Girls volleball: Libertyville takes down Warren
Not again. Not another set that nearly necessitated 40 points.
Not that Peyton O'Brien and her Libertyville volleyball teammates weren't going to do whatever it took Thursday night to beat the best team in the North Suburban Conference in the first month of the season.
Fresh off a loss to Prairie Ridge in the Wheaton Classic, in which it dropped the middle set 39-37, Libertyville traveled to Gurnee to face a Warren team already approaching 20 wins.
Libertyville went three sets again, but this time the Wildcats prevailed. When O'Brien dumped a left-handed hook among scrambling defenders, Libertyville jumped wildly on the court as it celebrated a 25-19, 21-25, 25-23 win.
O'Brien, the Wildcats' 5-foot-11 sophomore setter, finished with 23 assists, 6 kills and 3 blocks.
"We were ready to come push it, and we did not want to go 39-37 again," a smiling O'Brien said. "We had that mentality throughout the whole game. We knew they were going to come at us because it's always a tough match with them. We just all had a lot of trust in each other."
The win evened Libertyville's record at 11-11 and moved the Wildcats to 2-1 in the NSC. Warren fell to 18-5 and 2-1.
"You always worry when you're playing well in a tournament if it will translate when you get back home," Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. "This was exactly the way we were playing (in Wheaton). You can always find areas to improve. Warren is a good team, and they're big. I thought our girls did a great job pushing ahead in the third set."
The match was a rematch of last year's Class 4A Cary-Grove regional final, which Libertyville also won in three.
"I think we all played our hearts out, and I was really excited to see that," Warren middle hitter Emma Fitzgibbons said after posting 2 solo and 3 assisted blocks. "Libertyville beat us again, but it's OK."
The loss was the third in a row for Warren (all three-set matches), but Fitzgibbons assured there's no reason to panic for a Blue Devils squad that won 18 of its first 20 matches.
"I think our team has so much potential," Fitzgibbons said. "I just think it's going to take a little bit of work to bring it out of all of us."
Trailing 23-22 in a seesaw third and final set, Libertyville got back-to-back kills from Kellie Hopper and Ella Schaffnit, before O'Brien ended the match. Neither team led by more than three points in the third.
Schaffnit had a team-best 7 kills for Libertyville. Besides O'Brien, Cassidy Jones and Amanda Reinhart also had 6 kills each, and Hopper added five.
"Our middles were involved," Loika said. "That (balance) is what we need, and even still we were still dealing with a lot of double blocks."
Ella White and Dana Lundtveit had 9 and 8 kills, respectively, for Warren. Abbie Berkowitz tallied 5 kills and 18 assists, Ora Cohen had 4 kills, Ellie Columbus served 4 aces, and Amanda Howe notched 12 digs.
Libertyville also got 2 aces apiece from Hopper and Alyssa Sorensen. Jenn Formica and Sorensen had 15 and 10 digs, respectively.
"We started off (the season) a little rough," O'Brien said. "But we were able to come to practice every day and push ourselves, and we're at where we are now. We've been playing really well lately."