Girls volleyball: Antioch's the class of Woodstock regional
As a first-time participant in the Class 4A state tournament last year, Antioch's girls volleyball team didn't experience beginner's luck.
The Sequoits were ousted by Lakes in the regional semifinals at Waukegan.
This year, Antioch is back in Class 3A, which, before last season, is where the Sequoits had been since the IHSA went to a four-class format for girls volleyball in 2007.
They're liking it.
"A lot better," Northern Iowa-bound middle blocker Kat Barr said, smiling.
Thursday night at Woodstock, smiles barely left the faces of Barr and her Antioch teammates. Led by the 6-foot-1 Barr's 7 kills and 4 blocks and an almost-perfect team effort, the top-seeded Sequoits dominated No. 4 Richmond-Burton 25-9, 25-10. It marked Antioch's first regional championship since 2010.
"They were pumped," coach Greg Bruns of his Sequoits, who improved to 24-11-1 and advanced to Monday's 5:30 p.m. sectional semifinal against Rosary at Burlington Central. "They had a great practice yesterday. The captains (Barr, Brianna Vettese, Grace Weber) really took charge. It was them."
Antioch had to rally from a 25-11, opening-set loss in their regional opener against Bruns' former team, Woodstock North, on Tuesday. The Sequoits weren't about to let a repeat happen against Richmond-Burton (17-15).
"I knew (Woodstock North) would be a good team this year," said Bruns, who spent nine years at the school. "I had them ranked a lot higher (than the No. 8 seed). I know they wanted to play me and beat me."
Against Richmond-Burton, Antioch bolted to a 5-0 advantage behind the serving of Vettese. The Sequoits led 8-2 after Cenie Frieson served back-to-back aces.
"We knew that they were going to come out really strong," Barr said of the Rockets. "We wanted to come out stronger, because if you can get a strong start, you can get a strong finish."
Antioch never relented. Vettese served the final five points of the opening set.
"We knew we just had to start with momentum and run with it," Vettese said. "We knew we had to limit our errors and make the other team make mistakes, and I think that's what we did. We got the job done. We worked together. We were loud."
Richmond-Burton trailed only 6-3 in the second set, but Kennedy Moll's kill gave Antioch a side-out. Emmy Faber then served 9 straight points, including her second ace of the match.
Vettese added her second ace later, and Barr's block sent the Sequoits into celebration mode on the court.
Antioch's serving and serve-receive were equally impressive. The Sequoits didn't miss a serve the entire match, delivered 7 aces and didn't surrender an ace.
"We knew that if we could run a strong serve-receive, we could run a strong offense," Barr said. "Against a team with a big block like that, running a strong offense was our goal."
Despite being sick, the sophomore Frieson dominated with her athleticism, finishing with 6 kills, 8 digs and 3 aces. Amanda Rowe also had 6 kills. Vettese contributed 9 digs and 2 aces.
Bruns never burned a single timeout.
"They were pumped on the bus," Bruns said of his players. "There was chanting. They came out here and had a great warmup and just kept it going. Our serve-receive took care of everything."