Girls volleyball: Minooka hands West Aurora 1st conference loss
Olivia McPherson was the defensive heroine of the Southwest Prairie Conference girls volleyball match.
The West Aurora senior had fitting comments of the upper-echelon duel between the Blackhawks and rising power Minooka following the schools' three-set thriller Tuesday evening.
"The momentum just kept going back and forth for both (teams)," said McPherson, who finished with a match-high 19 digs.
But Minooka had the ultimate advantage, knocking the Blackhawks from the league unbeaten ranks with a 25-18, 17-25, 25-19 victory in Aurora.
The Indians improved to 5-1 in the conference in relegating West Aurora to the same league status for overall supremacy.
The three-set match was framed by decisive runs at critical junctures.
The Indians (15-4) scored 9 of the last 11 points to seize control of the last of five first-set ties.
West Aurora was on the verge of dropping consecutive sets. But Jenna Gove, a key figure in the Blackhawks' senior-dominated lineup, triggered a subtle change that morphed into a second-set West Aurora landslide.
"We got a couple of good blocks and kept going from there," said Gove, a senior middle hitter who had 3 kills and a pair of blocks.
West Aurora junior reserve Cara Grube never left the service line after Kendra Battle forced a sideout with one of her 6 kills for the Blackhawks.
Grube served 10 consecutive points to complete the West Aurora second-set uprising to force a decisive third game.
"It was actually crazy," said Grube, a defensive specialist. "I just started serving and I guess they just went in. We just started getting momentum."
"We had a lot of mistakes (during the unanswered run)," Minooka coach Carrie Prosek said. "We were afraid to win; we were playing not to lose."
The first 16 points of the third set featured five ties.
But Minooka had a 12-4 run to take a comfortable 20-12 advantage. West Aurora could only close to 4 points on two occasions the remainder of the match.
"I would say our energy turned around a lot," Gove said of the Blackhawks' second-set flurry. "We just let a couple of points slip through our hands (in the third set)."
Chloey Myers, like Grube, a junior reserve, came off the bench to lead West Aurora with 7 kills.
West Aurora captain Jenna Millen orchestrated the offense with 24 assists. The Blackhawks' setter also had back-to-back aces as West Aurora scored the first 5 points of the opening set.
But West Aurora could never quite solve the Indians' Heidi Bonde, who paced both clubs with 12 kills.
"We all put effort in our defense," said McPherson, who also cited Karlie Cardifff as instrumental in the second-set surge.
"We decided to pick it up," Gove said.