St. Charles North fights past St. Francis
St. Charles North junior libero Maddie Gorniak played with a cut and gradually discoloring right serving hand Thursday after striking a door during volleyball warmups at St. Francis.
"It was OK. I was just pushing through the pain a little," Gorniak said.
Especially after a rough weekend, Gorniak and the North Stars showed plenty of fight for a 25-21, 21-25, 25-10 victory in Wheaton between two teams ranked in the Daily Herald top 10.
Gorniak had a hand in the third-set surge by the North Stars (15-4). She served five straight points for 20-7 lead, the last two coming on aces.
"I just get (serves) in. I don't really go on an ace streak most times, but it was good that I did to boost the momentum, I guess," Gorniak said. "We knew we had to shut them down coming from the second set. They had the momentum right now, but we've got to get it back, play our game."
The No. 5-ranked North Stars have two returning starters from last year's fourth-place Class 4A finisher: seniors GiGi Crescenzo and Katie Lanz, who are committed to Memphis and UNC-Wilmington, respectively.
Crescenzo had 12 kills and Lanz had 13 assists and 3 aces. Kyla Lannert added 9 kills and 15 assists, Olivia Oborne had 11 digs.
For No. 8 St. Francis (11-5), Sam Ward and Ashley Zulauf had 10 and 7 kills, respectively, AnnaBelle Tomei had 15 assists and Sierra Zygmunt had 9 digs.
The North Stars have won two straight after losing all three matches Saturday in the championship bracket at Wheaton Warrenville South's Wheaton Classic.
"We've been talking a lot about resiliency. (We're) a very talented team, obviously, but sometimes they're just kind of flat a little bit," St. Charles North coach Lindsey Hawkins said. "I think the second set they got a little surprised by some of the things St. Francis was throwing at us and then they got mad. That third set they were ready to go to work."
St. Charles North grabbed a 9-3 lead in the final set after the Spartans had mixed middle and outside attacks to collect 16 kills in the second set.
All but one of the Spartans' losses so far this season have come in three sets.
"St. Charles North is a very solid team. They don't make many errors," St. Francis coach Lisa Ston said.
"You know that when you schedule them. That's why we play them nonconference so we can have the competition. To win a game is great and we'd like to close that out. Hopefully by the end of the season we'll be able to."
Crescenzo especially was impressive the third set, collecting 5 kills, including one off a high Gorniak bump for a 12-5 lead.
"I just love assisting Gigi or (others) because they always put it down for me," said Gorniak, who had 3 assists in the set.
"It helps to have someone who is as dynamic as GiGi on the outside," Hawkins added.
Oborne, who added one of her best matches, was the libero for last year's strong junior varsity team. She's among many varsity newcomers or, like Gorniak, returnees seeing significantly more playing time.
"(Varsity) was a big adjustment. All of the girls were so good and I think that really helped me individually, having all of these amazing role models ahead of us," Oborne said.
"We all respect St. Francis a lot. They're always a really great program and it was nice to come out on top. We've been practicing really hard this week."
By contrast the Spartans graduated just two seniors from their sectional semifinalist.
On Sept. 8 they finished third of 24 teams at the Crossroads Classic in Effingham with Ward and Tomei earning all-tournament honors. The season opened Aug. 29 with a 14-25, 25-15, 25-16 loss at defending Class 4A champion Marist.
"Our first game against Marist, the very first set, was the best we've played so far," said Zygmunt, who played libero the last two sets.
"(In the third set St. Charles North) just kept swinging right down on us. We couldn't move our position and we made a lot of unforced errors. We've definitely set our goals high so we can get better in every match."