "So we said we really had start talking and communicating. It felt great "
The Pirates (11-7) were led on attack by Haley Holz (9 kills), Beverly Ryan (8) and Karina Szafraniec (3) while setter Allison Aldag handed out 22 assists. Amanda Delio had 12 digs followed by Holz (7) and Katie Lindert (6).
"It comes down to being consistent and responding to adversity," said Palatine coach Dan Gavin, whose club hosts Hoffman Estates on Tuesday and Barrington on Thursday. "When things go well for us, we play really well. When the chips are down a bit, we struggle to find the response and that's something we are challenging the girls to get better at it.
"We have to get outside of ourselves a bit, putting the 'we' before 'me' and think of how we can make the team successful rather than letting adversity break us down as individuals."
After 17 matches on the road, the Pirates are right back at home tonight.
"The schedule wasn't exactly balanced for us," Gavin said. "You'd think we would have had a better performance on our home court, but we'll move on and get better. It's nice we can get right back on the court the next day and get this taste out of our mouths."